Pursuing Your Own Questions: Senior Research Project
- Religion 385 Abstracts from the Class of 2013
Steve Gaden: “Liberation Theology and Biblical Interpretation”
Liberation Theology and biblical interpretations looks at how the books of Exodus, Amos, and the Gospel of Luke are used within Liberation Theology. I talk about what Liberation Theology is and its connections to the biblical books mentioned. I look at both the positive and negative sides of the arguments used in these biblical interpretations. From these understandings I add personal insight along with the scholarly sources in contextualizing these biblical interpretations.
Marcus Hardy: “The Rabbinic Interpretation of the Babylonian Exile”
As a senior religion major, for my directed study in religion, I am investigating the Jewish Interpretation of the Babylonian Exile as opposed to the Christian interpretation depicted in the Bible from the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. In what is today the area around Baghdad and Iraq, was the site of possibly the most demoralizing three generations in Jewish history, the Babylonian Exile. After the Judeans of Israel witnessed their government, Temple, and capital city of Jerusalem destroyed, most but not all Jews, Ezekiel included, were captured and brought to the country Babylonia, where they were exiles from 586 to 450 BCE. It is seen in prophetic biblical literature that this was a response in anger of God after his covenant with the Jewish people had been broken by the worship of several false gods. However, many rabbinic sages and scholars have varied on the meanings of the prophecies as well as the reasons for God restoring the Jewish people back to their home land.
James Kuri: “The Encounter of Civilizations: Hellenistic Religions Transformations”
After the conquests of Alexander of Macedon, Greek culture spread throughout Asia Minor and the Near East. Due to the interactions and religious changes brought about by Greek rule, a syncretistic blending occurred for many religions. The mixing of Greek with indigenous Near Eastern cultures during the time of Alexander and after, roughly 360-220 BCE, led to the development of Hellenism. In particular, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires will be analyzed to determine to what degree these religious changes were accepted or resisted. My topic will answer how the Greeks implemented a strategy to successfully incorporate and maintain their religious practices or views, and whether or not this was an intentional act of sociopolitical domination over the peoples of the Near East. Also, was this syncretistic mixing and colonialist policy a goal for the Greek army under Alexander, or was it an accidental byproduct of his campaign?
Micah Leonard: “Christian and Islamic Prison Ministry”
This presentation is going to be a study into the reality of prisons and prison ministry in the United States. It addresses the issues of an incarcerated person’s religious or spiritual needs and evaluates how these religious needs are met by the prison institutions that hold them and the United States government. This paper focuses specifically on the religions of Christianity and Islam and the religious involvement of followers of the religions in prison ministry in the U.S.
Brenna Maier: “Coping with Addiction: The Role Religion Plays"****************************************************************************
Drawing from sociological and psychological methods of inquiry, this project explores the role religion plays with respect to the dynamics of substance abuse and recovery from addiction. Specifically, I examine the impact of religion with respect to its prevention, recovery and sustained abstinence from substance abuse. Among other topics, I will examine the role of religious conviction and the practice with respect to the characteristics of the addictive behavior and the recommendations of the 12-step program. In particular, I will investigate the practices recommended by Alcoholics Anonymous to determine how specific religious aspects of the steps play a role in meeting the psychological and sociological needs of recovering addicts. I will demonstrate that religion can play a very positive role with respect to substance abuse and addiction, especially when religious practices and commitment begin at an early age.
Religion 385 Abstracts, 2012
Masada’s Lasting Impact in the Wakes of Zionism, Post-Zionism, and the Masada Myth
Near the end of the first Jewish Revolt against Roman occupation in the early 70s CE, Jewish rebels, fleeing from destroyed Jerusalem, captured and held the fortified plateau Masada before a siege by the entire Roman 10th Legion. Before submitting to inevitable capture, 960 men, women, and children killed their families and themselves. Understanding the life and biases of the sole account’s author, Flavius Josephus, as well as the history and archaeology of the site, are imperative to contextualize the status Masada has earned over the past 2000 years. In recent years, Masada’s elevated status has reached its pinnacle of prevalence, becoming a cultural identifier for Israelis and Jews alike. Despite any exaggeration or fictionalization of the telling of events which happened there, belief in Masada’s often contested past has become a necessity for both peoples. This steadfast belief has contributed directly to the developments of the modern Israeli nation, as well as the movements of Zionism and Post-Zionism. Regardless of objective fact and history, Masada’s status as a patriotic icon must continue to exist as a talisman for the Jewish population to value and believe in.
Keywords: Masada, First Jewish-Roman War, Flavius Josephus, Flavius Silva, Zionism, Post-Zionism
Independent Study: Christian Ethics and Euthanasia
In this paper, I suggest that Christian ethics can have a role in making ethical decisions regarding euthanasia and critically or terminally ill patients. First, I define the branches of Christian ethics. I focus on the third branch of Christian ethics as the basis to my paper. I explain the relationship of the Bible and Scripture to the Protestant and Catholic perspective of Christian ethics, and while important, it is not the only factors that should be guiding our decisions. Second, I define active and passive euthanasia and how the line between the two can be blurred. I discuss why, in a medical setting, addressing ethical decisions/dilemmas can be difficult given the training of clinicians. Third, I include opinions of people in the Protestant and Catholic Church regarding active and passive euthanasia. Here I apply case studies, one from a Protestant perspective and the other from a Catholic perspective, that have made people question, what is the ethical thing to do? In conclusion, I summarize how Christian identity and ethics has some role as a foundation to the ethical decisions we make regarding life and how it should end. However how we make these decisions should be coupled with the understanding of the social normative of today’s society and understanding the Bible and its context and language to support our decisions.
Title: Development of Christology in Early Christian History
Dr. Don St. John
The topic for my research paper is the development of the divinity of Jesus in the Christian church. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully divine, as well as fully human, and is a part of the Trinity is one of the foundational claims of Christianity. I plan to explore how, when, and why the doctrine was eventually formed. In my first section, I review r what the biblical authors claimed about the divinity of Christ and within the context of scripture and the controversies that emerged from within the Biblical writings. In the next two sections, I plan to review the major controversies that marked first four centuries of the church. This includes the consideration of several church councils that eventually led to the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century CE, where the Church finally declared its official position on the subject matter. I intend to treat these councils in chronological fashion, dealing with the various challenges and heresies that faced the early Church,
. Among these such as Gnosticism, Adoptionism, Arianism, Modalism. Some also denied or diminished the humanity of Christ while others denied Christ’s divinity and pre-existence, such as Adoptionism. I will also examine the reasoning and articulation of the church’s objections to these teachings. The paper will culminate in a description of how the church finally came to clarity of Christ’s divinity in relationship to his humanity, as this statement forms the basis for the traditional Christian understanding through the ages.
Naiomi GonzalezIt has been argued by various philosophers and theologians that Just War theory provides a valuable service in that it seeks to place limits on the horror and chaos of war. Some Christian theologians from Augustine to the present day, maintain that because we live in a “fallen” world, war will always be a part of human reality, and that in some cases war may be the appropriate response to injustice. However, I argue three basic points: 1) the very nature of war makes fulfilling the criteria that form the bedrock of Just War Theory impossible and instead of acting as a deterrent to war, it simply provides a way of legitimizing state violence. 2) the endorsement of Just war theory by various Christian denominations, places Christianity in the very vulnerable position of simply being a tool to advance state agendas. 3)Just war theory encourages the idolization of those who are sent off to wage war and who are killed For are injured. They are praised for, “honoring their duty to God and country.” Such idolization contributes to the notion that in order to support the troops one must support the war and that questioning any state sanctioned war, would place our troops in danger.
The Impracticality of Just War Theory
Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug
War is devastating to those who fight it, as well as to the civilians often caught in the crossfire. As a result it is necessary for all those interested in social justice, to critique any theory or ideology that is used to validate war.
- Sahar Tabshi
Orthodox and Secular Psychological Counseling Strategies
Dr. Jane Williams (advisor from Moravian Theological Seminary)
The purpose of this thesis was to gain a better understanding of the relationship between Psychology and Religion in psychotherapy. First, I explored the different models that have been proposed for the integration of Psychology and Theology and/or Spirituality. Each approaches the integration process with different assumptions and goes about the process differently, naturally with different end results. Therefore, I explored the three different models one can approach psychology and religion through, which included the field of psychology which acknowledges the significance of psychological and spiritual well being, biblical counseling, and pastoral counseling (specifically Orthodox Christian pastoral counseling/psychotherapy). Second, I identified the beliefs of an Orthodox Christian world view and fundamental psychological issues by discussing the ways Orthodox Christianity may differ from psychology, since each has its own goals, i.e., the view of Orthodox Christianity is that to be whole we need to hold on to the image of God or to be unified with God, whereas for psychology we need to accept and understand ourselves first so then we could potentially progress towards healing. Next, I examined cases of a particular human phenomenon, trauma which often results in grief, as to how it is dealt with through Orthodox Christian pastoral counseling/psychotherapy as well as through the lenses of a pure psychological perspective. Overall, I decipher from my study that certain psychotherapeutic treatments are could be easily modified to an Orthodox Christian approach to psychotherapy. In addition, a therapeutic approach that combines psychology and theology and/or spirituality, such that of Orthodox Christian pastoral counseling/psychotherapy, can lead to a more fruitful path in spiritual and mental healing of patients’ emotional, mental, and spiritual ailments.
Religious-Like Faith within Economics and Business?
Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Economic downturn is a virtual certainty of every economy eventually, especially in those that are guided by free markets such as the United States’ economy. All business cycles have their ups and downs and our increasingly global economy is no different, but in times of prolonged economic downturn, like America and much of the world is currently experiencing, the human phenomenon of faith is often present. In fact, faith is present in more than those who are struggling, but also in those who are at the top of the economy as well. Theological ideas are present throughout almost every facet of human life, and business and economics are no exception. Faith, usually a religious experience, is heavily relied upon in economic systems such as ours, and that could be just the beginning. Some say that the economy can be considered a religion of its own which is expressed by the use of terms such as “money-theism,” among others.
Women Leadership Roles in the Church
Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug
Women’s leadership roles in Christianity always have been fraught with complexity, ambiguity, and frequently, patriarchal forms of control and subjugation. The letters written by the Apostle Paul give witness to the obstacles and opportunities faced by women followers of the Christian Way from its earliest times. My project explores various passages in the Pauline corpus that from 1 Corinthians, and deutero-Pauline passages from Titus and 1 Timothy that in particular present obstacles for women wishing to pursue strong leadership roles in the church. I draw on studies of psudepigrapha, feminist hermeneutics and sociological studies to explore both past and present interpretations of these passages, and the social consequences of these passages for women’s lives in Christian communities.
Religion and Spirituality in Contemporary Corporate Culture
Dr. Arash Naraghi
With the globalization of business has come a clash of cultures, religions and valued ethics. Because of these changes, it has become increasingly imperative for companies to adopt policies regarding diversity and toleration. By exploring the different facets of business such as corporate and organizational culture, workplace spirituality and organizational effectiveness, this study aims to develop a organizational model that is most effective in the global marketplace; specifically regarding religion and spirituality. This study focuses on individual development through the use of workplace spirituality in order to help employees achieve a sense of meaningful work. The model developed sets foundational conditions based on John Rawls Reasonable Pluralism, then advocates for the incorporation of a secular model of workplace spirituality.
Major in Religion/History; Honors Thesis 2012
“The Episcopal Controversy and the Struggle for Religious Freedom”
Advisor: Jamie Paxton (Jason Radine, committee member)
The issue of religious freedom and its ideological origins is widely discussed and debated among historians and scholars. Some argue that the philosophies of the Enlightenment set the foundation for religious freedom, while others insist that its foundation was religious diversity and the profound respect the Founding Fathers expressed for religious expression. Still others point to a combination of religious pluralism and Enlightenment idealism as being the foundation for it.
No matter the stance taken, many historians tend to focus on the religious sentiments of the Founding Fathers. Although knowing the personal beliefs of the men who drafted the founding documents of the United States is certainly an important aspect to understanding the development of religious freedom, it is but one factor. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison did not develop their ideologies in isolation and were, like all people, unavoidably influenced by the events around them. Furthermore, as men charged by the public, who elected them not only the House of Burgesses but also to the Continental Congresses, with the responsibility of building a new nation, they endeavored to create a new nation of, by, and for the people. As such, the beliefs and concerns of the people were surely influential in the development of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and should be included in the historical narrative of religious freedom.
- ****************************************************************************** Senior Projects from 2011
Rachel Kleiner, Honors in History, minor in Religion, 2011
"Family Violence in Ancient Near Eastern and Greek Mythology"
This thesis will explore the myths of the Ancient Near East and Greece in an effort to explain common themes amongst them. The civilizations encompassed in the Ancient Near East are Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ugarit. These civilizations have the phenomena of containing recurring themes between them. These commonalities have been explored by scholars and can be explained through a socio-political position. These socio-political ideas contain both an intergenerational dynastic succession conflict and a geopolitical one.
Ren Wilder, Honors in Philosophy and Religion, 2011
“The Philosophy of Time Theory and its Relation to Mystical Experience”
The goal of this project is to examine and define temporal reality and how the perception of time relates to the concepts of mystical experiences and the human interactions with the Divine. This project consists of brief examination of the philosophical conception of time as presented by JME McTaggart and how it relates to mystical experience in Islam as presented by his former student, Sir Muhammad Iqbal. This project is developed into four sections: First, I explore the concept of time from a philosophical perspective primarily focusing on McTaggert’s conceptualization of A and B Theory Time. Next, common theories of God's relation to time are explained and explored. Third, models and characteristics of mystical experiences as described as well as the definitions of sense perception are defined. Lastly, Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s view of both Time and Mystical experience are explored and compared to the models presented earlier in the project.
David Pizzolato, Religion, 2011
“Daoism and the Environment”
The current environmental situation is one that will require education and reforming of our way of life if we are to see any positive change in our place in the environment. Daoism can provide the necessary means to achieve a more sustainable future with resources from the Daodejing and Zhunagzi. The Daodejing uses paradoxes, hyperbole and aphorisms to achieve the desired results. Polemic aphorisms show what should be targeted against, hyperbole provides a better understanding by exaggerating situations. The result is a transformation of self, our relationships to communities, and seeing the world as an extension of the self. Daoist ideas are applicable to questions pertaining to environmental ethics because they offer new insights to the dilemmas brought about by our distance of the self from the environment.
Andrea DeCarlo, Religion, 2011
“The God Who Sees: Hagar As a Model For Female Survivors of Sexual Violence” Bombarded with messages about honoring thy parents, submitting to husbands, selling daughters, obeying an all-powerful Father, and making sacrifices, the Bible can be treacherous terrain for female survivorsof childhood sexual abuse. Rather than finding the Bible as a healing element of one's faith, it often is experienced as a continuation of the subjugation these women experienced in childhood, only reinforcing the same negative messages that they have already received. To make matters worse, the church too often remains quiet on issues of sexual violence, preventing it from acting as a place of healing and liberation. Contemporary readings of the Bible continue to be used to excuse sexual violence toward females, particularly when that violence is perpetrated by those in positions of power. Though often considered to be primarily a story about Sarah and Abraham, reexamining Genesis 16 and 21 with a focus on Hagar's story will allow readers, particularly sexual abuse survivors, to see how God interacts with and cares for women who share Hagar's experience of victimization.
Nina Patton, Religion with Honors and Psychology, 2011
“Women in Scripture and the Pulpit”
Throughout history women have been making strides in order to balance their equality with men on all levels. My project explores the impact religion has on gender roles, specifically women in church leadership roles. Focusing on Mary Magdalene as an example, I will explore how women are represented in the Bible and the impact of these representations for women in contemporary church leadership roles. I will investigate methods used in feminist interpretations of scripture, specifically regarding the same cycle of stories about Mary, in order to examine alternative interpretations of scripture. By investigating feminist interpretations of scripture, I will determine the positive and negative ways in which women can be represented. Though historically, Mary Magdalene has been portrayed as a “sinner” and “temptress,” feminist scholars of the Bible reinterpret her story: she also may be portrayed as Jesus’ first disciple and as an extraordinary preacher of God’s word. Thus, investigation of the multiple interpretations of her story exhibits the way religion colors assumptions regarding women’s character and social roles; moreover, these implications endure up to the present day.
Sarah White, Religion with Honors, 2011
“Freedom of the Sacred Feminine: Celtic Women in Myth and History”
It is not coincidence that the Irish word for sacred, beannaithe, bears such a resemblance to the Irish word for woman: bean. In no other society did women hold such high positions of power and reverence than in that of the Celts. From nature goddesses to warriors, as well as early leaders in the unique spirituality of Celtic Christianity, women were revered in ways that afforded them esteemed positions and ensured their place in the memory of myth and history. Whether as nurturers, war leaders, or abbesses, as historical figures or the key component of legends, the sacred feminine in Celtic traditions is an inspirational and empowering source of hope and strength for women both past and present.
Grace Babcock, Religion, 2011
“Religion and the Film Industry”
My paper analyzes the relationship between religion and the film industry. I focus on how even during the earliest times of the film industry religious organizations have had an influence. Over the decades this has generated both negative and positive impacts on the film industry, and in turn the field of religion has come to embrace media, as seen today in the twenty-first century. Through a system of critical research I have discovered various ways in which film criticism has reacted to the film industry and vice versa—more recently this field has developed a strong voice in both academic and mainstream society. My research also examines the film Dead Man, written and directed by independent American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who while having remained largely anonymous in the film world, has seen his work enact a lasting impact. In tandem with my earlier research I have found that the impact religion has had on film is varied and long lasting. Ultimately my paper takes a deeper look at the ways in which film, religion and Jarmusch’s work are interrelated.
Michael Santos, Religion with Honors and Political Science, 2011
“Dispensationalist Eschatology and Islamophobia”
In the United States, the Christian right has a great deal of influence over discourse. The Christian right is defined by the beliefs and practices of the Evangelical Christian movement. Amongst the Evangelical community, there is a demographic of hardliners known as dispensationalists. Dispensational religious thought is centered on Biblical prophecy and eschatology, including elements of dispensationalist eschatology which encourage prejudice. In a post-9/11 world that prejudice is fixated on Muslims. Belief in the Rapture – or Christ’s returning to earth to bring the true believers in him up to heaven before the tribulations of the apocalypse – is the center of dispensational eschatology. There are pieces of Biblical prophecy which must be fulfilled before the Rapture can take place, therefore, dispensationalist rhetoric and action catalyzes the fulfillment of those promises. However, in a current geopolitical context, the fulfillment of those promises often entails human rights violations. I will explore the history and development of dispensationalist eschatology and the way it leads to practices of islamaphobia in America, especially with regard to the areas of Scripture and popular culture which dispensationalist eschatology has enveloped. Ultimately, I will reveal the subtle dangers of this type of end-times thought and why Americans are so eager to believe in it.
Rebekah Finn, Religion with Honors, 2011
“Heart Theology, Female Piety & Moravian Memoirs: Understanding the Role of Zinzendorf’s Heart Theology for Moravian Women in Colonial Bethlehem”
During the eighteenth century, religious principles and Piety of the Bethlehem Moravians were heavily shaped by a fascinating theology centered on a sense of emotion and feeling. This Theology of the Heart, by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, designated the heart (in its metaphorical sense) as the principle device for obtaining and developing a relationship with the Savior. By looking at the memoirs of Moravian women from this time period, we are able to see exactly how this theology affected the lives of these women individually, as well as their roles within the community.
Sean Rimmer, Religion, 2011, Religion
“Hell’s Multiple Images: Construction and Development”
For my research project I am focusing on the evolution of the concepts and images of Hell. Beginning with the Hebrew texts and the image of the after life that is presented in the Old Testament. Following through the texts of the bible I will examine the New Testament and the changes that occur in what Hell is thought to be. The third section of my topic consists of probing the non-canonical texts such as the books like, “The Apocalypse of Peter” as well as the Divine Comedy by Dante, focusing mainly on just the Inferno section. The purpose of these extra passages is to show the development of descriptions of Hell. Also, these descriptions show how non-biblical literary genres are influenced by the religions of the time. I will not be discussing whether or not I think Hell exists, but to stay focused on how and why Hell had began as a place not of torment but as place for life after death, and then shifted to a place where sinners were sent and eternal punishment was justified. I will ask, What was it that took place to initiate this drastic change in the construction of a place with “lakes of fire” for the damned?