Exploring Religious Studies

On Nov. 14, the Religious Studies Program will kick off the first-ever Religious Studies Week, with events running through Nov. 18 to explore the variety of approaches to religious belief and practice.

“The study of religion is one of the most exciting, confounding, and controversial aspects of humanistic work, and we want to spread the word about what a dynamic community is working on around these themes,” says Laurie Maffly-Kipp, program director and the Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor.

Appointed as program director just this last summer, Maffly-Kipp sought ways to raise the profile of religious studies and to highlight the many things happening on campus that were related to the field. “One great way to do this was to revive the honors society in Religious Studies, Theta Alpha Kappa (TAK),” she says. “Another way was to cluster some events together, and several upcoming talks allowed us a way to do this in combination with an event for TAK. So this led to the idea of Religious Studies Week.”

The week will start with a student and faculty mixer, hosted by TAK. On Tuesday, the program will continue its year-long film series by screening Spotlight, the film that deals with the scandal over child molestation in the U.S. Catholic Church, which will be followed by a discussion. On Wednesday, David Blumenthal will lecture on Judaism and the ethics of obedience and resistance, and on Thursday, the program will host a brown bag lunch with Dennis Schilling, an expert in medieval Chinese religion.

“As you can see, we cover the world and a range of religious traditions, and we study religion as students of culture and society, not as partisans or apologists,” says Maffly-Kipp. “These events will be of interest to anyone that wants to better understand compelling and important events in the world around them and in societies throughout history. We also hope attendees meet and speak with some of our fantastic program faculty and students.“

“We also want to reassure students that the study of religion is a terrific springboard to a variety of careers and post-graduation options. We aren’t just training ministers or rabbis—we are educating citizens to think critically and deeply about some of the most important issues of the day,” she adds.

And though the on-campus events end there, religious studies faculty will be continuing their celebration by making their way to the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), which is the world's largest gathering of scholars interested in the study of religion. WashU will have a strong presence at this year’s meetings in San Antonio, Texas as ten faculty members will present or preside over sessions, covering a variety of topics.

Maffly-Kipp says, “It’s fantastic that so many of our faculty members are involved in these international meetings and contribute vital research on so many different topics. Wash U plays an important role in the leadership and scholarship of both organizations.”

Click here to see the full schedule of Religious Studies Week.

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