Teaching About Religion

Within a month, two interesting pieces regarding teaching and talking about religion came into my RSS feeder. [Apparently the new NY Times permalink generator next to the article doesn’t produce permalinks. Go NY Times, try really hard to make yourself irrelevant in the digital age, and you may actually succeed at something in the 21st century.]

The first is about a professor asked to teach by a religious program.

The second is by a professor of religion who writes about our inability to talk about religion in the classroom. I’m reminded of a story when I was teaching an introductory course on Islam. One of the assignments was to get the students to write the word “Allah” in Arabic, to get the students to think about Muslims look at and interact with the world around them. A graduate student in theology objected, saying it was against his Christian faith to write Allah, and he wanted to write “Jesus” in Arabic. We explained to him that Allah means God, and that the course was about Muslims, who don’t hold Jesus in the same regard as Christians. He still objected saying it was against his religion. He finally got an Arabic copy of the Gospel of John, and wrote all of John 3:16 in Arabic, in the form of a cross. He technically fulfilled the assignment requirement because he wrote “Allah” Arabic, exactly as Arab Christians use it. I’m not sure how he got around it being against his faith though.

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One thought on “Teaching About Religion

  1. Thank you for these links. I’m reminded of my Orthodox Hebrew School education, during which I was taught not to cross the lower-case letter “t” because it looked like a Christian cross. No explanation WHY this was bad, however–just a strict injunction against it. At the age of six I was too scared to disobey–who knew what awful things might happen if I crossed that “t”?–and so for years did not, until I figured out how to think for myself.

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