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Jenna Jones Trident Technical College Charleston, SC. Religion 101: Updated and Infused. Backround and challenges. For those of you who have never had the o pportunity to visit Charleston, SC, it is truly a place abundant with a specific yet, somewhat entrenched understanding

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jenna jones trident technical college charleston sc
Jenna Jones

Trident Technical College

Charleston, SC

Religion 101: Updated and Infused

backround and challenges
Backround and challenges

For those of you who have never had the

opportunity to visit Charleston, SC, it is

truly a place abundant with a specific

yet, somewhat entrenched understanding

of holiness. Nicknamed, “The Holy City, “

there are virtually no skyline views of the

city that offer a view deficient of a

myriad of steeples and towers reaching

towards the heavenly realm.

One of the major challenges that I have encountered in my very first year of teaching has been the comfort and confidence my students demonstrate from day one that Christianity is not one religion among the multiplicity of traditions practiced around the world, it is the ONLY

RELIGION. With that understanding it becomes abundantly clear, within moments, that this confidence also extends in the idea that all other faith practices, if even recognized as such, are the work of the dark forces, mainly, the devil himself.

previous ideas
Previous Ideas
  • To get students oriented with the content of the academic study of religion versus that of a theological study, I have in the past, geared all essay assignments in almost a building block fashion. Beginning with Chapter 1 of the text, Living Religions , edited by Mary Pat Fisher, the first essay is based on a theorist that was pivotal in the construction of religion as an academic discipline rather than a theological enterprise. I do, at times, feel quite terrible telling students that Sigmund Freud likened religious dependency to mental illness! The second essay has for the entirety of this year been largely based on Tibetan Buddhism and the film Kundun, which depicts the selection and plight of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The final paper is called the Reflection paper and challenges students to step out of their comfort zone and visit a place of worship other than their own. I had the opportunity to celebrate Puja at the Hindu Temple with students and to feel the conflation of wonder/awe and fear/dread that they were all feeling.
asdp hopes and goals
  • Ultimately, I wanted to come to the ASDP to garner new information on how to authentically teach the religious traditions of China and Japan. Having never been to either place, I have often felt that I was both deficient in my historical knowledge of these remarkably rich areas, but also that I was trying to give very “Western” examples of very “Eastern” conceptualizations.
  • With the 9th edition of the textbook staring me in the face and the challenge of re-mapping the content of the whole class, I am in the process of adding content from the seminar to 5 different chapters that we will cover fairly extensively this year. I am also trying to raise the bar of expectations for my students, as in the past I have felt a bit more like a counselor than a professor!
chapter adjustments new material
Chapter Adjustments/new Material
  • Chapter 2: Sacred and Indigenous Ways
  • While this chapter does a really good job trying to convey the secrecy and nature-rooted practices of many of the indigenous practitioners found around the world, it reads very much like a list of “fun facts” if you will. It is aimed at offering each unique tradition a voice in a world focused on progress and excess, but in doing so, it limits the fleshing out of any one tradition in any real and tangible way. I am going to keep focusing on the importance of the oral tradition and the key players of these communities that root these traditions an all-encompassing understanding of the sacred, but I am adding a whole section on the indigenous religious practices I have found here in Hawai’i!
  • Materials to be used:
  • “Hawai’i A Sense of Place” lecture by Aaron Sala
  • Interviews with mainland transplant friends, UH faculty member Charlye Ramsey and Joshua Aman, who have both experienced a new sense of spiritual awareness and sensitivity since encountering the indigenous practices of the somewhat secretive religious community here on Oahu.,
  • Extensive picture displays of my adventures to both healing and sacrificial heiaus and their relation to indigenous spirituality practiced in the past and the present.
  • Additional information from upcoming interviews with scholars and historians from the Bishop Museum to double check accuracy and use additional lenses to give a more comprehensive look at one specific set of indigenous practices.
chapter adjustments new material1
Chapter Adjustments/New Material
  • Chapter 5: Buddhism
  • “He will deliver by the boat of knowledge the distressed world”
  • I loved this chapter in the 8th edition of the text, but like I mentioned before, I am teaching a survey 101 class, so the numerous types of Buddhist practice present a challenge to an already pretty labor intensive class.
  • I am still planning on using my Buddhism Brain-buster crossword puzzle to familiarize my students with the Indian conceptualizations and terminology of the tradition but I plan on adding a more thorough section on the tradition’s move from India into China and Japan with an additional and more detailed section on Chan/Zen Buddhism.
  • Materials to be used:
  • I have made Peter’s book, Chan Buddhism, required reading for my new class at Queen’s University in Charlotte, NC and have already received a lot of support in the addition of the text from the Chair of Philosophy and Religion, Norris Frederick..
  • Although I do not plan on using the whole text as I think that will be far to ambitious in a class of this nature, I do plan on highlighting the understandings of “accommodation” and “advocacy,” as these two understandings will bridge the gap from the Western understandings of competitive ideologies to the more Eastern understanding of the cooperation between the “Three teachings.”
  • In addition to that section of the text, I really think that the first chapter in particular gives so much more depth and tangibility to the often difficult doctrines of “no-self” and impermanence. When it comes to these two things in particular, an additional voice and text is required to give the full breathe of these understandings to Western students.
  • Visual aids from the seminar will also be incorporated although I am still sifting through the plethora of options!
chapter adjustments new material2
  • Chapter 6: Daoism and Confucianism
  • “The unity of opposites”
  • I must admit that I really do love the layout of this text overall although, after coming to this seminar, I realize even more the importance of analyzing the specifics of these two traditions in ADDITION to focusing on their complementary relationship.
  • To say it another way, it is really important for students to know the political sphere of Confucianism in addition to the often assumed and singularly focused religious understandings of this tradition.
  • Materials to be used:
  • Despite the fact that I feel like a textual analysis of any primary text is a bit ambitious in a 101 survey class, I am going to incorporate a number of elements from Pauline Lee’s lecture. Focusing primarily on RU XUE (pronounced rooshae) “The learning of the scholars” I plan on unpacking multiple sections of the Analects in the same style that Dr. Lee presented. I think that a line by line analysis in a group setting will both encourage classroom community and confidence in reading these intimidating texts.
  • I also plan on giving a much more in depth look at Mengzi (pronounced Moon-Zuh) and Xunzi pronounced (Shing-Zuh) and the metaphors that they used to develop and reform the tradition.
chapter adjustments new material3
Chapter ADJUSTMENTS/New material
  • Chapter 7: Shinto
  • “The way of the Kami”
  • This chapter is also really great to teach and I am always so excited to teach that which seems super foreign to students. With that being said, when asked about the actual “essence” or “identity” of kami and organized Shinto practice, I often feel a bit lacking as I too feel like I am forcing these somewhat abstract and flexible ideas into stark categories and forced boundaries.
  • Materials to be used:
  • I am starting the chapter using the circle diagram used in Michael Mohr’s lecture, “Zeroing in on Japanese Religiosities,” in hopes of adding another piece to the group dynamic of the class. ( I plan on using his textual criticism lessons if I get the opportunity to teach an upper level Religions of Japan class).
  • Addition of visual aids that I have collected while being here.
  • During Stanley’s visual temple walk-through lecture, I found myself being transported into the inner sanctuary of the enshrined Kami at Ise Shrine. I would love to use that tour as I teach the construction and sacred myth around the shrine in class already!
  • Finally, I will be using at least two of Helen Baroni’s slides to give another voice to the identity and understandings of the location of the Kami and the rituals celebrating their existence and influence on the lives of the Japanese.
looking ahead
Looking ahead
  • I loved in Aaron Sala’s lecture how he emphasized the Hawaiian understanding of time by stating, “In Hawaiian understanding we need to look to the past to negotiate the future.”
  • I know that at some point, probably sooner than later, I will have taught countless sections of Religion 101 and that it will be time to embark on a new journey, with new themes, complexities, depth and focus on more concentrated areas of study. With that being said, I would love to teach a course specifically on the Religions of China and Japan, and while Trident may be a few years away from including any upper level religion classes, that which seems ambitious for a 101 class is that which is perfect for an opportunity that may be right around the corner.
  • By looking back on this seminar, the conversations with participants, the lectures, the films and the teaching styles of my colleagues, I feel more than confident that my future as an instructor of Religious Studies will be negotiated rather nicely.
  • I plan on incorporating many aspects of your individual presentations and keeping you posted on how your amazing ideas have had a ripple effect on the students that have crossed the thresholds of my classes.
  • In addition to that, I am very excited to create classes that stimulate the critical thinking, textual analysis and focused historical accounts of the people, places and traditions found throughout the world that I have further developed since being at the ASDP!