Thursday, August 21, 2008

Studying Religion in a Public University

Classes have begun this week and I'm having a wonderful time. A semester off was entirely too much. One thing I'm getting the feel for is studying Religion in a public university. I knew what to expect, basically - but the experience of not praying before class or not being sure where my professor stands theologically (which I like) is interesting (not bad, just interesting). I'm taking a class on Classical Islam and my professor asked some pretty good questions right off the bat: What is Religion? Do we separate the sacred from the profane? What is Islam? What is not Islam?

Then she asked, "Are the events that took place on September 11th to be attributed to Islam? Is that Islam?". Beause we had done introductions in the beginning of class, several students had identified themselves as Muslims and I think this may have made some people's reactions to this question less than honest. The standard MSNBC answers came out: "Islam is a religion of peace!" "Those were extremists who did that." But what does extremist mean? Does it mean someone who follows the ideology of the religion to its extreme? If a religion is based on love, shouldn't the extreme of that religion be to love people around you like crazy (and probably to an almost irritating point)?

So, I raised my hand and said that I thought we had an issue in defining what Islam is because of the diversity of opinions based on a lack of authority. What does orthodox Islam look like? Where is the governing body that states what is orthodoxy and what is not? Because of the lack of this governing body, I think we're simply going to side with a portion of Islam that suits our fancy and say in unison with MSNBC, "Islam is a religion of peace." But is it? I'm not saying that it's not, I'm simply saying that I'm uncomfortable with giving Islam this status a priori before looking at the history and the ideology within those historical contexts.

Also - is there ever going to be a discussion of 9/11 without bringing up the Crusades? They are so fundamentally different that it seems arbitrary to bring up the Crusades in those discussions except to perhaps offer some kind of in cognito apology on behalf of Christians.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

SBL Advice

I found this helpful blog post over at J.C. Baker's blog today. I'm considering going to SBL this year and this would be my first year going. My main concern is lodging - I was wondering if anyone had the "skinny" on places to stay in Boston that won't cost me an arm and a leg, travel advice, meeting advice in general, etc. Bestow it all on us you pro-SBLers.

Congrats to Chris Tilling

Chris has recently been appointed the new NT Tutor at St. Mellitus College and St. Paul's Theological Centre. It's exciting to see someone so smart and hardworking have their work pay off. Swing by his blog and congratulate him.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I cannot wait to read this...

Mike Aquilina, author of "The Way of the Fathers" blog and several books, has put out yet another book titled, Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols. I definitely cannot wait to read this.