Teaching American Religion at a State University in the Bible Belt, Part 1

Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:50 PM
Room 103 (Hynes Convention Center)
Keith A. Pacholl , University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA
Part I of a two-part paper. 

Our joint paper will explain our rationale for dividing our course sequence at 1800, the year that marked the election of a deistic American president and the beginning of the evangelical Second Great Awakening, and will discuss the benefits of teaching the survey of American religion in two semesters instead of one.  We will also examine the challenges and benefits of teaching these courses at a state university in the Bible belt, where large numbers of our students come from a Christian background, but where we are also obligated to remain religiously neutral.  We will discuss the way in which we incorporate global perspectives in our courses, and will share insights from our success in assigning primary source readings from a variety of religious perspectives.  Finally, we will discuss the positive effect that our courses on American religion have had on our M.A. program, where students whose work does not directly relate to the field have been inspired to incorporate insights from the study of religion after taking our courses.  Our papers will examine the benefits of teaching American religious history and will encourage our colleagues at other institutions to do so in ways that challenge conventional boundaries.