The Religion Department seeks to provide:
- Specialized courses for students majoring in the discipline, and
- General courses for students interested in religion, but who are pursuing other majors
The department offers courses in a variety of areas in the study of religion, clustered around the particular interests and expertise of the faculty. We have courses that fulfill the requirements for Beyond the West and which count as Humanities courses for the purposes of the Connection requirement. Courses taught by the Religion Department faculty are parts of seven standing Connections, and of numerous successful proposals for Student-Initiated Connections. And because the modern critical study of religions understands religion as a social phenomenon, and accordingly, necessarily addresses its intersections with “race/ethnicity… gender, class, sexuality, and technology in the United States and globally,” nearly all of our courses contribute to Wheaton’s curricular commitment to Infusion. In addition, we offer a Jewish Studies minor, Interdepartmental majors with History or Philosophy, and are part of an affiliated programs in Ancient Studies.
Successful religion majors come out of the program with three skills central to a sound liberal arts education:
- The ability to recognize and communicate to others the diversity of human cultural expressions
- The ability to interpret one’s own and others’ different cultural perspectives as systems – as coherent, integrated world views
- The ability to articulate the significant connection between religion and ethical behavior – why we and others do what do.
It is not the goal of our program to convince students to “be religious,” but rather to think critically and reflectively about the religious dimension of their own and other people’s experience. A comparative approach is essential for critical reflection, so students will study not one but several religions, namely, Western Biblical traditions, Islam, East Asian and native traditions, and contemporary religious movements like eco-feminism. Hence we have an internal “distribution requirement” of religion courses for majors. And recognizing in addition the importance of experiential learning for understanding “religion-in-action,” we encourage students with interests in social activism and/or particular religious traditions to pursue them in service learning or other extra-curricular activities and will provide students with opportunities to reflect on the religious dimensions of such experiences. The Senior Seminar is the capstone opportunity for majors to integrate and reflect upon these experiences, in the course of demonstrating their skills at applying religious theory to practice in a substantial research paper on a topic of their choice, and through presentations to their peers in Religion 102: Introduction to the Study of World Religions and in the Seminar itself.