Catalog Description —GSTR 310: Understandings of Christianity. This course invites students to imagine and consider Christianity from stances both inside and outside the faith, from the vantage of various disciplines, as an instance of the general phenomenon of religion, and as a way of understanding life’s purpose and meaning that remains important for many around the world. The course considers Christianity from historical, theological, and contemporary perspectives. Each section applies and builds on the reasoning, research, and writing emphases of GSTR 110 and 210. Prerequisite: GSTR 210 and sophomore standing.
Student Learning Outcomes for GSTR 310
Successful students will learn to:
- articulate differences between approaching Christianity from a faith perspective and from the perspective of various academic disciplines, including the natural sciences;
- describe diverse ways Christianity has been expressed in ideas and beliefs, ritual and spiritual practices, moral values and actions, and communities and institutions;
- analyze various ways Jesus and the Bible have been, and continue to be, understood as central to Christianity and its relation to the world;
- articulate Christianity’s complex relationships to its historical and cultural contexts;
- read critically the Bible and other primary and secondary sources;
- demonstrate appropriate writing, research, and critical thinking abilities.
NOTE: Below are section descriptions for all instructors who regularly teach GSTR 310. Not all of these instructors listed here teach the course each term. Please refer to the schedule of classes for the term in question to see which instructors will be offering the course.
GSTR 310- Broadhead, Edwin: Global Christianity. Following an overview of the history of Christianity in its various forms, this section of GSTR 310 looks at the global face of Christianity in the early 21st century. Particular attention is given to emerging trends and to the unique history and characteristics of Christianity in Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and North America. In light of these various studies, students are encouraged to reflect upon the future profile of Christianity.
GSTR 310- Brown, Kennaria: Christian Narrative from Below. Just as history is written by “the winners,” so are mainstream religious narratives, especially Christianity – the dominant Western religion. However, not all of its practitioners are from the dominant culture. How do women and people from cultures that are marginalized in the West make a faith that historically has been an instrument of domination actually work for them? They develop their own Christian narratives. This section explores Christian narratives “from below,” emphasizing African American, Latinx, and Women’s perspectives, with some international exploration as well.
GSTR 310- Clavere, Javier: Christianity, Music, and Meaning: From Gregorian Chant to Christian Rock. This section of GSTR 310 will focus on the relationship between Christian Traditions throughout the ages and the musical representation of those traditions. We will investigate “not what music means”, but “how music means.” We will be especially interested in exploring how Christians use music to represent meaning in their religious experiences, the role of music in liturgical acts, and the role of music in religious expressions.
GSTR 310- Curry, Leonard: Affect Theory and the Study of Christianity. Having traced the historical developments which constitute Christianity as Christianity, this section will turn towards the emerging discourse of affect theory and the growing body of literature on the use of affect theory in religion to develop an “affective” approach to the study of Christianity, and an “affective analysis” of Christianity. Affect theory is an interdisciplinary theory of the body’s capacity to feel. While it’s most recent development comes out of cultural studies, it has deep roots in the medieval philosophical and theological tradition. Before Gilles Deleuze, Brian Massumi, and Sara Ahmed, affect had been theorized and theologized by Baruch Spinoza, Jonathan Edwards, and Friedrich Schleiermacher. In this course, our goal is to inquire after, develop, and vivify affect as an analytic and a hermeneutic for reading, understanding, and interpreting the various social, political, economic, and cultural developments which make up Christianity.
GSTR 310- Dillon, Patrick:
As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah (Luke 4:40-41, New Revised Standard Version).
Jesus’ ministry of healing and exorcism is a central theme in the New Testament. The verses above represent one among seventy-two accounts in the four gospels of Jesus performing healing and exorcism. How are we to make sense of these accounts? What did these healings mean to those who witnessed them in 1st century Palestine? How are these meanings relevant in our modern age of medical science, and toward Christian understanding of healing today? Finally, how may these interpretations be applied now in ways consistent with values of impartial love, human dignity, equality, and service that are fundamental to Berea College’s mission and Christian identity? This section addresses these questions by critically interpreting New Testament accounts of healing and exorcism from a variety of academic disciplines, and by exploring ancient, modern, Christian, and non-Christian healing practices and perspectives.
GSTR 310- Elston, Ashley: The Image in Christianity. This course explores the history and development of Christianity through its visual expressions and considers the role of the image in the practice of Christian faith. Beginning with an understanding of how Christianity handled works of art during its earliest years, we will examine the many different types of images that appear throughout the history of the religion and trace the function and meaning of the visual arts in Christianity. Students will be encouraged to think about how and why certain common subjects in Christian art (such as Jesus and Mary) have changed through time and how visual environments have shaped the message and experience of Christianity through to the present day. Particular attention will be paid to the complex relationship between image and text in Christianity, the surprising powers of Christian images, and the role of Christian art in communicating elements of faith.
GSTR 310- Gowler, Steve: Christianity and the World. After considering the historical Jesus and origins of the Christian movement, we will explore Christianity’s diverse development in relation to three broad understandings of the “world”: (1) from a geographical and cultural perspective—Christianity as a global religion alongside other religions; (2) from an ethical and societal perspective—Christianity and social issues such as racism, sexism, and poverty; and (3) from a scientific perspective—Christianity and nature. In addition to selections from the Bible and other primary sources, course texts include: Leo Tolstoy’s Confession, Richard Bauckham’s Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, Douglas Jacobsen’s Global Gospel: An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents, Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, and Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited.
GSTR 310- Guthman, Joshua: This section of GSTR 310 will focus on Christian journeys, both literal and spiritual. We will be especially interested in exploring how different types of Christians have used their religious journeys—journeys of salvation and redemption, journeys to holy shrines and journeys to the world beyond, journeys from unbelief to faith and from one religion to another, journeys that reach a destination and those that fail to arrive—as instruments of self-definition. Among other Christian voyages, we will examine how the Jesus of history became the Christ of faith, discover why Catholic immigrants in 1920s New York trudged barefoot over searing pavement to see a simple statue of the Virgin Mary, and learn how one modern woman tries to square her Christian present with her Jewish past. Along the way, we will watch movies; listen to music; and read gripping memoirs, startling histories, and, of course, the Bible.
GSTR 310- Pimenta-Bey, Jose: “Of one blood, God has made all the peoples of the earth,” is the creed of Berea College. A creed whose basis is verse 17:26 of Acts from the Holy Bible, and referenced to the Apostle Paul himself. But sadly, much of the history of the “Christian world” is plagued with clear examples of the worst acts of racism which one could imagine- including atrocities against Native Americans and African Americans. We should be outraged that a U.S. terrorist organization born shortly after the Civil War, would actually profess to being a “Christian” Brotherhood, presumably dedicated to upholding the ideals of Christ Jesus. This terrorist group became internationally infamous as the “Ku Klux Klan,” and it has survived right up to the present day. This is one of a number of examples of so-called “Christian” teachings being used to justify cruelty against other “races.” This section will explore those topics, as well as others, which address how race and racism have historically played out within the Christian faith and tradition. For before we can eliminate such hypocrisy, we must identify and acknowledge it’s existence.
GSTR 310- Pool, Jeff: Love in Christian Traditions. For the first approximately two-thirds of this section of GSTR 310, the course will support the larger purpose and shared content in all sections of GSTR 310. During the last approximately one-third of the course, this course will explore Contemporary Christian Appropriations and Transformations of Christian Biblical and Historical Traditions of Love. With constant reference to various dimensions and dynamics of the current global situation, this section will explore Christian concepts of love, specifically as they relate to various forms of language about God, God-talk, or theological discourse. The diverse Christian traditions interpret various forms of love in different ways. This course will examine not only many forms of love, but many interpretations of love in several major Christian traditions. Moreover, this course will study Christian concepts of love academically not religiously. In other words, this course does not explicitly study this topic from any single Christian or religious confessional perspective for devotional purposes or to aid the spiritual growth of participants in the course – although such results also certainly may occur through such studies. Rather, this course aims to study the topical focus on contemporary Christian concepts of love as one feature in the larger religious traditions that the course will examine. In this sense, the course will approach the study of each tradition of love descriptively, analytically, and critically. This course will engage those Christian traditions on love like any other cultural phenomenon about which the academy seeks to promote greater knowledge and understanding.
GSTR 310- Sergent, Tyler: Christianity as a Western Monotheism. After exploring aspects of Christianity common to all GSTR 310 courses, our section will focus on Christianity as a western monotheism and Abrahamic religion. We will study Christianity within the context of the major monotheistic religions of the West: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We will examine the history, scriptures, beliefs, rituals, art, & architecture of all three traditions, with emphasis on their developing concepts of God. This will provide us the opportunity to understand Christianity as part of the larger tradition of western monotheism, to explore how these other traditions view Christianity, and to analyze critically the historical, ideological, and practical commonalities Christianity shares with these other two monotheistic religions.
GSTR 310- Smith, Duane: This section invites students to imagine and consider Christianity from stances both inside and outside the faith, from the vantage of various disciplines, as an instance of the general phenomenon of religion, and as a way of understanding life’s purpose and meaning that remains important for many around the world. This section focuses on various ways the Bible has been interpreted throughout the ages to support changing ecclesial models. The seminar portion of this section addresses Christianity’s encounter with diverse religious traditions of the world.
GSTR 310- Stokes, Emmanuel: The Sound of Faith: Music and Christianity in Varied U.S. Contexts. This section of 310 will unpack how music has been, and continues to be, used to support a variety of understandings and approaches to Christianity in the United States. This will include discourse on the use of faith based music in the context of politics, Eurocentric history, African American culture, Women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community, and in spaces that are labeled as both “Christian” and as “hate groups” such as the Ku Klux Klan. We will engage with music from film, recordings, live theatre, and as performed in sacred & secular settings. Please note: Students do not have to have a background in music for this section of 310.