Sunday, October 27, 2013

Religion news from campuses on the campaign trail

It's the week of Halloween, which means I have lots of scary and silly material planned for my upcoming entries, as if the prospect of civilization collapsing, for whatever reason, and the (pop) cultural responses to the possibility weren't scary and silly enough.  Before I begin with that project, I will take a more serious look at an aspect of culture I cover irregularly, religion.  Here are the religion stories from campuses on the campaign trail I've included in the past three weeks of Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

I begin with Rutgers Hillel Moves Torah to New Home from Rutgers University.

Members of the Rutgers Hillel community celebrated and danced in the street as they ceremoniously moved Torah scrolls to a temporary home on Bishop Place while their new building is under construction. Rabbi Esther Reed, senior associate director of Rutgers Hillel, says the ceremony recognized the significance of the move for the entire Jewish community on campus.
Follow over the jump for more, beginning with something appropriate both for the season and to the inspiration for the name of this blog, a book about Dante's Inferno.

University of Virginia: To Hell and Back: U.Va. Professor’s New Book Explores Cultural Map of Dante’s ‘Inferno’
Robert Hull
October 14, 2013
Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” remains one of those rare artistic achievements that has become an enduring cultural touchstone. In fact, the “Inferno” section of Dante’s great poetic trilogy has essentially defined the Christian vision of hell.

On May 14, “Inferno,” a thriller by the popular American author Dan Brown, was published, the fourth book in his Robert Langdon series. It rose to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.

Brown’s novels are treasure hunts that feature the recurring themes of cryptography, codes, symbols and conspiracy theories usually fusing history and art. His books have been translated into 52 languages, and he is one of the highest-selling authors of all time.

Published last week, “Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown,” a companion book to Brown’s bestseller, was co-written by Deborah Parker, a professor of Italian at the University of Virginia, and her husband, Mark Parker, professor and head of the Department of English at James Madison University.
The subject of this book has more than a passing connection to the inspiration for this blog as Inferno is the second collaboration betweeen Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle after The Mote in God's Eye.  By looking at the Wikipedia entry, I have just discovered that their most recent collaboration is a sequel, Escape from Hell.  Since there might finally be a Ringworld movie and it's been nearly 30 years since I made the pledge never to buy another Niven book new, I might just relent--but not after checking the local library first.

Speaking of books on religion, University of Virginia is also promoting U.Va.’s Hedstrom Wins Brewer Prize for Best First Book on History of Christianity.
October 17, 2013
The American Society of Church History has awarded Matthew S. Hedstrom, assistant professor of religious studies and American studies at the University of Virginia, the Brewer Prize for the best first book in the history of Christianity for his volume, “The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century.” The book was published last year by Oxford University Press.

Hedstrom will receive the prize at the society’s winter meeting in January.

The book was also named one of 11 Notable Titles in American Intellectual History for 2012 by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.

Hedstrom contends in his book, according to the publisher’s description, that the story of liberal religion in the 20th century is a story of cultural ascendency. This may come as a surprise; most scholarship in American religious history equates the numerical decline of the Protestant mainline with the failure of religious liberalism. Yet a look beyond the pews, into the wider culture, reveals a more complex and fascinating story, one Hedstrom tells in “The Rise of Liberal Religion.”
It looks like UVA has quite a few people who study religion, including people interested in the future of Christianity in the U.S.

University of Virginia: Capps Lecture to Explore Millennials and the Future of Faith
H. Brevy Cannon
October 21, 2013
Asked about their religious beliefs, one-third of Americans under 30 describe themselves as being atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”

Acclaimed author Diana Butler Bass, a scholar of American religion and culture, will address this growing trend in a lecture, “Leaving Church? Generation Next and the Future of Faith,” on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the Dome Room of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda. Bass' lecture will explore the changing role of church in the lives of “millennials,” who often claim to be “spiritual, but not religious.” The talk will be webcast live here.

Bass is the author of eight books, including “Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.” Bass blogs for the Huffington Post and is a commentator for USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University and has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Macalester College, Rhodes College and the Virginia Theological Seminary.
Finally, Boston University contributes to the discussion, asking Can Christians Play Well—with One Another?
STH students travel to South Korea for ecumenical institute
By Rich Barlow
If you think relations between Christians and other religions can get sour, you should hear the family squabbles pitting Christians against one another. The Anglican Communion’s (un)civil war over gay rights is just one example. Especially “in other parts of the world, there are terrible conflicts between Christian denominations that are causing strife,” says Anne Hillman (STH’15).

She and the Rev. Soren Hessler (UNI’08, SED’11, STH’11,’18) are part of a global corps of 150 theology students invited to South Korea to ponder the state of ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is sponsoring the two-week gathering, which begins tomorrow. This Global Ecumenical Theological Institute will focus especially on justice and peace. The institute overlaps the WCC’s 10th assembly, a gathering held once every seven years, where member churches set WCC policy.

Hillman and Hessler are Methodists, chosen for the conference in part because of their interest in ecumenism. Hessler worships at a multidenomination church in Brookline, wrote a master’s thesis on how Methodism navigates ecumenism’s shoals, and is Marsh Chapel associate for leadership development; Hillman studies religious pluralism and ecumenism’s role in it. She hopes for a career in social justice work and as a college-level professor, while Hessler wants to work in church administration and training young clergy. BU Today spoke with them about the conference and the state of Christianity.
Now on to the silly and scary!

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