Thanks for your letter concerning research and teaching in the area of religious pluralism. Since it is summer I am not in touch with the other members of my department to know if they also received the letter and, if so, whether they would share my ideas on the matter. My own first thought is that it would be valuable for our department to devote a meeting to discussing the document on Mission and Interreligious Dialogue from the documents of the Gerneral Council in order to see how we situate ourselves in relation to it and what implications it might have for our teaching and research. I am particularly interested in education for justice across the curriculum.
In case you wish to contact any of my colleagues the full-timers are: Nancy Ring (Christian theology); William Barnett (church history); Donald Kirby (ethics); Kathleen Nash (Hebrew Bible); Jennifer Glancy (Christian scriptures); Fred Glennon (ethics). Two part-timers who teach regularly at Le Moyne are: Rabbi Daniel Jezer (Judaism) and Imam Ahmed Kobeisy (Islam).
I shall say a few words on the three issues you highlighted.
Current Teaching and Research:
The "introductory" course at Le Moyne, Religious Perspectives on the Human Situation, which all members of the dept. teach, introduces students to issues of religious pluralism. I teach courses in Oral Traditions and Religion, Ritual Performance, Local Religions, and a course on History of the Study of Religion, all of which include attention to interreligious dialogue. My current research focuses on Melanesian styles of Christianity and is very much concerned with the dialogue of indigenous and Christian traditions in Melanesian cultures and consciousness today.
Perception of Dynamics of Teaching and Researching Religious Traditions in Jesuit Theology and Religious Studies Departments:
As I understand it we are mandated by the curriculum committee to introduce students to Christianity and Judaism in the introductory course. The dept. also wants, in this course, to introduce students to the vocabulary and tools for the study of religion. In further courses students may, if they wish, pursue the study of other religious traditions or they may do more work on Judaism and Christianity. At Le Moyne the teaching of Judaism and Islam is underwritten by outside agencies. Courses in Asian Religions and Native American Religions are offered regularly, usually taught by adjuncts. (I have taught both these courses in the past and also the course on Islam). A few years ago Professor Alice Keefe (now at University of Wisconsin, Stephen's Point) taught a course on the dialogue of Hinduism and Christianity. Often in the Religious Perspectives course I find that there are Buddhist students who are hoping to learn the essentials of their tradition from the course. Some Christian students also see the course as an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of their tradition.
As far as research is concerned I have found the Dept. supportive of my research in Melanesia and appreciative of the contribution it brings to the Department's work.
Meeting of Professors Teaching Religions:
Could be good. I would suggest also considering how what we are doing in religious studies connects with what is happening in other depts where issues of religious pluralism and globalization are also studied.
With best wishes for your work as Interreligious Dialogue Coordinator,
Mary N. MacDonald
Religious Studies Department
Le Moyne College
Syracuse, NY 13214
Tel 315 445-4364
Created: September 2, 2000 Updated: September 2, 2000