Religious Studies emerged within European & American academic circles in the Nineteenth century. The attempt has been to unravel some of those threads of human cultures that have distinctive features that can be described as religious or spiritual. The kick off was a bit of a mess, a ton of unexamined assumptions were packed into the project. But, over the years, as people have learned and reflected something kind of wonderful has emerged.
If one belongs to a particular spiritual tradition, theology, the deepening of understanding of one’s tradition can be enormously important. But, while somewhat related, ultimately religious studies is a different project.
Religious Studies is an attempt to see currents, both common and unique, that people have used, and which uses people, in that grand and ultimately most human of enterprises, to know ourselves ever more authentically.
It requires a willingness to not know, to separate ourselves just a bit from our assumptions, and to let what is, be.
From there, well, who knows…
In my now just completed task of teaching a class at the University of the West, I saw a lot of what is on offer at YouTube touching on religion. It is almost entirely special pleading. Some of it quite beautiful. Often with grace about it. But, getting that thousand feet up perspective is pretty rare.
And, some good news.
One of the best examples of that larger perspective has been the work of Boston University doctoral candidate Andrew Henry. He started a YouTube channel in 2014. Check out his project, Religion for Breakfast. And here’s the supporting webpage. You may find it a regular treasure trove of challenge and invitation…