I started writing this blog while I was teaching at Stonehill College, which hired me for a one-year visiting position and took me on shortly after that. A Catholic school, Stonehill requires all its students to take an introductory course in religion, and a third-year course in “moral inquiry”; faculty learn rapidly that these are the bread and butter of their teaching. In my time at Stonehill I taught one elective in Hindu tradition; the other eleven course sections were all the religion requirements.
Teaching students who did not want to be there was not always a joy. The wonderful advantage of teaching Stonehill’s required courses, though, was that there was almost no restriction on content. My love of big cross-cultural questions does not play well with the specialization taught in grad school and encouraged in academic publishing, where one must learn one thing and nothing else. But I could design these courses the way I wanted. The religion department had decided it wanted one common reference point that upper-year students could turn back to, and it had decided on the book of Exodus. But as long as you taught Exodus, the rest of the course was all up to you.
And so one semester I decided I wanted to learn more about Western monotheisms, and entitled my intro religion course “God in the West.” All that Buddhism and “Hinduism” I’d studied in grad school – never mind that. Because that was stuff I already knew pretty well. One of the things I hoped to impart to my students was a love of learning; and so I decided I would teach them a subject I wanted to learn about myself.
And learn I did. Continue reading