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Sample Syllabi in Interfaith and Interreligious Studies

As part of a three-year project funded by the Teagle Foundation, IFYC has partnered with seventeen colleges and universities to develop academic programs in interfaith and interreligious studies. Utilizing grant funds, these institutions have garnered support and convened colleagues to create curricular programs – including majors, minors, concentrations, certificates, and course sequences – that focus on interfaith and interreligious engagement. The goal of this resource is to highlight the diverse range of courses in interfaith and interreligious studies that now exist at both public and private undergraduate institutions.

 

Featured Syllabi

Concordia College – “Faith in Dialogue: Interfaith Leadership” by Jacqueline Bussie

Concordia College is a private institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). It is located in Moorhead, Minnesota, and serves about 2,500 undergraduate students. “Faith in Dialogue” is a required course within Concordia’s Interfaith Studies Minor, which is housed in the Department of Religion.

Wofford College – “Interfaith Engagement and Religious Pluralism” by Trina Jones and Ron Robinson

Wofford College is a private institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It is located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and serves about 1,650 undergraduate students. As an introduction to interfaith cooperation both in theory and practice, this course is co-taught by two religion scholars in the Department of Religion, one of whom is also the College Chaplain.

Saint Mary’s College of California – “Interfaith Leadership in Business and the Professions” by Barbara McGraw

Saint Mary’s College of California is a private institution affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. It is located in Moraga, California, and serves about 2,800 undergraduate students. The college launched an interdisciplinary Interfaith Leadership Minor in the fall of 2015, which is housed within the School of Economics and Business Administration. The minor consists of 6.25 total courses, including “Interfaith Leadership in Business and the Professions.”

California Lutheran University – “Politics of Community Development, with Attention to Interfaith Studies” by Colleen Windham-Hughes and Jose Marichal

California Lutheran University is a private institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). It is located in Thousand Oaks, California, and serves about 2,800 undergraduate students. Approaching topics within political science and community development that relate to interfaith cooperation, this course is taught within a broader interfaith studies course sequence. 2

Loyola University Chicago – “Religious Diversity in Theory and Practice” by Devorah Schoenfeld

Loyola University is a private institution affiliated with the Jesuit Catholic tradition. It is located in Chicago, Illinois, and serves over 9,000 undergraduate students. Loyola’s interdisciplinary Interfaith and Interreligious Studies Minor was launched fall of 2015, and consists of six courses. “Religious Diversity in Theory and Practice” is one of the required courses within the minor.

Dominican University – “Introduction to Interfaith Studies” by Jeffrey Carlson

Dominican University is a private institution affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. It is located in River Forest, Illinois, and serves nearly 4,000 undergraduate students. Launched in fall of 2015, Dominican’s Interfaith Studies Minor consists of seven courses; “Introduction to Interfaith Studies” is one of the foundational courses of the minor.

Tell us about the syllabi you’ve utilized in interfaith studies courses and programs, or get in touch with us to learn more about others who have. Email Carolyn Roncolato, Director of Academic Initiatives, and visit www.ifyc.org/resources for more resources.

 

Faith in Dialogue: Interfaith Leadership

Concordia College

Religion 333
Professor: Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, Professor of Religion and Director of the Forum on Faith and Life Email: jbussie@cord.edu

Course Description

This course introduces the burgeoning interfaith movement in the United States, a movement which adopts as its foundation the concepts of interfaith cooperation, service, and bridge-building. In this course we will gain the religious literacy, skills and appreciative knowledge that will help us to address the following urgent questions of our time: How do I dialogue with people who belong to religious (and non-religious) traditions other than my own? How do I work together with people of different faith backgrounds to achieve the common good? What is pluralism, and how do we protect it from prejudice? How is pluralism different from diversity? What is the difference between dialogue and debate? What is meant by the term ‘interfaith leader,’ who are some past interfaith leaders, and how might I become one in my own community? What steps can be taken by interfaith leaders to overcome the religious divisiveness and polarization of our contemporary culture?

Course Learning Goals

If you attend class sessions and do all course assignments, this course aims to help you:

  • Attain a deeper, more compassionate understanding of people from diverse religious and philosophical traditions;
  • Become responsibly engaged in interfaith leadership in the world;
  • Develop an appreciative knowledge of religious and philosophical traditions that are different from your own;
  • Discover shared values and commitments across religious traditions;
  • Constructively bring your own religious tradition into dialogue with traditions divergent from your own;
  • Demonstrate empathic understanding and authentic listening skills; and
  • Examine your own religious/spiritual journey in a deep and meaningful way.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course and all class assignments, you as a student should be able to:

  1. Construct your own philosophy/theology of interfaith cooperation along with an explanation of why such cooperation is necessary in the 21st century;
  2. Demonstrate in both oral and written form thoughtful and informed knowledge of interfaith leaders and the interfaith movement in the United States;
  3. Define diversity and pluralism, and describe the distinction between the two;
  4. Experience other people’s perspectives and critically and constructively evaluate the ideas of others/peers;
  5. Engage in civil and respectful dialogue with peers and religious neighbors with whom you agree and disagree;
  6. Recognize and deconstruct your own past/current assumptions about major religious traditions different from your own;
  7. Demonstrate critical reading skills and the ability to critically evaluate texts (oral, written, or visual);
  8. Fluently cite past and present historical examples of religious prejudice in the United States and their deleterious effects; and
  9. Identify shared values, practices and/or commitments between your religious tradition and other major religious traditions.

Required Texts and Course Materials

  • Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0-8070-0622-1
  • Stephen Prothero, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World, Harper One, ISBN 978-0061571282
  • Dalai Lama, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together, Three Rivers Press, ISBN 978-0385525060
  • Jennifer Howe Peace, Or Rose, and Gregory Mobley, eds. My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth and Transformation, Orbis Books, ISBN 978-1570759581
  • Chris Stedman, Faitheist: How An Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0807014394
  • Don Mackenzie, Ted Falcon, and Jamal Rahman, Getting to the Heart of Interfaith, Skylight Paths Publishing, ISBN 9781594732638
  • Brian McLaren, Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?, Jericho Books, ISBN 9781455513963
  • Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Harper One, ISBN 978-0062049650

Assessment of Student Learning

  • Participation: 25 grade points (25%)
  • Interfaith Passport Completion: 5 grade points (5%)
  • Learning Journals/Letters to Authors (4 X 10pts): 40 grade points (40%)
  • B.R.E.W. Interview Assignment: 5 grade points (5%)
  • One Final Critical Reflection Research Paper: 20 grade points (20%)
  • Discussion Lead/Injustice Watch & Hope Med.: 5 grade points (5%)

TOTAL = 100 points

Course Assignments

Interfaith Hope-Meditation and Justice-Watch Assignments

Every week, one of you will be in charge of sharing with the class 5-10 minutes of an Interfaith HopeMeditation and an (In)Justice-Watch. You may bring this to class or e-mail via Moodle prior to class if you wish. Please keep it short and sweet (but awesome!) as the discussion leaders have a lot to share with us as well. For the Interfaith Hope Meditation, please share with the class something that you saw/ heard/read/experienced within a religious tradition (preferably, from one that is not your own) and which you found hope-inspiring. This meditation can take any form—a quote from a tradition’s sacred text or well-known thinker, poem, a story, an act of interfaith kindness you witnessed, a breakthrough moment experienced during your community service, a prayer, a picture, anything that you believe will inspire us in the face of the world’s religious prejudice, stereotypes, and misassumptions. One of my favorite sites for inspiring global interfaith cooperation stories is Council for a Parliament of World Religions. The Christian website Sojourners is also great for finding stories of hope for religious issues. Sign up for their email updates! And of course there is the excellent Interfaith Youth Core site.

For Interfaith Justice-Watch, take the opportunity to share with classmates a religious conflict/prejudice/ injustice (global or local) which you saw/heard/read about/witnessed/experienced recently and that has been on your heart and mind. Good sources for global concerns are Human Rights Watch, and the BBC website; good sources for local concerns are the news, conversations with friends and family, and even Facebook and other social media (where unfortunately, many hide behind technology to voice their prejudice). Enlighten us briefly about the issue, so that our awareness is heightened about an interfaith conflict or concern of which we may not be aware. Why these exercises? They remind us that religious prejudice or conflict is not an abstraction, but a reality that wounds people’s lived lives. In my experience, the fight for interfaith cooperation must be fought on 2 fronts: 1) awareness (often we are blind to religious prejudices which do not directly hurt us, and in which we are often unintentionally complicit) and 2) resistance to despair (stories of interfaith hope don’t usually make the news, and so we must tell this hope-news to one another, or risk never hearing it). I highly recommend that our class form a closed facebook group, where we can post anytime stories of hope and justice for one another, and in that way keep a record of all that we have shared in class.

Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World (B.R.E.W.): My Neighbor’s Faith Assignment

For this assignment, instead of just reading books about people from different religions, we are going to get out and get to know our interfaith neighbors and put all our ‘faith-in-dialogue’ skills into practice! First, you will need to find a faculty, staff, peer, or member of the Fargo-Moorhead community who practices a different religious or non-religious tradition than you do. For example, this means if you are a Lutheran Christian, you may not just interview a Catholic Christian or a Christian of another different denomination; likewise if you are a Reform Jew, you may not just interview an Orthodox Jew. Please challenge yourself—find someone about whose tradition you know very little or do not relate to very well— and remember that in our community we have a wonderful diversity of traditions including Buddhism, Native American traditions, Unitarian Universalism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, atheists, and Baha’i. Do not pick a close friend of yours unless it’s actually the case that you have never really talked to them about their religious tradition. Invite the person you choose to coffee or lunch, and tell them you would love to interview them for our interfaith class. Consider emailing the Native American Center of Fargo, 6 Red River Free Thinkers, The Center for Interfaith Projects, the Project F-M, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo, or the Mormon Church of Latter-Day Saints (Fargo) to get set up with someone. Be of good courage and branch out.

Second, you will need to design 5-6 respectful and thoughtful interview questions. We can brainstorm these in class. One of my favorites is: “What is something about your religious tradition you really wish everyone outside of your religious tradition would better understand?” List the interview questions on your BREW assignment. See the book Getting to the Heart of Interfaith for great ideas for interview questions.

Third, write a reflection paper describing what you learned by allowing your faith to be in dialogue with your neighbor’s faith during this conversation. [Note: Do not mention their real name in your assignment unless you have asked and received their permission to do so.] Be sure to answer the following questions: What did you learn about your neighbor’s tradition? What most surprised/challenged/interested you about your neighbor’s tradition? What assumptions did you bring into the interview that were changed/challenged/nuanced by the dialogue? Did you discover any shared values or practices, and if so, what were they? What was an area of disagreement or discomfort, and how did you handle it?

Interfaith Leadership Log

In order to help you write your final paper, you will keep an interfaith leadership log that will help you track the acquisition of skills, literacy, and appreciative knowledge needed to help you become an interfaith leader. This will not be handed in, but instead is provided as a guide for the final assignment. The log will have six components which are:

Share a moment of ‘unlearning’ an assumption you held about a religious tradition other than your own. Identify a shared value your own tradition has in common with other traditions. Be specific and cite texts. Share a moment of interfaith hope you experienced this semester in your personal life or discovered in the media.
Articulate and analyze a moment of interfaith doubt/ division/concern/conflict or discomfort you experienced this semester. Be honest. Share your favorite idea/ practice/textual quote you learned this semester from someone of another tradition. Identify and describe a moment in which your own faith or philosophy was deepened or nuanced because of interfaith dialogue.