Religion

253.535.7314 www.plu.edu/religion/ choiaa@plu.edu
Agnes Choi, Ph.D., Chair

torahReligion is an attempt to understand the meaning of human existence. Different religious and cultural communities express that meaning in many ways. Located within an ELCA-related university, the Department of Religion stands within a Lutheran Christian and global context.

In a university setting this means the serious academic study of the Bible, of the history of the Christian tradition, of Christian theology, and of world religious traditions. Critical study calls for open and authentic dialogue with other religious traditions and seeks to understand a common humanity as each tradition adds its unique contribution. It calls for a critical yet constructive interchange with contemporary society. Finally, it calls for a sharing of insights with other disciplines in the university as each sheds light on the human condition.

To these ends the Department of Religion offers a wide range of courses and opportunities. Furthermore it calls students, majors and non-majors alike, to consider questions of meaning, purpose, and value in a society that all too often neglects these questions.

Bachelor of Arts Degree

Major in Religion

32 semester hours

  • RELI 499: Capstone Research Seminar (offered only in Spring semester)
  • 8 semester hours RELI coursework from Line One: Christian Traditions (RC)
  • 8 semester hours RELI coursework from Line Two: Global Religious Traditions (RG)
  • In addition:
    • 12 semester hours RELI coursework from either Line RC or RG
    • At least 16 semester hours must be upper-division, not including RELI 499
    • Option I, II, or III of the College of Arts and Sciences Language requirement

Majors should plan their program early in consultation with departmental faculty. Closely related courses taught in other departments may be considered to apply toward the religion major in consultation with the chair of the department.

Transfer majors will normally take 20 semester hours in residence. A minimum grade of C- in all courses in the major or minor department and a cumulative 2.00 GPA in those courses is required.

Minor

16 semester hours

  • 8 semester hours RELI coursework from Line One: Christian Traditions (RC)
  • 8 semester hours RELI coursework from Line Two: Global Religious Traditions (RG)
  • Minimum of 4 semester hours must be taken at the upper-division level (either RC or RG)

Transfer minors under this option must take at least 8 semester hours in residence.

Minor (Teacher Education Option)

24 semester hours, at least 4 hours in each of the two lines.

Transfer minors under this option normally take 16 semester hours in residence. Intended primarily for parochial school teachers enrolled in the Department of Education.

Religion (RELI) - Undergraduate Courses

RELI 190 : FYEP190: Inquiry Seminar

A four-credit seminar to introduce students to the methods and topics of study within a particular academic discipline or field. Students practice the academic skills that are at the center of the General Education Program. (4)

RELI 211 : Religion and Literature of the Hebrew Bible - RG

This course introduces students to the critical study of the books in the Hebrew Bible Canon. Students will become familiar with the socio-historical context of these biblical books and their major theological themes; explore in depth a representative selection of Hebrew Bible texts; learn about a variety of historical, theological, and interpretive approaches by means of which to understand the historical context, literary artistry, and rhetorical power of scriptural texts; and explore the significance of these writings for the urgent challenges of today. (4)

RELI 212 : Religion and Literature of the New Testament - RC

This course will introduce students to the scholarly study of the New Testament, as well as the Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts from which they emerged; students will also be introduced to the basic methods and issues in New Testament interpretation. Much of the course will focus on understanding these ancient texts in their historical contexts and what they reveal about the people who produced them, though there will be some consideration of their influence on some contemporary issues. No previous familiarity with the New Testament or its interpretation is expected. (4)

RELI 213 : Topics in Biblical Studies - RG

This course introduces students to the study of selected ancient Near Eastern themes, biblical questions, or Second Temple topics examined in their social, historical, and cultural context. It explains "Religion" as a category of analysis in academic contexts, identifying when and how religious beliefs, interpretations, and practices shape human life, culture, and history. While its primary focus is on the ancient world, it also identifies the contemporary relevance and significance of ancient religious traditions, customs, and beliefs. (4)

RELI 214 : Topics in Biblical Studies - RC

The study of selected biblical questions or themes examined in their social and historical contexts. Fulfills Christians Traditions. (4)

RELI 215 : Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean - C, RG

This course introduces the religiously, culturally, and socially diverse world of the Late Bronze Age. During this time, ancient Egypt, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine, and Greece created the world's first recorded unified economy. In 1300 BCE, humans believed that all duties were duties to the gods and all events had deity as their cause. Our research shows that three thousand years ago, humans were living productively in a religiously pluralistic society. The ancient Mediterranean cultures participated in and enjoyed the advantages of a religiously diverse community. This course examines the ways in which religion shaped the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world. (4)

RELI 220 : Early Christian History - RC

This course explores the social, cultural, and theological diversity and forms of self-definition of early Christian history across territories in which it emerged, including Western Asia, North and East Africa, and Western Europe. In this course, emphasis will be placed on the ways in which Christian groups established core elements flowering from the life of Jesus of Nazareth, affirmed or undermined social norms, and how those social norms impacted conceptions of gender, health, poverty, authority, and the sacred. (4)

RELI 221 : Medieval Christian History - RC

This course introduces students to the history of Christianity in centuries identified as "medieval", 500-1500. Through original sources and contemporary studies, students will explore the interplay between Christian values and practices and diverse cultures in eastern and western Europe; the charisma of various types of sanctity (holy persons, sites, and relics); the development of ascetic behavior for monastics and laity; the relationship between Christians and diverse political systems; and the role of Christianity in the development of western culture. (4)

RELI 223 : American Christianity - RC

History of Christianity in North America, with a particular focus on the United States. Course covers the interaction of Christianity with social and political issues; including, immigration, slavery, the civil rights movement, and feminism. (4)

RELI 224 : Always Reforming: The Lutheran Heritage - RC

This course is an introduction to the central insights, historical development, and formative practices of Lutheran Christianity. Through engaging texts from the sixteenth century to today, we will explore how this living tradition understands the meaning of human life. Lutheranism is a movement within the Christian tradition and the course examines it within the context of our diverse, pluralistic, and secular world. The course includes topics such as: the history of this tradition and its impact, grace and freedom, church and secular authority, and social advocacy in politics, race, and gender. (4)

RELI 226 : Christian Ethics - RC

This course introduces and explores moral arguments in conversation with Christian traditions. We learn from the discipline of ethics to understand and think critically about arguments in historical, social, and experiential contexts and we engage in dialogue with sources from sacred Christian texts, from Christian social movement in the U.S., and from contemporary thinkers across the world. The primary goal of the course is to equip students with tools to think more deeply and more critically about moral issues in personal life, in community, and in politics. (4)

RELI 227 : Introduction to Christian Theologies - RC

This course introduces contemporary theology and theological method while engaging topics such as the relation of faith and reason and the meaning of human suffering. This course focuses on a wide variety of theologies developed in the past 125 years from Europe, South and North America: Protestant, Catholic, feminist/womanist, Latin American liberation, and Black theologies. Students engage their own deepest convictions and beliefs and encounter tools to examine their ideas more clearly. RELI 247 for cross-cultural GenEd and RELI 257 for alternative perspective GenEd. (4)

RELI 229 : Health and Healing in Christian History - RC

This course addresses the intersection of religion and medicine in Christian history. Students focus on approaches to health, healing, death and dying rooted in specific expressions of the Christian religion, universal and particular. Through analysis of primary and secondary source materials, students identify distinct Christian responses to physical, mental, and spiritual anguish as well as idiosyncrasies unique to social groups that identify as Christian. Students identify how historical context shapes Christian interpretations of health and well-being. (4)

RELI 230 : Religion and Culture - A, RG

Special topics course. Explores the interrelation and interaction of religion and culture in a variety of world religious traditions. Incorporates recognized methodologies in academic religious studies. (4)

RELI 231 : Myth, Ritual, and Symbol - RG

The nature of myth and its expression through symbol and ritual. (4)

RELI 232 : The Buddhist Tradition - C, RG

Introduction to the history, teachings, and practice of Buddhist tradition in its South Asian, East Asian, and Western cultural contexts. (4)

RELI 233 : The Religions of China - C, RG

This course introduces students to the major traditions that have shaped Chinese culture, asking if we can understand them using the Western category of "religion". The course covers Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Chinese folk practices, and Christianity. It closes with a study of the interplay of government policy and religious reality in China today. (4)

RELI 235 : Islamic Traditions - C, RG

An introduction to the history, teachings, and practices of Islam. (4)

RELI 236 : Native American Religious Traditions - A, RG

Introduction to a variety of Native American religious traditions, emphasizing the ways sacred traditions construct identity, promote individual and collective well-being, and respond to colonialism. Emphasis is also placed on notions of Indigenous religious traditions as expressions of a people's relationship with place, traditional ecological knowledge, and Indigenous ecological ethics. (4)

RELI 237 : Judaism - A, RG

Introduction to the history of the Jewish people and the religious tradition of Judaism. Emphasis is placed on the historical development of Judaism; the practice of Judaism and observation of Jewish law; impacts of and responses to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. (4)

RELI 238 : The Religions of Korea and Japan - C, RG

This is a course in comparative religion, which examines the ways in which culture and history led to differences in major religious traditions between Korea and Japan. Students are introduced to key concepts for the comparative study of religion. They then study the differing trajectories that folk religion, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Christianity each took as they developed in Korea and Japan. (4)

RELI 239 : Environment and Culture - RG

This course focuses on ways environments and environmental issues are shaped by human culture, with particular attention to ways that religious traditions are responding to environmental degradation and environmental injustices. An introduction to humanistic study of the environment and the intercultural study of religion, the course equips students to more thoughtfully and critically analyze ideas and traditions in religious and indigenous communities and in the environmental movement. Centering democratic education, the class asks students to research, reflect, and practice communicating on current environmental concerns. Cross-listed with ENVT 239. (4)

RELI 240 : African American Religious Traditions - A, RG

Introduction to the history and diversity of African American and/or Afro-Caribbean religious traditions. Topics under consideration may include religion as a means for addressing social injustice, diasporic identities, healing from trauma, or its expression within the arts, political activism, and theology. (4)

RELI 241 : Islam in the United States - A, RG

An introduction to the history and practices of Islam in the United States. Special attention paid to the intersection of race and gender in Muslim-American communities, the role of immigration in Muslim growth, and contemporary political issues involving Muslims and Islamophobia. (4)

RELI 242 : Interfaith U.S.A. - A, RG

A course on religious coexistence in this country. In the first half of the course students study how to think and talk about religious difference through a detailed comparison of two major traditions (usually Christianity and Buddhism). In the second half of the course, students use case studies to learn about the practices, policies, and laws that support religious pluralism and religious liberty in the United States. (4)

RELI 245 : Global Christian Theologies - C, RC

Over the last 100 years, Christianity has been shrinking in its European (and Amer-European) historic strongholds and has been growing in Asia, Latin American, and Africa. This course examines writings by various writers who combine a Christian identity with their own cultural context and construct the theologies of the Christian future in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. (4)

RELI 247 : Christian Theology - C, RC

Survey of selected topics or movements in Christian theology designed to introduce the themes and methodologies of the discipline. RELI 247 for crosscultural GenEd and RELI 257 for alternative perspective GenEd. (4)

RELI 257 : Christian Theology - A, RC

Survey of selected topics or movements in Christian theology designed to introduce the themes and methodologies of the discipline. RELI 247 for cross-cultural GenEd and RELI 257 for alternative perspective GenEd. (4)

RELI 330 : Hebrew Bible Studies - RG

The Hebrew Bible has been very influential for the development of three major monotheistic religions and has authoritative status for Judaism and Christianity. It has also left an indelible impact on secular culture. Courses under this designation may have a thematic focus, i.e. the prophets, psalms, wisdom literature, etc., and/or a topical focus, i.e. gender, sexuality, storytelling, mythology, etc. All courses read the text carefully, examine archaeological evidence, consider historical and cultural context, and analyze the formation of religious concepts before making responsible interpretive choices for both secular culture and living religious traditions. (4)

RELI 331 : New Testament Studies - RC

Major areas of inquiry: intertestamental, synoptic, Johannine, or Pauline literature, or New Testament theology. (4)

RELI 342 : City of Gods: Ordinary Life and Religion in Late Antiquity - RC

This course investigates the nature of religion in the late Roman Empire in regional, indigenous, mono-, di-, and poly-theistic systems, focusing on layers of life infused with distinctly religious significance: (1) family, (2) city, and (3) empire. Course content includes origin stories; operations of nature; locale and legitimacy of authority; ritual; forms and places of worship; definition and basis of moral behavior; public order; the body and sexuality; the nature of divinity; health; fertility; and death and the afterlife within the historical framework of Late Antiquity, broadly dated from the 4th century CE through the 7th century CE. (4)

RELI 343 : Orthodox Christian History - RC

This course is an inclusive study of the history, theology, and spiritual culture of global and local forms of Orthodox Christianity. Historically, two distinct Christian groups have the designation "Orthodox" and they are the Eastern Orthodox (Greek and Russian being the largest) and Oriental Orthodox (Armenian, Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Indian, and Syrian Churches). The historical trajectory of our course will include eras of late Roman, Byzantine, and Russian Empires. In addition to examining theological themes, figures, and pivotal events in Orthodoxy, students will be taught historical research methods appropriate for undergraduate level research and writing in religion. (4)

RELI 361 : Church History Studies - RC

Special topics course. Selected area of inquiry, such as Orthodox church history, religious experience among American minority communities, and the ecumenical movement. RELI 341 for cross cultural GenEd and RELI 351 for alternative perspective GenEd. (4)

RELI 362 : Luther and His Legacy - RC

This course explores the events and movements leading to the Protestant Reformation as well as Luther's life and theology. It focuses on Luther's own writings and their impact in the sixteenth century up to today. Additionally, this course introduces Lutheran thinkers who emerged from Luther's theological legacy, such as: Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Germany), Søren Kierkegaard (Denmark), and Paul Tillich (Germany/United States). It addresses how the Lutheran tradition continues to shape secular and religious spheres in our contemporary context. (4)

RELI 363 : Religion & U.S. Politics - RC

This course focuses on the intersections of religion and American politics, with an eye toward the relevance of this history for the present. We'll study the historical development of religious freedom and the various ways religious groups have intervened in American politics. Students in this course will wrestle with thorny questions about religion's role in American politics and they will conduct a major research project using methods from the academic study of religion. (4)

RELI 364 : Theological Studies - RC

Special topics course. Selected topic or movement within Christian theology. RELI 344 for cross cultural GenEd and RELI 354 for alternative perspective GenEd. (4)

RELI 365 : Climate Justice - RC

This course offers in-depth exploration of how religious communities and religious leaders are responding to anthropogenic climate change and how the study of religion and theology shed light on political and moral debates on the issue. Special attention is paid to Christian perspectives, but texts are included from other religious traditions and from multiple global, racial, and socio-economic contexts. Students will create a research-based final project developing and defending a response to climatic change and global injustices. (4)

RELI 366 : Race, Gender, and Christianity - A, RC

This course examines the intersection of race, gender, and Christianity. We will study a variety of movements and religious writings to uncover how Christians have both supported and resisted dominant understandings of race and gender. Topics may include the civil rights movement, liberation theology, Christian feminism, and womanist theology. Students will learn academic methods in the study of religion and use those tools to conduct a major research project. (4)

RELI 367 : Major Religious Thinkers, Texts, and Genres - RC or RG

Special topics course. In-depth study of major figures, texts, or genres in Christian and non-Christian religious traditions, focusing especially on the theology and religious thought of these traditions. Fulfills either RC or RG as appropriate. RELI 347 for cross-cultural GenEd and RELI 357 for alternative perspective GenEd. Topics in RELI 347, RELI 357, and RELI 367 may include Journeys Toward Faith, Process Theology, Liberation Theology, and Death and the Afterlife. (4)

RELI 368 : Feminist, Womanist, Latinx, and Queer Theologies - A, RC

A study of major Christian theological themes and issues through global perspectives on gender and intersectional identities. This course considers texts from 1666 to today, a long history of women engaging Christian theology and scripture in their work for social and religious liberation. This course explores a diversity of theological voices across race, gender, culture, politics, and economics. By comparing theologies, methods, and sources, we observe how experience forms new foundations for conceptions of God, salvation, human nature, evil, and social change. (4)

RELI 390 : Topics in Comparative Religions - C, RG

Special topics course. Historical study of specific non-Christian religions such as the traditions of India and China, Judaism, and Islam. RELI 393 is for alternative perspective general education element. (4)

RELI 391 : Sociology of Religion - RG

An investigation of the American religious scene with particular emphasis on the new religious movements, along with attention to social settings and processes which these new religions reflect and produce. Cross-listed with SOCI 391. RELI 391 has no prerequisites. See listing for SOCI 391 for prerequisites. (4)

RELI 393 : Topics in Comparative Religions - A, RG

Special topics course. Historical study of specific non-Christian religions such as the traditions of India and China, Judaism, and Islam. RELI 390 is for cross-cultural general education element. (4)

RELI 396 : Health, Healing, and Religious and Cultural Diversity - A, RG

An exploration of diverse religious and cultural traditions and their role in health and healing. This course explores how religious traditions shape one's understanding of the origins of illness and the path toward healing. Emphasis is placed on how a better awareness of religious and cultural diversity can inform medical practice and work in caring professions such as social work, education, and nursing. (4)

RELI 397 : Indigenous Religions and Cultures of the Pacific Northwest - A, RG

This course explores the religious and cultural diversity of Indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to northern California, and east to northern Idaho. Emphasis is placed on the history and impacts of colonialism; the relationship between Indigenous people and place as reflected in food systems, ceremonies, visual arts, and oral traditions; and the relevance of traditional ecological knowledge in addressing environmental concerns. (4)

RELI 491 : Independent Study

For religion majors only and consent of the department is required. (1 to 4)

RELI 495 : Internship

To permit undergraduate students to relate theory and practice in a work situation. The title will be listed on the student term-based record as Intern: followed by the specific title designated by the instructor in consultation with the student. (1 to 4)

RELI 499 : Capstone: Research Seminar - SR

Intended for and required of majors. Discussion of common readings and a major research and writing project with public presentation around the student's area of interest. Does not fulfill the Religion GenEd requirement and does not count toward the minor. (4)