|Some thoughts on recent reads--coming down from the Semester
||[Apr. 29th, 2008|01:12 am]
I haven't posted much in this group since I joined...mostly comments here and there. For those who don't recognize me, I'm a PhD student at Michigan State University. I'm writing my dissertation on the role of music in the religious lives of American Pagans, and I already graded finals and turned in my grades for the class I taught this semester in American Religious Histories and Cultures, so I'm done for the Spring. But I still feel the need to academically share right now, so I will.
Especially since the birth of my wife and I's first child, I haven't had much time to read. But I thought I would share my favorite (and useful) religion reads and contexts of the past year. Maybe you will find them useful too in your work or reading.
I tend to focus a fair amount on Mormons in American religious history, and Romney's Presidential candidacy gave us more room and reason to bring them up. In expanding the section on 19th and 20th century Mormons, I read The Mysteries of Godliness for historical accounts of temple ordinances and really enjoyed it. I also found it useful to skim the Google Books copy of The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, a very important early 20th century work by LDS theologian Brigham H. Roberts, who was de-seated by the U.S. Senate, even though he won election from Utah.
More generally, I found A Nation of Religions (edited by Prothero) and Religion in Modern New Mexico to be very helpful in both my course and also for research I presented at a conference. In discussing the influence of Eastern traditions in the U.S., I spent a lot of time at the Library Of Congress's The Chinese in California 1850-1925 online exhibit, as well as Prothero and Tweed's Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History. I heartedly recommend checking both out.
As for other books I either used successfully in class or read for constructing lectures, I particularly enjoyed Earth Is My Mother, Sky Is My Father as an introduction to Navajo religion. For Christianity I recently read and really got into Calvin's Christology. I think a lot of people only know John Calvin from "TULIP" and issues of predestination, but Edmonson's book really convinced me that getting a grip on his Christology was the key to understanding his religious orientation.
I've wanted to do more in class with Islam, and especially the differences that have developed in the Shia and Sunni traditions. I was pointed toward Abdulaziz Sachedina's The Just Ruler In Shi'ite Islam. It is not an easy read, but it does illustrate the depth and complexity of the fiqh traditions and the role of law in Islamic theologies. He's also a periodic poster on "On Faith," and writes very interesting, if in-depth material.
In class this semester I took advantage of the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Senator Obama to hit head-on the political flavor of African-American religious traditions. In finishing the unit on Black religion in the U.S./Americas we watched a great film on Vodou, called Legacy of the Spirits. I also read Rara: Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti to help talk about the prominent role music plays in this tradition.
Briefly, in my own field, I found Jordan Paper's The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology, Chas Clifton's Her Hidden Children, and Barb Davy's Introduction to Pagan Studies to be the best I have read recently.
That's all for now. I would like to ask...how many of you are interested in studying religion--not so much by tradition, but by interreligious contact and development in communities, like the United States. Would you take a course in American Religious Histories and Cultures? If so, what would you like to see covered or discussed in such a course?