In readings and lectures we have seen how “religion” has be used to as part of the status quo, as resistance, or in revolutions. Further, we have seen “religion” as something that needed to be classified and categorized (and therefore became known as “world religions”). The creation of these categories can be seen as an attempt to depart from thinking about the world from a European perspective. This idea of world religions, which acknowledges multiple traditions and therefore diversity in the world, relates to the idea of religious pluralism as we know it in America. Religious pluralism is the understanding that multiple, “authentic” religions can exist peacefully in a society — where all voices are allowed to be heard (as Eck would say). Or are they?
- For your paper, you will first read Diana Eck’s “What is Pluralism?” and “From Diversity to Pluralism,” which can be found here: http://pluralism.org/pluralism/what_is_pluralism and http://pluralism.org/encounter/challenges. While reading, have these questions in mind: • How does Eck define pluralism? • Who is allowed to speak in the “public square”?
- What kinds of characteristics must these religions possess?
- Next, you will read pp. 158-166 of Russell McCutcheon’s “Our ‘Special Promise’ as Teachers: Scholars of Religion and the Politics of Tolerance” on the course Blackboard site. While reading, have these questions in mind: • How does McCutcheon understand pluralism? • What are McCutcheon’s critiques of Eck’s notion of pluralism?
- What characteristics must these groups have, according to McCutcheon, to be included in Eck’s Pluralism Project? First Component of the Assignment: • In a 1100-1400-word essay, you will address a two-part prompt: • First, you must demonstrate that you have read the two assigned readings (Eck and McCutcheon) by answering the following: • How does each author understand pluralism?
- What kinds of characteristics must these religions possess in order to be included in a pluralistic society? (Your answer to this question must be from each scholar’s perspective—Eck’s answers will be more straightforward, but you will have to think about what McCutcheon is saying in order to answer from his perspective.) • What are McCutcheon’s critiques of Eck’s idea of pluralism? What are his reasons for them? • Second, you must choose one of the following groups of readings/videos to use as an example of an American social group (a “religion”) that stands in a liminal space between the “mainstream” and the “extreme.” • Group 1: the Army of God, a Christian ant i-abortion group o Read: Paul Hill’s 1997 letter to The White Rose Banquet (http://www.christiangallery.com/hill3.html) o Watch: Soldiers in the Army of God HBO documentary (www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgX3cQH0G1U&list=PL82ADED0C3A4F58B4) o Read: Justin C. Altum’s “Anti-Abortion Extremism: The Army of God” (http://chrestomathy.cofc.edu/documents/vol2/altum.pdf) • Group 2: Lev Tahor, a small community of Jews that shun modernity o Read: Ami Magazine’s editor Rabbi Frankfurter’s article on Lev Tahor, interview with an American professor in support of Lev Tahor, and an interview with the group’s spokesman, Ariel Yosef Goldman [pp. 162–171, 173–175, 180–187] (https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/217397426?access_key=key-nj1bqztl6q21g3662wk) o Watch: Canadian news show 16×9’s documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvHedNL6isQ) o Read: Stories about the group found under the “more coverage” tab. (http://www.lfpress.com/2013/11/22/court-summons-issued-over-allegations-of-child-abuse) • Group 3: Park51, an Islamic community center near the site of the World Trade Center in New York o Read: New York Times article about Park51 from December 8, 2009 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/nyregion/09mosque.html?pagewanted=all) o Watch: PBS documentary about Park51 and Sharif El-Gamal, the realtor who purchased the building (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/man-behind-mosque/) o Read: Frontline interview with Pamela Geller, an outspoken opponent of Park51 (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/pamela-geller-this-is-a-clash-of-civilizations/)
- Group 4: The Satanic Temple, a group interested in placing a statue of Baphomet in front of an Oklahoma state courthouse o Read: a VICE interview with Lucien Greaves, the spokesperson of The Satanic Temple (http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/unmasking-lucien-greaves-aka-doug-mesner-leader-of-the- satanic-temp le) o Watch: a HuffPost Live debate between Lucien Greaves, Brady Henderson, an ACLU director, and Paul Wesselhoft, an Oklahoma state representative (http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/satanic-temp le-okla homa- statehouse/536199e602a76096f500058b) o Read: an opposing article by Bryan Fischer, a writer for the American Family Association (http://www.afa.net/the-stand/government/under-founders-constitution-we-dont-have-to-put- up-wit h-satanic-displays/)
- After you have read and watched the material, you will answer the following questions in your essay (you must provide examples from the texts and the documentary): o How does the group self-identify? What words do they use to talk about themselves? What classifications (i.e., words, labels, etc.) do outsiders use for the group? o Think about each of these categories, both the self-determined ones and those labels that are used by other, more dominant groups. What functions do these labels serve? o How has the group “constructed” itself? In other words, if people are the products of their concepts and practices, what concepts and practices does the group have? What function do these concepts and practices serve? o Thinking about the first part of the essay, does the group fit into Eck’s understanding of pluralism? Would they be allowed to “speak at the table”? Why or why not? What might McCutcheon say about such a group’s place in a pluralist society like America? ** This is not an “opinion” paper. I do not want you to tell me if these groups are good/bad/right/wrong. Doing so will earn you a failing grade. I want is an analysis of the readings and the particular group that you choose. As this is not an opinion paper, you must use the sources that are assigned for the reading. Lack of sources will result in a failing grade. Second Component of the Assignment:
- In a 400-600-word letter, you will write to Diana Eck as if you were a member of the group that you choose for your essay [you can make up a persona or pretend you are someone that you watched/read about]. In this short letter, address the following: • Format this into a normal letter (with a greeting and closing). Identify and describe the group you represent.
- What commitments does your group hold? [Since Eck says that groups’ “commitments are not checked at the door,” you need to identify what is important to your group.
- Is your group’s ideology compatible with her definition of “American pluralism”? o If yes, tell her how you think your group fits into a pluralist society. o If no, tell her why your group should be included in this society. o If your group would not even want to participate in this society, tell her why.
- Lastly, from your perspective as a somewhat-marginalized group, is her depiction of the United States being a religiously pluralist nation correct? Why or why not? ** This is the creative part of the assignment. The more imaginative you are, the better. However, this does not mean you can make up any kind of nonsense you want—your letter must address issues that you learned from the sources for your particular group, but do not worry about citing them. HOW WILL MY PAPER/LETTER BE GRADED? 1. Thesis and Argument. Does the paper have a point? In other words, does the paper have a central idea, and do you make a compelling argument in support of that idea? 2. Use of Evidence. Does the paper refer to important ideas from class and from the readings when necessary? Does the paper rely too heavily on extensive quotations? Do you cite your sources properly? 3. Originality/Analysis of Texts. Does the paper show original thought? Is it clear that you thought carefully about the material? Does the paper contain a careful analysis of the readings? 4. Grammar, Style, and Structure. Is the paper well written? Does it have grammatical mistakes, misspelled words, or errors in punctuation? Is it properly structured? Do you state the thesis clearly at the beginning of the paper? Is the paper appropriately divided into paragraphs, each of which makes an identifiable point? Is there an appropriate conclusion at the end of the essay?
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