November 24 2017

by Arvind Sharma, McGill University

Huston Smith

In my most recent conversations with Huston Smith, he had expressed a wish to see for himself what lies beyond the veil. His wish was fulfilled on December 30, 2016. May he rest in the Real, "should there be one," as he might have added cautiously.

Huston Smith was born to Methodist missionary parents in China, where he spent the first seventeen years of his life which are nostalgically recalled in his autobiography (Tales of Wonder, 2010). He set out to be one himself but soon discovered that he would rather teach than preach and found himself at the University of Chicago, where he obtained his PhD in 1945. He then taught at the University of Denver and Washington University at St. Louis before being hired by M.I.T. in 1958 to teach philosophy. Subsequently he went on to teach at Syracuse, and then at Berkeley after he had retired in San Francisco, rich in years and honors.

Huston Smith enters the Hall of Fame of the scholars of religion holding a book, which originally bore the title: The Religions of Man (1958) and subsequently The World’s Religions (1991), after it had been revised. Together these two versions have sold over three million copies. Wilfred Cantwell Smith said of this book that it made the (academic) study of religion possible. This is not an exaggeration, and I have used it throughout my professional life to introduce students, at all levels, to the world’s religions. 

by Wendy Crosby, Loyola University Chicago

A lit interior window at night

I never thought I would become a night owl. I was never one to pull an all-nighter, and I refuse to let a sleep deficit build up. But, here I am, staying up past 4 a.m. and sleeping past noon every day of the week. I've seen the sunrise before heading to bed more times than I'd like to admit. This crazy schedule allows me to balance doctoral studies with the moments of married life I value most. The life of a PhD candidate can be hard, but almost no other job or position would allow me this kind of flexibility.

with Kristian Petersen

David A. Lambert talks to Religious Studies News about his book How Repentance Became Biblical: Judaism, Christianity, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2015), which won the American Academy of Religion’s 2016 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Textual Studies. Lambert's book "considers the development of repentance as a concept around the turn of the Common Era and how it came to be naturalized as an essential component of religion through a series of reading practices that allowed nascent Jewish and Christian communities to locate repentance in Scripture."

Lambert is associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

by Courtney Wilder, Midland University

black and white photo of several pocket watches

That there is an AAR conversation on work-life balance reminds me of a very funny and too-close-to home tweet from the Twitter account called Shit Academics Say (@AcademicsSay): “Yes, I've heard of work-life balance. I gave a workshop on it last week and am co-editing a related special issue to which I'm contributing.” More beautifully, the poet Adrienne Rich asks in Twenty One Love Poems: “What kind of beast would turn its life into words? What atonement is this all about?” We might consider what kind of worker turns her words into her life, and back again, so that the lines between speech and writing and work and life blur?

by Erik Owens, Boston College, for the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion

The AAR’s Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion is pleased to announce that public theologian Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, of Harvard University and the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, is the 2016 recipient of the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.

Now in its twentieth year, the Marty Award recognizes extraordinary contributions to the public understanding of religion by individuals whose work has a relevance and eloquence that speaks not just to scholars but other “publics” as well.

The Committee honors Father Hehir for his important scholarship on the ethics of statecraft, war, and peace, and for his influential work as a public theologian who for more than forty years has constructively engaged scholars, church leaders, diplomats, elected officials, military leaders, policymakers and social workers on a range of issues at the intersection of religion and public life.

by Eric Michael Mazur, Virginia Wesleyan College

Many American Jews have felt uneasy during the current presidential campaign, largely because of how Judaism has been the object of campaign rhetoric—from various candidates and the media, and in ways that are neither flattering nor representative. Some of the rhetoric—seeming indifference to Jewish sensitivities, the deployment of anti-Semitic stereotypes, and even rhetorical threats of physical harm—is not unheard of in American politics. What seems new is the way this rhetoric has revealed a significant difference in how non-Jews and Jews understand “religion,” particularly with regard to Jewish identity.

by Fred Glennon, Le Moyne College

George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills praying on the field in October 2009

One of the most memorable research and writing projects in which I have been involved as a teacher-scholar of religion is a collection of essays on baseball and religion in American culture, entitled The Faith of Fifty Million. As a devoted Red Sox fan, who at times takes pilgrimages to the “sacred space” of Fenway Park, the opportunity to bring my field of research (religious ethics) and my love of baseball together was an opportunity too great to pass up. What baseball enthusiast wouldn’t want to spend a week at the research library of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York!

by Robert Bowen, Governmental Affairs Associate, National Humanities Alliance

United States Capitol in Washington, DC

We have all become familiar with urgent requests in our inboxes and social media feeds to write our Members of Congress about an important issue. With a few clicks, these “action alerts” promise, we can influence our Senators and Representatives. Once we enter our zip code, we see a form letter replete with policy details and a specific request. We have the option to tailor the letter, but we can also simply hit “submit.”

Like other advocacy organizations, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) issues action alerts to our network of advocates. Most often, we ask our advocates to communicate support for funding increases—or opposition to cuts—for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Title VI, or Fulbright-Hays.

While advocacy software has made political advocacy exceedingly convenient, you may wonder if these letters actually matter. The short answer is yes, they do. Constituent letters are very effective when used as one element of a larger strategy.

by Aaron Hughes, University of Rochester

Jacob Neusner was born to Samuel and Lee Neusner on July 12, 1932, in West Hartford, Connecticut. His father owned the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, a Jewish weekly that continues to serve the Connecticut region and western Massachusetts. The young Neusner received his first typewriter at age twelve and, by his junior year in high school, could do all the jobs associated with a newspaper. From a young age he could write both quickly and to make deadlines. Neusner grew up attending public school as opposed to Jewish day school, and his values largely reflected those of other assimilated and suburban Jews who came of age in 1940s and 1950s America. But whereas many of them ended up in law or medical school, Neusner realized, from a young age, that he wanted to be a rabbi—though he admitted later to me that he had no idea at the time what that meant, I suspect it was to lead a life immersed in the Jewish texts that he had yet to encounter.

by Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Earlham School of Religion

Working moms and stay-at-home moms have a tough life. Whether we work or stay at home as we raise our children, we will come to an inevitable point in our lives when we have to “let go” of our children and allow them to grow and become adults. Whether dropping them off at college or sending them off to the army or other major events, we must face the reality that they are leaving the “nest.” For some of us this will be a great time of joy, but for others, it will be a time of loss, adjustment, and big change.

For women who are professors, there is the added stress of how to manage your children while trying to maneuver through the academy. There is a growing amount of literature out there to help professorial moms navigate the academy so that they can be successful professors in their own respective areas.

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