July 20 2024

Kin Cheung

All first year students at Moravian University take an online personality assessment during the summer and then meet with their career development strategist. This software, TypeFocus, uses the problematic Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment. Yet even more alarming is how it represents a cultural bias against the value of the humanities and religious studies.

Welcome page of TypeFocus program
Image note: Moravian transitioned from a College to a University in the summer of 2021, but the software has yet to reflect that change.

The software is also used by Briar Cliff University, Tennessee Tech University, University of Detroit Mercy, York Technical College, Eastern Kentucky University, Washtenaw Community College, and more. The first of three sections of the TypeFocus assessment is a modified version of the MBTI assessment, and asks students to respond to 62 prompts by selecting one of two choices. (Example items: Pick the option that best describes you: 1) tender or 2) objective?; Which option do you find more appealing: 1) by yourself or 2) with others?). The questions offer no context and limit respondents to dichotomous answer choices, meaning that there is no option for expressing that “it depends.”

Interview with Jolyon Baraka Thomas

Despite the Japanese constitution guaranteeing religious freedom since 1889, after World War II, the United States-occupiers deemed that guarantee flawed. In this conversation with, Jolyon Thomas, author of Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan shares how the US imposed a new framework of religious freedom onto the Japanese, one that favored some traditions more than others.

Thomas's "Faking Liberties" was co-winner of the AAR's 2020 Analytical-Descriptive Studies Award for the Excellence in the Study of Religion. He is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian K. Pennington, Andrew Monteith, Anandi Silva-Knuppel, and Pamela D. Winfield

icon graphic of a stylized brain with digital spokes emerging from it

Many signs point to a growing interest in connecting religion scholars with audiences outside of academia. One recent indication of this development was the AAR’s 2016 revision of its mission statement to include the "public understanding of religion." Another is the new proliferation of grant funding for initiatives that seek to make the academic study of religion relevant to an American general public who is deeply influenced by religious commitments and discourse. Disinformation campaigns, extremism, and deficit of critical thought across online media make the work of public scholars of religion more important than ever before. In 2020, the Henry Luce Foundation, one of the major foundations supporting the development of public religion scholarship, awarded a team of researchers (including the authors of this article) a $50,000 grant to study public scholarship on religion.

Nathan C. Walker

Two newspaper are being printed on a modern press

The jury for the AAR's annual Journalism Awards recently announced the 2021 journalism award winners: Jaweed Kaleem, Jeff Sharlet, and Adelle Banks. Read more about the winners and their reporting.

“Come on. You’ve got to find your voice!,” erupted Dr. James Cone during one of my advisement sessions when I studied at Union Theological Seminary. Leaning over his desk, my professor’s physical presence was just as animated as his vision, challenging me to claim my uniqueness.

Who, me? I thought. The founder of Black liberation theology and author of God of the Oppressed is telling me—the effeminate, white, gay seminarian who used to live in a trailer on a desert farm in Fallon, Nevada—to find my voice? Where do I look?

Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary

At least twenty-seven states are now moving to restrict education on racism, often with bans and rhetoric against critical race theory (CRT). This is largely a drive by conservative politicians to exploit widespread ignorance and denial about race and racism, and then to drive a politics of defamation of CRT that enhances the position and power of largely white and wealthy strata in the United States.

At the same time, though, there are eleven states now expanding their education programs on racism. I propose that it is helpful to consider the current anti-CRT moves as attempts to block a rising “critical popular memory” of America’s past, that might transform the nation’s present and future.

Image that reads "Conversation with Justine Buck Quijada, 2020 Book Award Winner" with a cover of her book next to it

The fall of the Soviet Union provides the cultural space for a revival of the religious practices of the Buryat, an indigenous people of southern Siberia who live on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border. Justine Buck Quijada, author of "Buddhists, Shamans, and Soviets: Rituals of History in Post-Soviet Buryatia" (Oxford University Press, 2019) joins Kristian Petersen to discuss her research into how the Buryat people recontextualize the rise and fall of the Soviet period into Buddhist and shamanic histories. Quijada's book won AAR's 2020 Best First Book in the History of Religions.

Alyssa N. Rockenbach, North Carolina State University

a group of yound adults sit on couches and around a table eating while celebrating Jummah. Flags with symbols of religious faiths are affixed to the ceiling

In a time of heightened polarization and discord—when those of different religious and political persuasions find reason to disagree on everything from the efficacy of masks in a global pandemic to the results of a contentious presidential election—pathways to cooperation seem elusive. Higher education has long been touted as a promising intervention for reducing prejudice and building bridges between people of different social identities and worldviews. Indeed, campuses today are rife with curricular, co-curricular, and social opportunities that hold great potential when it comes to disrupting the boundaries that divide us and inspiring newfound appreciation for others.

Ramón Luzárraga, Benedictine University

abstract image of a yellow and orange circle blurring into a light blue background

The Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion chose as its topic for the 2019 Annual Meeting in San Diego, “Is Theological Education Entering a Post-Christian Future?” Historically, when the majority of people in the United States think of “theological education” or “seminary,” the assumption is that an institution of higher education, either with a current or historical sponsorship by a Christian church, is engaged in one or more programs of study to educate people for ordained or lay ministry or to prepare them for further study beyond the masters degree for an academic career.

On a white background, text appears on the left "Conversation with Sugata Ray 2020 AAR Book Award Winner" and on the right is the image of his book's cover

Sugata Ray's 2019 book "Climate Change and the Art of Devotion: Geoaesthetics in the Land of Krishna, 1550-1850" (University of Washington Press) won AAR's Religion and the Arts Book Award in 2020, the award's inaugural year. In this interview with Kristian Petersen, Ray talks about his book and explains how a landscape transformed by the Little Ice Age became part of evolving conceptualizations, rituals, and aesthetics involved in devotional practices of Northern Indian worshippers of Krishna.

Sugata Ray is associate professor of South and Southeast Asian art at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scott Muir, Study the Humanities project director

In the context of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread decline in humanities majors and enrollments precipitated by the last recession, faculty and administrators across the humanities are redoubling their efforts to attract more students. Over the past three years, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) has been researching the field of undergraduate humanities recruitment to identify effective approaches that can be adapted across disciplines and institutional contexts. At the 2021 Virtual NHA Annual Meeting in March, we released Strategies for Recruiting Students to the Humanities: A Comprehensive Resource, which highlights a wide range of strategies through over 100 exemplary initiatives. The report is part of NHA’s Study the Humanities initiative, which, with funding from The Andrew W.