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Hybrid Judaism: Irving Greenberg and the encounter with American Jewish identity

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Over the course of more than half a century, Rabbi Dr. Irving Greenberg has developed a distinctive theology of intra- and inter-group relations. Deeply influenced by his experiences in the Christian-Jewish dialogue movement, Greenberg's covenantal theology and image of God

Over the course of more than half a century, Rabbi Dr. Irving Greenberg has developed a distinctive theology of intra- and inter-group relations. Deeply influenced by his experiences in the Christian-Jewish dialogue movement, Greenberg's covenantal theology and image of God idea coalesce into what I refer to as Hybrid Judaism, a conceptualization that anticipated key aspects David Hollinger's notion of Postethnicity. As such, Greenberg's system of thought is mistakenly categorized (by himself, as well as others) as an expression of pluralism. The twentieth century arc of social theories of group life in America, from Melting Pot to Postethnicity by way of Cultural Pluralism, serves to highlight the fact that Greenberg is better located at the latter end of this arc (Postethnicity), rather than in the middle (Pluralism). Central to Greenberg's proto-postethnic theology is the recognition of the transformative power of encounter in an open society. Greenberg's ideas are themselves the product of such encounters. Understood fully, Hybrid Judaism has great relevance for American Jewish identity in the twenty-first century.

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2014

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Converts and controversies -- becoming an American Jew

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Conversion to Judaism has a long history, and changes in Jewish law for converts over the centuries have reflected changes in the relationship between the Jewish community and the larger societies within which Jews have lived. As American Jews now

Conversion to Judaism has a long history, and changes in Jewish law for converts over the centuries have reflected changes in the relationship between the Jewish community and the larger societies within which Jews have lived. As American Jews now live in the most open society they have encountered, a split is developing between Orthodox and liberal Jewish rabbinic authorities in how they deal with potential converts. This split is evident in books written to advice potential converts and in conversion narratives by people who have converted to Judaism. For this project over 30 people who were in the process of converting to Judaism were interviewed. Their stories reflect the ways in which liberal Judaism has been affected by American ideals and values, including feminism and an emphasis on spiritual individuality.

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2013

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The impact of religious studies courses: measuring change in undergraduate attitudes

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In the current context of fiscal austerity as well as neo-colonial criticisms, the discipline of religious studies has been challenged to critically assess its teaching methods as well as articulate its relevance in the modern university setting. Responding to these

In the current context of fiscal austerity as well as neo-colonial criticisms, the discipline of religious studies has been challenged to critically assess its teaching methods as well as articulate its relevance in the modern university setting. Responding to these needs, this dissertation explores the educational outcomes on undergraduate students as a result of religious studies curriculum. This research employs a robust quantitative methodology designed to assess the impact of the courses while controlling for a number of covariates. Based on data collected from pre- and post-course surveys of a combined 1,116 students enrolled at Arizona State University (ASU) and two area community colleges, the research examines student change across five outcomes: attributional complexity, multi-religious awareness, commitment to social justice, individual religiosity, and the first to be developed, neo-colonial measures. The sample was taken in the Fall of 2009 from courses including Religions of the World, introductory Islamic studies courses, and a control group consisting of engineering and political science students. The findings were mixed. From the "virtues of the humanities" standpoint, select within group changes showed a statistically significant positive shift, but when compared across groups and the control group, there were no statistically significant findings after controlling for key variables. The students' pre-course survey score was the best predictor of their post-course survey score. In response to the neo-colonial critiques, the non-findings suggest the critiques have been overstated in terms of their impact pedagogically or in the classroom.

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2011

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Son salutations: Christian yoga in the United States, 1989-2014

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This work examines the spectrum of Christian attitudes toward yoga as demonstrative of contemporary religious imagination in recent United States history. With the booming commodification of yoga as exercise, the physical and mental elements of yoga practice are made safely

This work examines the spectrum of Christian attitudes toward yoga as demonstrative of contemporary religious imagination in recent United States history. With the booming commodification of yoga as exercise, the physical and mental elements of yoga practice are made safely secular by disassociation from their ostensible religious roots. Commonly deployed phrases, "Yoga is not a religion," or even, "Yoga is a science," open a broad invitation. But the very need for this clarification illustrates yoga's place in the United States as a borderline signifier for spirituality. Vocal concern by both Christians and Hindus demonstrates the tension between perceptions of yoga as a secular commodity and yoga as religiously beget. Alternatively embracing and rejecting yoga's religious history, Christian yoga practitioners reframe and rejoin yoga postures and breathing into their lives of faith. Some proponents name their practice Christian Yoga.

Christian Yoga flourishes as part of contemporary religious and spiritual discourse and practice in books, instructional DVDs, websites and studios throughout the United States. Christian Yoga proponents, professional and lay theologians alike, highlight the diversity of American attitudes toward and understanding of yoga and the heterogeneity of Christianity. For religious studies scholars, Christian Yoga advocates and detractors provide an opportune focal point for inquiry into the evolution of spiritual practice, the dynamics of tradition, experience and authority, and the dialectic nature of evolving cultural attitudes in a religiously plural and complex secular environment.

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2014

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The development of Iraqi Shiʼa mourning rituals in modern Iraq: the ʻAshurā rituals and visitation of Al-Arbʻain

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This study is based on a submission of anthropological, historical, and literary approaches. The ethnographic study of the Shi'a holy shrines between November 2011 and January 2012 is based on my visit to Iraq. The study lasted almost ten weeks,

This study is based on a submission of anthropological, historical, and literary approaches. The ethnographic study of the Shi'a holy shrines between November 2011 and January 2012 is based on my visit to Iraq. The study lasted almost ten weeks, to include the two events under discussion: `Ashurā and Al-Arb`ain, in Karbala of that year. This thesis argues that the mourning rituals of `Ashurā and the Forty Day Visitation Zyarat Al-Arb`ain contribute to the social or individual life of Iraqi Shi'a. They also make significant contributions through creating a symbolic language to communicate for the community, as well as communicating with their essential symbolic structure. Second, the Forty Day Visitation Zyarat Al-Arb`ain is one of the most significant collective mourning rituals, one that expresses unity and solidarity of the Iraqi Shi'a community, and helps them to represent their collective power, and maintain their collective existence. This study uses two of Victor Turner's tripartite models. For `Ashurā the rite of passage rituals is used, which consists of the separation, margin, and re-aggregation phase. Through this process of entering and leaving time and social structure, it helps in changing the social status of the participants. The other model used for Al-Arb`ain is pilgrimage as a social process, which includes three levels of communitas: existential, normative, and ideological communitas. The Shi'a in Iraq are holding a position similar to Turner's notion of communitas since they are living within a society that is Muslim and yet even though they are a larger population of the society, they still become marginalized by the Sunni population socially, economically, and politically. Social relations and links play a significant role for Shi'a in `Ashurā and Al-Arb`ain as a reflection between their social status as an undefined communitas and the general structure of Iraqi society.

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2012

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Antecedents and remnants of apocalyptic Christianity: an iconology of death

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La Santa Muerte is a folk saint depicted as a female Grim Reaper in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The Grim Reaper, as an iconic representation of death, was derived from the Angel of Death found in pseudepigrapha and

La Santa Muerte is a folk saint depicted as a female Grim Reaper in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The Grim Reaper, as an iconic representation of death, was derived from the Angel of Death found in pseudepigrapha and apocalyptic writings of Jewish and early Christian writers. The Angel of Death arose from images and practices in pre-Christian Europe and throughout the Mediterranean region. Images taken from Revelation were used to console the survivors of the Black Death in Western Europe and produced a material culture that taught the Christian notion of dying well. The combination of the scythe (used in the eschatological harvest), the black cowl (worn by medieval priests and monks officiating at funerals), and the skeleton (as the physical body of the deceased) are a series of apocalyptic Christian referents that form a metonymical composite referred to as the Grim Reaper.

In medieval Iberian Dances of Death, the Grim Reaper was depicted as female, an unyielding social leveler, and an important participant in the Last Judgment. Personalized Death became associated with healing, renewal, magic, and binding, as apocalyptic Christianity blended with the Christian cult of the saints and the Virgin Mary during the Reconquista and the colonization of Mesoamerica. Utilizing secondary historical sources, metonymy, and iconology this Master of Arts thesis posits that the La Santa Muerte image resulted from a long historical interaction of Greek, Roman, Jewish, Visogothic, Islamic, and Christian death imagery leading up to the colonization of Mesoamerica.

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2014

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Modernity, science, and the making of religion: a critical analysis of a modern dichotomy

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This project examines and challenges the West's generally accepted two category approach to the world's belief systems. That is, it will deconstruct the religion / science `paradigm' that has developed over the past two centuries. It will argue

This project examines and challenges the West's generally accepted two category approach to the world's belief systems. That is, it will deconstruct the religion / science `paradigm' that has developed over the past two centuries. It will argue that the dichotomy between the two categories was created by modernity for the purpose of establishing an exclusive view believed to be based on knowledge. This exclusive view, philosophical naturalism (science), was set in opposition to all alternative views identified as religion. As the exclusive view, though constructed on a defective foundation of knowledge, philosophical naturalism, nonetheless, became the privileged interpreter and explainer of reality in the academy of the Western world.

As a work in the area of epistemology and the philosophy of religion, this project will challenge philosophical naturalism's claim to knowledge. The approach will be philosophical and historical critically assessing both modernity's and postmodernity's basis for knowledge. Without a rational basis for exclusive knowledge the popular dichotomy dissolves. The implications of this dissolution for `religious studies' will be addressed by offering an alternative scheme that provides a more plausible way to divide the world's belief systems.

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2014

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Noaidi - the one who sees: bringing to light the religious experience among the 17th-18th century Sámi

Description

The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This

The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This thesis develops a more accurate, intersubjective paradigm that is used to illuminate more clearly the religious workings of the 17th-18th Century Sámi. Drawing upon the intersubjective theories presented by A. Irving Hallowell, Tim Ingold and Kenneth Morrison, ethnographic examples from the writings of early Lutheran missionaries and priests demonstrate that the Sámi lived in a world that can be best understood by the employ of the categories of Person (ontology), Power (epistemology) and Gift (axiology).

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2014

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Velayat-e Faqih: innovation or within tradition

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The concept of Velayat-e Faqih as a type of Shi’ite Islamic government gained popularity three decades ago, after the Islamic revolution in Iran. The new constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was based on Velayat-e Fagih, proposed by the

The concept of Velayat-e Faqih as a type of Shi’ite Islamic government gained popularity three decades ago, after the Islamic revolution in Iran. The new constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran was based on Velayat-e Fagih, proposed by the Imam Khomeini many consider him as the leader of the Islamic Revolution and the founder of the Iranian Islamic Republic. What is Velayat-e Faqih? Who can be the Vali Faqih? Why wasn't this idea proposed before Islamic Revolution in 1979? Did all the Shi’ite religious scholars endorse this idea or the Vali Faqih himself? All of these questions ultimately lead us to ask whether this concept has been drawn from Shi’ite Islamic discourses or it may perhaps be considered a novelty: a secularization of religion. These questions are increasingly discussed in academia and in the large public arena. Moreover, this discourse has divided Shi’ite Muslims into three groups: supporters of the Velayat-e Faqih, its opponents, and the silent group. It is important to analyze the position of all those groups including the silent group who did not publicly endorse or reject the theory. The theory of Velayat-e Faqih has emerged from the Imamate doctrine, which constitutes a cornerstone of Shi'ite sect of Islam. It is necessary to understand this political doctrine in relation to the context within which this concept of leadership had emerged. In order to overcome the ambiguities surrounding the relationship between Velayat-e Faqih and the position of Islamic jurist as a source of guidance and imitation (Marje Taqleed), it is necessary to discuss the various dimension of guardianship in the absence of the infallible Imam. Furthermore, the focus of this research is to review whether the concept of Velayat-e Faqih was innovated after the Islamic Revolution of Iran or existed within the Shi’ite tradition.

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2016

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Competing Christianities: social dynamics of religious change in the upper South

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This study analyzes competing forms of Protestant Christianity within the Bible Belt of the Upper South (Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina). On one hand, a conservative “culture war” version of Christianity has dominated the South, and deeply influenced national politics,

This study analyzes competing forms of Protestant Christianity within the Bible Belt of the Upper South (Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina). On one hand, a conservative “culture war” version of Christianity has dominated the South, and deeply influenced national politics, for almost fifty years. This form of Christianity is predicated on white supremacy and heteropatriarchy and regulates religious, as well as sexual, gender, and racial norms. On the other hand, an emerging movement of those once socialized in the culture war version of Protestantism is now reconfiguring the regional traditions. Through ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative interviews, and historical analysis, this study explores the ways these post-culture war Christians are navigating and negotiating relations with family, church, and politics and society more broadly. This work argues that Protestantism in the Upper South is being re-landscaped from the inside by individuals staying within the tradition who seek to reorient regional, national and religious identities. This study goes beyond generalizations about changes in American religion to shed light on the specific motivations, conflicts and dynamics inherent in shifts in lived religion in this particular region. In so doing it also contributes to deeper understanding of processes of religious change more generally.

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2018