Spring 2011
Tuesdays 2-5 PM
Prof. James A. Noel, SFTS
1-415-847-6532 (cell)

Course Description

In this course we will examine Christianity in the modern period under the category of “religion” which is one of the categories that arose in modernity. We will also examine how Christianity interacts with other historical and intellectual developments in modernity. The course analyses the impact European voyages of discovery, the Renaissance, and the forces associated with the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the American, French and Industrial Revolutions had on Christian religious practices, mentalities, and sensibilities(spiritualities?) in the West and, also, those who became westernized through colonialism, slavery, and Christian missions—hence, the plural, Christianities, in the course title.

Modernity can be narrated in terms of seven interacting religious, historical and intellectual developments: 1) The Protestant Reformation; 2) European Colonialism; 3) the Atlantic Slave Trade; 4) Christian Missions; 5) the French Revolution; 6) the Industrial Revolution and 7) the Enlightenment and Romanticism. What arose from these trajectories were ways of employing categories already extant for understanding the Other: culture (from colonialism); race (from the slave trade); religion (from Christian missions); equality and freedom (from French Revolution); class (from Industrial Revolution). The rise of the nation state also occurred in modernity and this determines scale in social analysis. In terms of scale, we have the following objects of study by separate disciplines in modernity: the nation state and nationality (which was complicated by "the Jewish question"); society; class; religion; ethnicity, culture and race. These things come into play in determining and relativising the character and epistemological location of different religions as well as social groups. What became normative was significantly determined by non-reciprocal power relations. Walter D. Mignolo writes in The Idea of Latin America:

“Culture”…created national unity…to name and institute the homogeneity of the nation-state. However, insofar as the term emerged in the nineteenth century when England and France were embarking on the second wave of colonial expansion, “culture” also served the colonial purpose of naming and describing those alien and inferior “cultures” that would be under European “civilization”…and “civilization” is nothing more than a European self-description of its role in history” (p. xvii).

Christian missions entailed first civilizing the people that were colonized and enslaved making Christianization a form of cultural imposition in the non-reciprocal or unequal exchange between the West and its Other. This did not result in uniformity but rather perpetuated the plurality of Christianities and spiritualities that conform in modernity to nationality, race, class, culture, etc. Internal to the West, inequality came sharply into view when freedom and equality were posited as society’s founding principles. The social/economic inequalities exacerbated by the Industrial Revolution and slavery contradicted the French Revolution's discourse. External to the West, the material and non-material differences between and among populations served as problematic sites of theorization about the nature of humanity by the church, Enlightenment Philosophy, The Romantics, and what would subsequently become the Human Sciences such as Sociology, Anthropology, and the History of Religions. All of these developments had a profound impact upon Christianities and their theologies.

We begin the course looking at Bernini, Rubens, Velasquez, and others during the “Baroque.” A case will have to be made to justify this term “baroque.” Art lends specificity to our consideration of culture in relation to other things. The inclusion of art in this course will allow us to observe what some people in the past were seeing and perhaps enable us to reflect on the role seeing plays in the construction and maintenance of religious/cultural mentalities and sensibilities (spiritualities?) in interaction with social practices. If the constructs of culture, race, class, nationality, gender, etc. define our realities and identities then they must be accounted for historically in narrating the global spread and development of Christianities, mission, ecumenism, and pluralism.

Learning Objectives
1) To gain basic knowledge of Christianities from the sixteenth-century through the nineteenth-century.

2) To articulate that history in a global context inclusive of  Western Europe, North America (USA), The Caribbean and South America, and to some extent Africa, and Asia.

3) To display "critical awareness of the impact of social, political, economic, and cultural contexts on life and thought" and interpret critically the "evidence on which historical knowledge is founded."

4) To begin to recognize, analyze, and define "knowledge of, respect for, and intelligent use of the Church's manifold traditions," in their intellectual, political, ritual, and social contexts. 5) To understand the role Christianity has played in the social construction of racial identities and the role it plays in countering and/or reifying racism.

NOTE: The five learning objective will be tested in a final integrative research paper whose topic focuses on one of the five above learning objectives while also incorporating the others. The topic must be approved by the professor.  Examples: 1) A student might examine and compare selected theological and/or political texts/documents and analyze them in terms of their historical, social, religious, and political contexts and ramifications. 2) A student might write on the conquest and Christianization of the Caribbean and South America and how this history affects his/her ministry or social identity. 3) A student may write on the trans-Atlantic history of the pietistic movement and where he/she situates him/herself in relation to that history as an “Evangelical.”

Course Requirements

  1. Regular and punctual class attendance (you cannot miss more than two classes without it seriously affecting your grade and you cannot be consistently late) and active participation in class discussions of assigned readings. [10 percent.]
  2. Pop Quiz. [10 percent]
  3. Three take home essay exams (3-5 page/ typed, double spaced). [30 percent]
  4. Final integrative/research paper (see: note above). [50 percent]
Reading List
  1. Rosario Villari, ed., BAROQUE PERSONAE (U. Chicago Press: 1991).
  2. Charles Lippy, ed., CHRISTIANITY COMES TO THE AMERICAS (Paragon House: 1998).
  3. Walter D. Mignolo, THE IDEA OF LATIN AMERICA (Blackwell Publishing: 2007).
  4. Peter Williams, AMERICA’S RELIGIONS (U. Illinois Press: 2008).
  5. Scavan Bercovitch, THE PURITAN ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN SELF (Yale U. Press: 2011).
  6. Paul Tillich, A HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT (Touchstone Press: 1972).  
IV. Reading Assignments & Lecture Topics

I. Religion, Culture and Society in Europe During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
1) February 1st: [NO CLASS MEETING--complete the reading assignment in preparation for extensive class discussion on Feb. 8th.] Villari, pp. 1-8; 32-55
2) February 8th: Villari, 126-261; 290-312.
Study Question (s): Compare the similarities and/or differences of two of the "types" treated in Villari: i.e., soldier, artist, preacher, witch, scientist, etc. What significant events and or movements do these types exemplify?.

II. Religion, Race, Culture and Society in Latin America and the Caribbean During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
3) February 15th: Lippy, 1-129.
4) February 22nd: Mignolo, 1-94.
Study Question (s): Describe the motivations and events connected with Spanish missionary and colonial activity the Caribbean and Latin America. Which of Villari's "types" appear again in Lippy's narrative? How does what Mignolo terms "colonality" relate to what is documented in Lippy? 

III. Religion, Race, Culture and Society in the US Seventeenth Century & Eighteenth Centuries.
5) March 1st: Williams, 90-160.
6) March 8th: Bercovitch,
Study Question (s): What are the continuities and discontinuities between Spain and England's colonial and missionary endeavors in Latin America and North America in their theological legitimation, the emergence of a creole identity, the treatment of indigenous peoples, the importation of African slaves, etc.

7) March 15th: MID-TERM EXAM

March 22nd: RECESS

IV. Religion, Race, Class, Culture and Society in Europe & the US During the Eighteenth Century.
8) March 29th: Williams, 160-225.
9) April 5th: Williams, 227-332.
Study Question (s): What role did religion play in promoting or opposing "revolution" and moral reform in the North America with regard to the War of Independence, slavery and Women's Suffrage? How did Christian churches respond to the new challenges they encountered due to urbanization, rapid immigration, industrialization? What impact did the French Revolution have on religion, culture and society in Europe and the Americas?

V. Epistemologies, Spiritualities and Theologies in Europe and the US During the Nineteenth Century.
10) April 12th: Tillich, 276-366.
11) April 19th: Tillich, 367-467.
12) April 26th: Tillich, 468-579.
Study Question (s): What impact did the Enlightenment and Romanticism have on Protestant Theology? What are the Enlightenment and Romanticism's enduring influence on contemporary Christian Thought and spirituality?

VI. Epistemologies, Spiritualities and Theologies in the US and India During the Twentieth Century.
13) May 3rd: Williams, 333-436.
Study Question (s): Account historically for the present religious landscape in the US in terms of the dichotomies between liberal and conservatives, the decline of white mainline denominations, the status of African American Christianity, the proliferation of Eastern spiritualities and Pentecostalism and so forth.

14) May 10th: Review

15) May 17th: FINAL EXAM