Show cover of ReligionWise

ReligionWise

ReligionWise features educators, researchers, and other professionals discussing their work and the place of religion in the public conversation. Host Chip Gruen, the Director of the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding of Muhlenberg College, facilitates conversations that aim to provide better understanding of varieties of religious expression and their impacts on the human experience. For more about the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding, visit www.religionandculture.com.

Tracks

The Shifting Landscape of American Funerary Practice - Dustin Grim
We all know the aphorism about the unavoidability of death and taxes. On this episode of ReligionWise, we consider the former with funeral director Dustin Grim. Among other topics, this conversation reflects on changes in religious affiliation in the contemporary world and how these changes affect funerary practice. We also ask what these changes can tell us about shifting perceptions of the body, giving us a window into how people think about death itself.
53:11 5/15/24
Kids and Religious Literacy - Vicki Garlock
This episode of ReligionWise features Vicki Garlock, Ph.D., the founder of World Religions for Kids. Trained as a cognitive psychologist, Dr. Garlock's longtime interest in religion and religious diversity has inspired her to produce children's books and train educators on the importance of religious literacy for even the youngest learners. Today's conversation considers the legal and pedagogical issues entailed with religious literacy for students and some of the practical concerns of such a curriculum.Show Notes:World Religions for Kids (https://worldreligions4kids.com/)
55:02 4/15/24
Religion at the Opera - Jane Fitzpatrick
Today's conversation features Jane Fitzpatrick, a contributing writer to Religion Matters who covers the intersection of religion and the performing arts, with a particular emphasis on the opera. Conversations about religion in the public square happen in all kinds of contexts. This episode considers the many ways that religion is both represented and critiqued in the high cultural form of the opera. We also consider storytelling within both the performing arts and religion, in particular the interpretation and reinterpretation of narrative that is a hallmark of both.Show Notes:"What we can still learn from Dialogues of the Carmelites" (LSE):(https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/religionglobalsociety/2023/10/what-we-can-still-learn-from-dialogues-of-the-carmelites/)"Religious Pluralism at the Opera" (The Interfaith Observer):(http://www.theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2023/10/2-religious-pluralism-at-the-opera)"The Show Must Go On For Boris Godunov" (Appreciate Opera):(https://www.appreciateopera.org/post/the-show-must-go-on-for-boris-godunov)
52:42 3/15/24
Muslim Leadership and Higher Education - Adeel Zeb
Religious diversity on college and university campuses can be a complicated subject. Varieties of traditions and worldviews have been present at institutions of higher education for a long time, yet recognizing and welcoming those various religious identities has not always automatically followed.Today's episode of ReligionWise features Adeel Zeb, who has served as a Muslim college chaplain on several campuses over the last decade. Additionally, his work has been profiled in a number of outlets, including the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and the Washington Post. This wide ranging conversation considers not only Adeel's work as a Muslim chaplain, but also contemplates the path towards Islamic clerical leadership, pressures towards assimilation among 2nd and 3rd generation college students, and shared characteristics of minority religious identities at majority Christian institutions.
59:45 2/15/24
Spirituality and Philosophy - Tad Robinson
This episode welcomes back Tad Robinson, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at Muhlenberg College.In his recent work, Robinson has asked how reframing questions of religious activity as spiritual rather than religious might lead to different insight and understanding of prayer, meditation, and a variety of other practices. We also discuss the realities of teaching a new generation that is less connected to religious institutions as well as the philosophical implications of considering spiritual practice from a new angle.
52:43 1/15/24
Religion, Politics, and Vocation - Sarah Trone Garriott
Every four years Iowa takes its stage in the national spotlight as the United States presidential race starts to heat up. This first opportunity for voters to choose a candidate to run in the national election, the Iowa Caucuses have an outsized place in our political geography. In this episode of ReligionWise, State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott and host Chip Gruen discuss many issues at the confluence of religion and politics. From the more diverse electorate than many would expect to Senator Trone Garriott’s unlikely path to state politics, today’s conversation provides context and local flavor to state politics and one politician who strives to make a difference in her own community.Show Notes:Religion News Service: Iowa pastor says running for office is a test of faith (https://religionnews.com/2020/01/21/in-iowa-a-lutheran-pastor-campaigns-for-state-senate-as-a-democrat/)Des Moines Register: This Iowan's first wedding was to a pair of satanists. What that taught her about love: (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/entertainment/2023/03/27/what-a-wedding-for-satanists-taught-this-iowa-pastor-sarah-trone-garriott-about-love-storytellers/69924440007/)The Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church: Sen. Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott Encourages Laity to Counteract Christian Nationalism (https://www.iaumc.org/newsdetail/sen-rev-sarah-throne-garrett-encourages-laity-to-confront-christian-nationalism-18119210)
54:23 12/15/23
On Monsters and Medicine: What can spooky stories tell us about health and disease? - Lorenzo Servitje
This episode of ReligionWise features Dr. Lorenzo Servitje, Associate Professor Literature and the Director of the Health, Medicine and Society program at Lehigh University. Trained in both Victorian Literature and Public Health, he considers the way that culture influences and is influenced by questions of health, healthcare, and disease. In this conversation we consider the broader field of Medical Humanities, where it came from and why it is important. We then dig into his particular area of interest, monsters of the Victorian era, from Dracula to Mr. Hyde, asking what can they tell us about both historic and contemporary understandings of health, sickness, and treatment.Show NotesMedicine Is War: The Martial Metaphor in Victorian Literature and Culture(https://sunypress.edu/Books/M/Medicine-Is-War)The Not-So-Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Antibiotic Research: An Interdisciplinary Opportunity (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33379290/)The Walking Med: Zombies and the Medical Image(https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-07711-6.html)
58:13 11/15/23
Alternative Visions for Understanding Religions - Jessica Cooperman
This episode of ReligionWise features a slightly different format. Instead of an interview, Jessica Cooperman, Associate Professor and Chair of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College, and host Chip Gruen have a conversation that responds to a listener question about the methods of the Institute. We discuss the assumptions and implications of the dominant paradigm in public conversations of religion, "interfaith dialogue" and consider the possibilities for a less identity driven conversation that centers traditional educational methods and addresses religion as a part of human cultural production.
59:48 10/15/23
Religion and Public Education - Nicole McGalla
In this episode we talk with Nicole McGalla, Director of Communications and Community Engagement at the Parkland School District, in Eastern Pennsylvania. This conversation considers both the inclusion of the topic of religion into public school curricula as well as how religious diversity among both staff and students is addressed in the contemporary context.
40:42 9/15/23
Religious Diversity, Ethics, and Healthcare - Bob Machamer
This episode of ReligionWise features Dr. Bob Machamer who teaches courses on Health Care Ethics at the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. In this conversation we consider both the historical context for considering healthcare ethics and the changing dynamics of the field, particularly as it addresses the implications of a more diverse patient population. As a teacher, counselor, and pastor, Dr. Machamer brings a multifaceted approach to these questions; this discussion deals primarily with the practical considerations and implications that he deals with in his wide experience with students and clients.
59:32 8/15/23
Belief, Conspiracy, and Identity - Dustin Nash (Re-Release)
Many current news, such as the overturning of Roe v Wade, the ongoing war in Ukraine, or recent investigations of unidentified aerial phenomenon, have increasingly become fodder for integration into fringe worldviews that we often refer to as conspiracy theories. This episode's encore presentation invites us to consider this development in our information ecosystem from another perspective. Rather than simply considering the claims themselves, what might we learn by considering how these theories contribute to  individual and community identity formation? This discussion invites us to contemplate these discursive strategies for their social significance and how they foster a sense of community around certain beliefs.  This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Dustin Nash, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Muhlenberg College.In this conversation, we discuss conspiracy narratives and how the methods of religious studies can help us understand why individuals believe what they believe. Additionally, we consider how belief can lead to action as well as support an individual's view of self and identity.Show Notes:Dustin Nash article: Fossilized Jews and Witnessing Dinosaurs at the Creation Museum: Public Remembering and Forgetting at a Young Earth Creationist “Memory Place” (https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/scjr/article/view/11027)
48:32 7/15/23
Varieties of African Religious Experience - Falres Ilomo
This episode of ReligionWise features Rev. Dr. Falres Ilomo, Chair of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Iringa, Tanzania. Dr. Ilomo's work considers the intersections of traditional African religious systems with Christianity in Africa, as well as the history and development of Christianity in Tanzania and the surrounding region. In this conversation, we discuss the perceptions and realities of the varieties of religious expression in Africa and consider several aspects of the belief and practice of the Christian tradition in Tanzania.Show Notes: Cultural and Natural Heritage in Tanzania: A Case of Southern Highlands (https://heritagestudies.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Keynote-Falres-Ilomo.pdf)Interfaith Dialogue in an African Context (https://iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JPCR/article/view/55674)Hymns Translated by Berlin Missionaries in Southern Tanzania: Some Eschatological Implications of Translation (https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JRDM/article/view/57746)African Religion: A Basis for Interfaith Dialogue Today, Dar es Salaam University Press, 2013
54:45 6/15/23
Recognizing Caste Discrimination in the American Context - Sonja Thomas
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Sonja Thomas, Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Colby College. In addition to her work on caste, class, and racial privilege in Kerala, India, Dr. Thomas has become a leading voice arguing against caste discrimination in the United States. This conversation considers caste alongside of race, gender, sexual identity, and religion as cite of discrimination and the efforts that are being made to confront it.Show Notes:Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India (https://uwapress.uw.edu/book/9780295743844/privileged-minorities/)
61:58 5/15/23
Selling the Humanities - Michal Bar-Asher Siegal
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, Professor of Rabbinic Judaism in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. Though her research considers the intersections of Rabbinic thought and the development of the Talmud with early Christianity, she is also keenly interested in thinking about the role of the humanities in the context of the modern University. Through her collaborative work in a variety of institutional and governmental contexts, she has developed a novel perspective on the value of the humanities.
52:31 4/15/23
Religion, Education, and the Courts - Dena Davis
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Dena Davis, Presidential Endowed Chair in Health and Professor of Bioethics at Lehigh University. In addition to her work in healthcare ethics, Dr. Davis has written on a brewing controversy over a group of ultra-Orthodox religious schools in New York. These Yeshivas concentrate their instruction, not on English, math, and science, but on the study of religious texts. The result of this curriculum is that students of these schools graduate without basic competence in skills necessary to navigate the modern world. Dr. Davis provides legal and ethical context for the collision between these religious and secular institutions.
52:58 3/15/23
Post Colonialism and Global Mission in the Contemporary World - Janelle Neubauer
This episode of ReligionWise features the Reverend Janelle Neubauer who currently serves as the College Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at Muhlenberg College. Prior to holding that post, Pastor Neubauer has had a number of experiences in ministry abroad, including as a missionary pastor for the Lutheran Church of Rwanda. In this conversation, we discuss the contemporary practice of global mission work in the post-colonial experience as well as the opportunities and challenges of this type of work in the global south.
52:40 2/15/23
Politics, Polling, and Religious Identity - Chris Borick
This episode of ReligionWise features Chris Borick the Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. In this conversation, we consider how pollsters try to understand religious identity and sentiment, the limitations of those methods for considering religious minorities, and how the rise of a religiously unaffiliated public has shown up in recent polls.
50:00 1/15/23
Religion, Interfaith, and Public Policy - Frederick Davie
This episode features Reverend Frederick Davie, who among other roles, serves as the Senior Advisor on Racial Equity for Interfaith America. In this far ranging discussion, we talk about the role of interfaith dialogue in wider public discourse, the shifting understanding of religious freedom, and the relationship between governmental policy and the priorities of religious communities.Show Notes:Interfaith America (https://www.interfaithamerica.org/)US Commission on International Religious Freedom (https://www.uscirf.gov/)
51:17 12/15/22
Islam, Education, and Politics in Afghanistan - Rangina Hamidi
This episode features Rangina Hamidi, who, until the fall of the government in 2021, served as the Education Minister for Afghanistan. In this conversation, Hamidi talks about her life in public service and discusses the complicated relationship between religion and education in contemporary Afghanistan.
87:01 11/15/22
Beyond the Headlines - The Fall of Kabul - Matthieu Aikins
Today’s episode features Matthieu Aikins, an award winning journalist and reporter who covered the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent refugee crisis.In this conversation, we consider both his reporting from Kabul after the fall of the Afghan government as well as the plight of refugees as they flee the country and the Taliban. Show notes:Matthieu Aikins' website (https://maikins.com/)The Naked Don't Fear the Water (https://maikins.com/book)Matthieu Aikins' articles (https://longform.org/archive/writers/matthieu-aikins)
46:36 10/15/22
Discourse, Science, and Religion - Kocku von Stuckrad
This installment of ReligionWise features Kocku von Stuckrad, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.In this conversation, we discuss discourse analysis and its utility in the academic study of religion. In particular, we consider examples from Professor von Stuckrad’s two most recent books: The Scientification of Religion (2015) and A Cultural History of the Soul (2022).Show Notes:A Cultural History of the Soul: Europe and North America from 1870 to the Present  (https://cup.columbia.edu/book/a-cultural-history-of-the-soul/9780231200370)The Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800–2000 (https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9781614513490/html)
55:28 9/15/22
The Narratives of Buddhism - Tim Loftus
This installment of ReligionWise features Tim Loftus, a recent Ph.D. from Temple University who studies contemporary forms of Buddhism.  In this conversation, we discuss Buddhism in various geographic and cultural contexts. In particular, our conversation turns to the way that Buddhism is imagined in the contemporary world and the relationship between that narrative and the historical record.
54:47 8/15/22
Distinguishing the Academy From the Temple - Tom Robinson and Hillary Rodrigues
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Tom Robinson and Hillary Rodrigues, two professors at the University of Lethbridge who direct the Robinest project, a website that provides digital resources for the academic study of religion. In this conversation we talk about these resources, and more generally about dispelling misconceptions of the academic study of religion in contemporary higher education and public discourse.Show notes:Robinest - Digital resources for teaching world religions (https://www.robinest.org/)
51:37 7/15/22
Storytelling, Trauma, and Meaning - Jodi Eichler-Levine
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Jodi Eichler-Levine Professor of Religion Studies and Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University. Our conversation considers the way that storytelling helps individuals and communities organize their lives and imagine their own identities, particularly when processing traumatic events.Show Notes:Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children’s Literature (https://jodieichlerlevine.com/books/#suffer)Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community (https://jodieichlerlevine.com/books/#painted)
43:40 6/15/22
Does religious studies have a place in public education? - Greg Soden
This installment of ReligionWise considers the place of teaching about religion and religious diversity in public secondary education. Our conversation features Greg Soden, who has taught courses on world religions in various high school contexts. Together, we think about the benefits and challenges of a religious studies curriculum in a public context.Show Notes:The Classical Ideas Podcast (https://classicalideaspodcast.libsyn.com/)
45:55 5/15/22
Religion from the Ground Up - Jessica Cooperman
In this episode of ReligionWise, the discussion features Jessica Cooperman, Associate Professor and Chair of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College.  Our conversation focuses on the materials and methods that a historian uses to paint a picture from the past, including publicly and privately held archives.Show Notes:Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism (https://nyupress.org/9781479885008/making-judaism-safe-for-america/)
43:26 4/15/22
Islam, Humanism, and the Good Life - Khurram Hussain
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Khurram Hussain, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Lehigh University.In this far ranging conversation, we discuss the often overlooked humanistic elements present in Islam, reflect on ill-conceived narratives of intercultural interactions, and consider better ways of facilitating understanding across difference. Show Notes:Islam as Critique: Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the Challenge of Modernity(https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/islam-as-critique-9781350248861/)The Muslim Speaks(https://www.bloomsbury.com/us/muslim-speaks-9781786998880/)The Oxford Handbook of Humanism: Humanism in the Middle East(https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190921538.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780190921538-e-35)
37:45 3/15/22
Disney as religion? - Jill Peterfeso
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation between Carrie Duncan, Program Specialist for the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding and Jill Peterfeso, the Eli Franklin Craven and Minnie Phipps Craven Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Guilford College. In this conversation, we consider how an element of American popular culture, the Disney corporation and in particular Walt Disney World, can be better understood using the tools of religious studies. Dr. Peterfeso not only teaches on the confluence of Disney and religion, but took a group of students to the Magic Kingdom as part of the “Fantastic Journeys” curriculum at Guilford. This conversation demonstrates a different way of thinking about religion itself and asks you to consider similarities and differences between traditional religion and broader cultural experiences.
48:40 2/16/22
Belief, Conspiracy, and Identity - Dustin Nash
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Dustin Nash, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Muhlenberg College.In this conversation, we discuss conspiracy narratives and how the methods of religious studies can help us understand why individuals believe what they believe. Additionally, we consider how belief can lead to action as well as support an individual's view of self and identity.Show Notes:Dustin Nash article: Fossilized Jews and Witnessing Dinosaurs at the Creation Museum: Public Remembering and Forgetting at a Young Earth Creationist “Memory Place” (https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/scjr/article/view/11027)
42:58 1/15/22
Philosophy of Religion - Tad Robinson
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Thaddeus “Tad” Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Muhlenberg College.In this conversation, we discuss the field philosophy of religion. Among other topics, Dr. Robinson details some of the classic questions addressed in philosophy of religion and the place of this sub-field in the larger field of philosophy. Finally, we explore how considering the philosophy of religion  might lead to a more nuanced, sophisticated conversation about religion in our world.
38:50 12/15/21