L57 RelPol 209

Scriptures and Cultural Traditions: America’s Bible

Spring 2016, M/W 2:30–4:00PM

line drawing of three people teaching superimposed on each other

Certain books, “sacred scriptures,” shape U.S. society and culture in powerful and complex ways. Many religious communities believe that Scriptures are ancient texts that are ever-flowing sources of timeless truths. Often the truths advanced by one faith conflict with those to which another subscribes, and one of the great challenges that the human community faces involves reconciling these conflicting messages and learning to respect the faiths of others. Some religious movements, such as Mormonism or Christian Science, have even claimed to have uncovered or revealed new scriptures as a means of explaining their cultural authority. This course will therefore consist of three parts. First, we will work to define the concept of “Scriptures” with particular attention to the Judeo-Christian tradition in American history: what Scriptures are, what they do, and how varying motifs within them have engaged historic communities. Second, we will examine the appropriation of the Bible in the making of the nation. Third, we will explore the enduring interest in extending scripture through the discovery or creation of new sacred texts.