Tag Archive for Religion

McAlister Speaks on American Evangelical Spiritual Warfare

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, professor of African American studies, professor of American studies, spoke at DePaul University on May 11. The topic of her talk was “American Evangelical Spiritual Warfare and Vodou in Haiti.”

According to the flyer for the talk, one strand of American evangelicalism practices so-called “spiritual warfare” in which Christian “prayer warriors” pray against “territorial strongholds.” This group believes the world to be mapped into either Christian or demonic space, where Satanic forces operate as “strongholds” of evil. They believe that Haiti is under the influence of Satan. McAlister draws on recent ethnographic fieldwork in Haiti to examine how American missionaries are waging spiritual warfare on the traditional Afro-Haitian religion of Vodou, and how some Haitian Vodou practitioners are responding, paradoxically, by adopting evangelical modes of prayer, publicity and self-presentation.

Back in January, McAlister spoke on “The Militarization of American Prayer” at the Social Science Research Council.

Gottschalk to Develop Course on “The Sacred” with NEH Grant

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities "Enduring Questions" grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the recipient of a $20,000 National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities “Enduring Questions” grant for approximately $20,000 to develop and teach a new course on different understandings of “the sacred.”

Over the last five annual competitions, this competitive grant program received approximately 200 applications each year on average, and funded only 19 awards each year.

As University Protestant Chaplain, Mehr-Muska Mentors, Offers Confidential Support

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others.

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, meet Tracy Mehr-Muska, Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain. 

Q: Rev. Mehr-Muska, how long have you been Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain, and what did you do before this?

A: This is my third year as a university chaplain at Wesleyan. Like many, my professional journey was not a direct route. After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy, I served as a Deck Watch Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. My love of the sea and my degree in Marine/Environmental Science led me to subsequently work as a marine scientist, conducting oceanographic surveys and engineering subsea cable routes for a company that installed transoceanic fiberoptic telecommunications cable. although I loved my job, I felt most deeply fulfilled when attending church, visiting sick or homebound parishioners, or volunteering with the church’s youth. I then transitioned to Princeton Theological Seminary, and after graduating, became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I served as a chaplain for a hospice program in Boston, where I ministered to people approaching death and to their families. Although I loved hospice chaplaincy, it has been thrilling and fun to now work with people at the other end of their lives—students newly emerging into adulthood who are working to discern their vocational identity and establish their priorities, distinctiveness and values.

Q: Coming from such a different background, what made you want to become a university chaplain?

A: My years at the Coast Guard Academy were immensely challenging personally, physically, and spiritually. The two caring and patient military chaplains who served as my chaplains were not only instrumental in my surviving, thriving, and graduating, but they were also influential in helping me find joy and deepen my faith.

Jewish Community Celebrates the Life of Wesleyan’s First Chaplain

On Oct. 19, members of Wesleyan’s Jewish community gathered to celebrate a fundraising effort spearheaded by David Rabban ’71 to raise gifts in memory of Rabbi George Sobelman. Sobelman was Wesleyan’s first Jewish Chaplain from 1969-1973.

In addition, the Sobelman family is donating 43 volumes of the Babylonian Talmud with translation and commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz to Olin Library.

Rabbi Sobelman died Sept. 11, 2010 in Rehovot, Israel. During his time at Wesleyan Sobelman taught Modern Israeli Literature.

The event was hosted by University Relations. (Photos by John Van Vlack)

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Jewish Community Celebrates Rosh Hashanah with Shofar Factory

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan's Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram's horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Chabad at Wesleyan hosted a Shofar Factory Sept. 19 in Usdan’s Huss Courtyard. The shofar, a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn, is blown during synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Chabad at Wesleyan offers social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

McAlister Teaches “Ethnography of Religion” Seminar in Haiti

In June, Professor Elizabeth McAlister taught a seminar on prayer practices at the State University of Haiti. She previously spent almost four months in Haiti studying with Pentecostal prayer warriors and Haitian sorcerers.

In June, Professor Elizabeth McAlister taught a seminar on the ethnography of religion at the State University of Haiti. She previously spent four months in Haiti interviewing Pentecostal prayer warriors and Haitian sorcerers.

Professor Elizabeth McAlister recently presented a weeklong intensive seminar on the ethnography of religion at the Anthropology and Sociology Department, Faculté d’Ethnologie, at the State University of Haiti, Université d’Etat d’Haïti. McAlister is professor of religion, professor of African-American studies, professor of American studies.

Her seminar catered to Haitian university students who are training in field methods of ethnography of religion.

The seminar wrapped up McAlister’s four-month study on “Understanding Aggressive Prayer Forms in Evangelicalism and Afro-Atlantic Religions.”

Her research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation in “New Directions in Study of Prayer.” Developed through the Social Science Research Council’s program on religion and the public sphere, the funds support the academic ventures of 28 scholars and journalists on multidisciplinary aspects of prayer in a modern, global context.

Gottschalk Authors Op-Ed Published in L.A. Times

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk is the author of an op-ed published April 17 in The Los Angeles Times on the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. Responding to recent shootings near Jewish community centers in Kansas, in which three people were killed, Gottschalk writes that though the incident “seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present,” in fact religiously motivated violence is alive and well in the U.S. Gottschalk walks readers through a history of religious intolerance from the country’s earliest days, and traces the various forms the KKK has taken over the years. He concludes: “The religious pluralism evident in the United States testifies to the remarkable accomplishments the nation has made in promoting tolerance and inclusion. However, the recent sad news from Kansas reminds us that a pernicious current promoting racial, religious, and national exclusivity electrifies an active third rail of American history.”

Rubenstein’s Worlds without End Published

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Book by Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, is the author of Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse, published by Columbia University Press, 2014.

“Multiverse” cosmologies imagine our universe as just one of a vast number of others. While this idea has captivated philosophy, religion and literature for millennia, it is now being considered as a scientific hypothesis—with different models emerging from cosmology, quantum mechanics and string theory.

Beginning with ancient Atomist and Stoic philosophies, Rubenstein links contemporary models of the multiverse to their forerunners and explores the reasons for their recent appearance. One concerns the so-called fine-tuning of the universe: nature’s constants are so delicately calibrated that it seems they have been set just right to allow life to emerge. For some thinkers, these “fine-tunings” are evidence of the existence of God; for others, however, and for most physicists, “God” is an insufficient scientific explanation.

Rubenstein also is the author of  Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe.

Explore Israeli Culture during Spring Film Festival

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

The film, Fill the Void, is written and directed by Rama Burshstein (2012). It will be screened on Jan. 30 as part of the Israeli Film Festival. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies, will speak about the film after the screening.

Seven films, all with English subtitles, will be screened during the annual Israeli Film Festival this spring.

The festival aims to educate and explore the richness, diversity and creativity of Israeli culture as witnessed through the flourishing of contemporary Israeli cinema. Each film screening is followed by a guest speaker or Wesleyan faculty who comments on the film from a particular perspective.

FIlms this year include Fill the Void, Wherever You Go, Welcome and our Condolences, Zaytoun, By Summer’s End, Six Million and One, Back by Popular Demand: Eyes Wide Open. 

Films run every Thursday at 8 p.m. from Jan. 30 to March 6 in the Goldsmith Family Cinema. Admission is free.

The Festival is organized by Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of Religion and Israel Studies and cultural coordinator of Israeli events at Wesleyan University. It is sponsored by the Ring Family, Jewish and Israel Studies and co sponsored by the Film Studies Department.

For more information about the films and the full schedule, visit the Israeli Film Festival website.

Gottschalk’s New Book Chronicles History of Religious Intolerance in the U.S

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

New book by Peter Gottschalk.

Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk recently authored a new book, American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerancepublished by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2013The book chronicles the history of religious intolerance in the U.S. – from persecution of Irish and German Catholics in the mid-19th century to today’s discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs and other religious groups. Through the historical record it presents, the book challenges the notion that the U.S. is a stronghold of religious freedom.

Gottschalk’s book recently was featured in a holiday book round-up in the Chicago Tribune.

Dubler ’97 Publishes Immersive New Book on Religion in Prison

Joshua Dubler '97

Joshua Dubler ’97

Joshua Dubler ’97 is the author of the new book Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison (Farrar Straus Giroux). A religion scholar who was working on his dissertation at Princeton University, he spent more than six years working with prisoners at the Graterford Maximum Security Prison outside of Philadelphia, focusing his studies on the religious diversity of the prison chapel.

Book by Joshua Dubler '97

Book by Joshua Dubler ’97

Down in the Chapel tells the story of one whole week at the Graterford chapel in which Dubler attended Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Catholic, and various other services and study sessions. Conversing with chaplains and correctional officers as well as prisoners, he keeps his presence in plain view as he investigates issues of faith and everyday life during incarceration.

Dubler, who graduated from Wesleyan with a BA in College of Letters and religion, is currently assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester. He is coauthor with Andrea Sun-Mee Jones of the 2006 book Bang! Thud: World Spirit from a Texas School Book Depository.

Rubenstein Appointed 2013-14 Distinguished Teaching Fellow

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion and chair of the Religion Department, has been appointed  Wesleyan’s 2013-14 Distinguished Teaching Fellow. She also is associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Established last year by the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology Rob Rosenthal, the Distinguished Teaching Fellowship honors Wesleyan’s most outstanding teachers and gives them the opportunity to teach a course outside their usual departmental offerings. The inaugural fellowship was awarded to Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies.

“It is no surprise that Mary-Jane is Wesleyan’s second Distinguished Teaching Fellow: she is known across campus for her exceptional teaching and innovative pedagogy,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She is deeply engaged in scholarly and pedagogical initiatives on campus.”

Rubenstein has served as co-director of the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory, regularly giving talks on campus including for the Wesleyan Thinks Big series, the Theory Lecture Series, the Humanities luncheon, First Year Matters, the Center for Humanities, the Division II Seminar and more. Her scholarship commands strong interest: she gives many invited lectures, recently giving addresses at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the London School of Economics, and Yale University.

She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe, as well as articles on Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Derrida, negative theology, political theologies, global Anglicanism and contemporary cosmology. Her next book will be published in February: Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse. This work puts recent theories of the “multiverse” into conversation with ancient “many-world” cosmologies.

As Distinguished Teaching Fellow, Mary-Jane will teach “Kierkegaard: an Advanced Seminar in Absurdity” this spring.