Dr. J. Cody Nielsen, Religion

Spiritual and Cultural Identities in Global Context

Spiritual identities and their associated practices are shaped by their context.  In the United States, the religious “nones” and growth in those who are of no particular identity is driving a secularization movement some would argue is rivaling Western Europe.  Yet globally, religious diversity and practice has rarely been more prominent, as the growth and continued prevalence of religious traditions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Ba’hai, Jain, Buddhist and Islam continue to grow.  This course offers a global landscape on spiritual identities and allows for participants to understand them within a cultural and global context.  Drawing upon the practices of sustainability within the “social” and “environmental” pillars, participants are emersed into a greater understanding of the spiritual and culture intersections what foster healthy and long-standing communities. As well, students in the course come to recognize colonial structures and systems which oppress spiritual identities in a Western context from gaining visibility, recognition, and societal value.

This course is unique in that it is actually four courses, with a similar curriculum within the first half of the course and a contextually based curriculum during the second half of the course.  Additionally, to align with those secondary areas of curriculum, the course will include an optional (but recommended) end of semester immersive trip to one of four different locations: Turkey (to consider Orthodox Christianity as well as Islam), Thailand (Buddhism), Israel & Palestine (Muslim & Jewish), and India (Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism). These immersion experiences include visits to religious holy sites, meetings with locals, and will require students to participate in practices (and potentially festivals and holy days) which give them greater understanding of the spiritual communities.