Faith in Action
October 2nd, 2023 (CDT)
Kurt Buhring is Associate Professor of Religious Studies & Theology at Saint Mary's College (IN). Born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, he earned his BA in Religious Studies from Grinnell College and his PhD in Theology from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Buhring is the author of Spirit(s) in Black Religion: Fire on the Inside (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and Conceptions of God, Freedom, and Ethics in African American and Jewish Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). Both of these texts are a part of Palgrave Macmillan's "Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice" series.
Buhring's research is focused in Black Theology of Liberation. In particular, he is interested in concepts of understanding the divine-human interaction in ways that foster human agency and positively transform the self and society. His research has also explored issues in modern Jewish theology, religion during the Great Depression, and religious expressions in film. At Saint Mary's College, Buhring teaches courses in social justice, Black theology, interfaith relations, religion and science, and Islam. He has also taught at Westville Correctional Facility as part of the Moreau College Initiative.
"Faith in Action" examines the faith, practices, and theories of influential modern activists and writers who exemplify a variety of approaches to the Christian quest for justice. Questions we consider include: What is the theological basis for religious activism? How does this theological basis impact the practices of social justice activism? What is the role of violence in these practices? What particular concepts of justice are promoted by Christian activists, and why?
Goal / Rationale:
This course is designed to provide an opportunity for students to explore issues such as these by integrating in-class readings and discussions with out-of-classroom experiences. We not only read about activists such as Mohandas Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton, Cesar Chavez, and Dolores Huerta, but we also have the opportunity to apply class principles in a required service-learning project within the South Bend community. Students complete a minimum of fifteen hours with a local organization that addresses poverty. These organizations include The Center for the Homeless, La Casa de Amistad, and Boys and Girls Clubs. Throughout the duration of the semester we explore connections among the various thinkers we encounter in class and the "real world" we experience today.
On the day of the sample class meeting, students will have read and will be discussing two chapters: "Doing and Learning" from Robert Coles' The Call of Service and "Action and Contemplation" from Parker Palmer's The Active Life. In the 75-minute class meeting we will be exploring ideas from Coles and Palmer regarding ways in which to relate our in-class materials and discussions with the students' out-of-class service learning work at various local organizations that address poverty. One of my intentions in this class session is to introduce new ways of approaching volunteer work with others in more mindful and self-aware ways. Taught early in the semester, this session sets a foundation for considering ways in which our class materials can inform students' work in the community and possibilities for how such work can enrich students' understanding of course materials and themes.
Scope and Information for Participants:
This workshop is a sample class meeting from the course, "Faith in Action." The course is a 200-level undergraduate class that meets a general education requirement for Saint Mary's students. The students tend to be sophomores, juniors, and seniors, most of whom are not majors in my Religious Studies and Theology department.
Participants are invited to draw from their own pedagogical experiences with these or similar thinkers, as well as with academic experiential learning.
For the class meeting/workshop, students read and discussed two chapters: "Doing and Learning" from Robert Coles' The Call of Service and "Action and Contemplation" from Parker Palmer's The Active Life. In the 75-minute class meeting, we explored ideas from Coles and Palmer regarding ways in which to relate our in-class materials and discussions with the students' out-of-class service learning work at various local organizations that address poverty. One of my intentions in this class session is to introduce new ways of approaching volunteer work with others in more mindful and self-aware ways.
After starting with a conversation about some broader themes, I broke students into smaller groups to discuss particular elements from each author (Coles and Palmer). Each student group was then tasked with highlighting key points from their assigned section. Students wrote these ideas on the whiteboard. We then used these pieces as we came back together for our whole group discussion. Students were able to understand and evaluate key ideas from the texts.
This session sets a foundation for considering ways in which our class materials can inform students' work in the community and possibilities for how such work can enrich students' understanding of course materials and themes.
Le Mans Hall, St Mary S College, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA
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