Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Christianity Minor at UNC-CH

For the first time in its 210-year history, my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is offering students an opportunity to minor in the study of Christianity. Officially dubbed a "Minor in the Study of Christianity & Culture," the program is being offered through UNC's sociology department.

An article yesterday in The News & Observer of Raleigh reported: . . .

Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at UNC-CH, said he found no other comparable academic program at other U.S. universities. The minor will be interdisciplinary, meaning that students will be able to take classes relating to Christianity in art history, English, philosophy, sociology and, of course, religious studies.

Smith said the idea for a minor came out of his four-year study on the spiritual lives of teenagers. One of the starkest conclusions he reached was that teenagers, no matter what their faith, were unable to talk about it cogently or to engage in serious moral reasoning around it.

"Teens don't know a lot about their religious tradition, and that made quite an impression on me," Smith said. "There are lot of students who come from Christian backgrounds. Here's an opportunity for them to learn about their faith's wider tradition and history."

Bart Ehrman, who teaches an introduction to the New Testament at UNC-CH, said most undergraduates routinely fail a basic quiz he gives at the beginning of each course with questions such as, "What language was the New Testament written in?" and "How many books are in the New Testament?"

"Even though students have gone to church all their lives, that doesn't mean they have an intellectual understanding of their faith," Ehrman said.

According to the UNC Minor in the Study of Christianity & Culture Web site, course options available to students minoring in the program include:

  • Introduction to the History of Christian Traditions
  • Jesus in Myth, Tradition, and History 30-200 A.D.
  • The Reformation
  • Evangelicalism in Contemporary America
  • Liberal Tradition in America
  • Gender and Sexuality in the Western Christian Tradition
  • The Black Church in America
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion in American Public Life
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