Jocelyn McWhirter, chair and Stanley S. Kresge Professor of Religious Studies.
B.A., Trinity College; M.A.,Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry; Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary. Appointed 2006.
Nathan DeBoer, adjunct instructor
B.A., Western Michigan University, M.A., Western Michigan University, Ph.D. Candidate, University of the West. At Albion since 2011.
Ronney B. Mourad, professor.
B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; M.A., University of Chicago; Ph.D., University of Chicago. Appointed 2001.
Charles Preston, visiting assistant professor
B.A., Pomona College; M.A., and Ph.D.,, University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago, Illinois. Appointed 2019.
Peter M. Valdina, associate professor.
B.A., Hamilton College; M.A., Columbia University; M.S.Sc., The New School for Social Research; Ph.D., Emory University. Appointed 2012.
The study of religion is at the heart of a liberal arts education. Together with the other humanities and the social sciences, the study of religion helps one understand spiritual dimensions of the world and our roles as human beings in it.
Our Departmental Mission—Religion has always been an important component in human history. In its many configurations religion has played a critical role in shaping diverse and distinctive forms of culture. Religion has also been shaped by culture. We seek to stimulate in students an appreciation of the spiritual teachings, ethical principles, myths, symbols, and rituals of a variety of societies, believing that in them we encounter legitimate human attempts to envision the sacred and to live in the world as a spiritual arena. Conscious of Albion’s heritage as a college related to the United Methodist Church, we give special attention to the monotheistic traditions in the development of our Western culture and intellectual life.
Contemporary society sometimes represents religion only as a set of subjective beliefs. Because of this misrepresentation, people may view themselves or others as fundamentalists or atheists without understanding the variety of spiritual expressions and their roles in society over the course of history. While the study of religion is not required at Albion, we believe that it is central to the liberal arts experience as a means of gaining a broader understanding of the depth of one’s own and others’ religious beliefs and practices.
Since we are concerned with the academic study of religion, our department does not promote any particular “brand” of theology or spirituality. We subscribe to the assertion made by Friedrich Max Müller who said, “[The one] who knows one [religion], knows none.” We encourage our students to explore religion using various modes of analysis including historical-critical, philosophical, and comparative approaches that keep the life of the mind and the life of the soul in creative tension.
The training and interests of our faculty include several areas: biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek); biblical and related ancient Near-Eastern literature; Judaism; classic and contemporary Islamic history; Islamic ritual; comparative religion; myth, symbol, and ritual; philosophy of religion; philosophical theology; ethics and society; and Asian religions. We work closely with interested students in planning and completing directed studies, pursuing internships, preparing individualized research projects resulting in a thesis, and exploring career options.
Religious Studies Department Website
Whether a student chooses to major in religious studies or includes it as part of a double or individually-designed major, that student will be introduced to those aspects of a liberal arts education that aid in the development of insight, flexibility and commitment within a changing world.
Many of our students pursue further studies after Albion, in professional schools, theological seminaries or graduate programs. The religious studies faculty works closely with students who plan to attend seminary in helping them develop an appropriate pre-seminary course of studies, as well as with students who are looking into a career in the human services.
Students entering professional schools after graduation benefit from training in religious studies, since religious beliefs, practices and values influence most major social institutions. Religious studies students pursuing career opportunities in law, medicine or business have the educational background to understand these influences and their implications for professional practice. Theological seminaries prepare persons for a variety of positions, including pastoral ministry, counseling, religious education, youth work, institutional chaplaincies, administration and mission work (home and overseas).
Graduate programs in religious studies lead to M.A., Ph.D., or Th.D. degrees, which are usually associated with teaching careers. There are also dual competency programs that link the study of religion to the study of law, social services, art and/or music, journalism, urban ministries and counseling.
The John and Williemay Cheek Award is a cash award presented each year to the outstanding senior in the department. The Dr. Selva J. Raj Memorial Scholarship in Religious Studies is given to a rising junior or senior religious studies major. Book awards are given to graduating majors. Note: Students who major in religious studies at Albion are not disqualified from receiving federal or state need-based financial aid.
Student Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the Religious Studies major, students will be able to:
1. recall the basic oral traditions, scriptures, doctrines, rituals, and symbols of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam;
2. explain the role of those phenomena in shaping religious belief and practice;
3. explain how those traditions emerge from and shape their historical and cultural contexts;
4. interpret religious phenomena using methodologies–such as theological, textual, comparative, and historical analysis–drawn from different disciplinary approaches to the study of religion;
5. argue persuasively for their interpretations.
Upon completion of the Religious Studies minor, students will be able to:
1. recall the basic historical and cultural contexts of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam;
2. explain the role of historical and cultural context in shaping the beliefs and practices of those religions;
3. interpret religious phenomena using methodologies–such as theological, textual, comparative, and historical analysis–drawn from different disciplinary approaches to the study of religion;
4. argue persuasively for their interpretations.