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The Study of Religion is Like a Workshop for Critical Thought: A Dramatization with Legos

Years ago I devised a classroom demonstration, to use early in a semester when trying to help students become more aware, first, of the multiple dimensions of religion and, more importantly, of the ways in which diverse analytical lens for comparing and contrasting religion in a “toolbox for critical thought” will bring different dimensions forward while leaving others in the shadows. 

Conceptually this is not a groundbreaking theoretical intervention for a first week of class exercise, although it does imply some theoretical “chess moves” that I feel strongly about. 

Its main value here is to hone an entertaining and effective way to dramatize my points with a set of children’s blocks—both old-school wooden blocks and a few legos—plus a few crowd-pleasing additions to spice up the demonstration.

I wrote this up for Teaching Theology and Religion in 2009 and have used it “live” with reliable success many times since then. Since I recently have been experimenting with moving one of my classes online, I decided to make a video version for my voice-over-powerpoint lectures.  It seems potentially useful to share the video here. 

 

 

Mark Hulsether

About Mark Hulsether

Mark Hulsether is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, with broad interests in the interplay of religion, cultural, and society in recent United States history. Hulsether received his Ph.D training in the Program in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Religion, Culture, and Politics in the Twentieth Century United States, co-published by Columbia University Press and Edinburgh University Press in 2007, and his first book, Building a Protestant Left (University of Tennessee Press, 1999) studied Christianity and Crisis magazine, one of the major forums for liberal Protestant debate about World War II, the Vietnam War, and the civil wars in Central America during the 1970s and 1980s. Hulsether has written many articles and reviews on the course of the religious left in the US since the 1940s, various aspects of US popular religion, and issues of theory and method in the academic study of religion. His book in progress, Listening for More: Spirituality and Cultural Critique in American Popular Music was supported by a Spring 2018 Fulbright Research Chair at the University of Alberta. He blogs at https://marksbloggingexperiment.com/

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