Courses

Religious Studies

Courses & Events

There has been a lot of talk lately among politicians, pundits and news commentators--not to mention the general public--about apocalyptic passages in the Bible and what they might mean for our time. These are the texts describing the end of the world as we know it and the dawn of a new order. There has also been a recent flood of books and films depicting the final conflagration and the fate of unfortunates "left behind." In this course, we will examine selected writings from the Bible within their historical, social and cultural contexts to understand what they were saying, how they were understood in their own time, and how best to read them today. 

Instructor Bio:  Barry Crawford, Ph.D., has recently retired as Professor of Religious Studies at Washburn University.


July 15-29, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Who was Mary of Magdala and what happened to her after her last appearance in the Gospel of John in the Christian New Testament? In this course, we will use scholarship and critical analysis to dispel the myths and misinterpretations of Mary Magdalene and examine her role in the Christian New Testament gospels. We will then explore the non-canonical The Gospel of Mary of Magdala to gain further insight into the woman often called "the apostle to the Apostles." 

Instructor Bio: Renee Neff-Clark has a degree in Religious Studies from the University of Kansas and has been a lover of all types of literature since she learned to read.


June 25, 2021 to July 9, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Religions and science have very different concepts of the nature of reality. Religions make claims about reality based upon revelations of special seers, prophets and saviors. Science makes claims about reality based upon the scientific methods of observation, induction, and experimentation. In the ground between these two different perspectives, philosophers have attempted to understand reality using pure reason. In this course we will take a quick journey through the history of philosophy from Ancient Greece to modern America. Along the way we will examine the questions such as: does God exist? How can we know the truth? What is reality? 

Instructor Bio: James Gaither, Th.D., holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Kansas and ThD from Holos University Graduate Seminary. For over 25 years he has taught courses in history of Western thought, world religions, metaphysics and ethics and is currently a "semi-retired."


April 13-27, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Gnosticism is a type of spirituality that describes visions of spiritual dimensions beyond our earthly existence. The Greek word "gnosis" translates roughly as "knowledge," "awareness," and "science." It generally refers to personal, experiential knowledge rather than intellectual knowledge from reasoning or accumulation of information. The forms of spirituality referred to as "Gnostic" involve purported knowledge of spiritual dimensions, angels, creation, the nature of humanity and other religious themes based on personal visions or encounters with divine beings. This course will explore examples of Gnostic literature, including early Christian Gnosticism, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and th3 writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. 

Instructor Bio: James Gaither, Th.D., holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Kansas and Th.D. from Holos University Graduate Seminary. For over 25 years he has taught courses in history of Western thought, world religions, metaphysics and ethics and is currently a "semi-retired."


June 4-18, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Religion was not the primary reason for the settlement of the colonies, and none of the colonies was a theocracy. But it did influence the culture that developed, including gender, death ways, economics, relations between Native Americans and euro-colonists, the treatment of children, and the status of African Americans. We will start with a quick overview of Native American religious beliefs since they were the majority through the colonial period. Then will get to Separatists (Pilgrims), Puritans, Anglicans, Quakers, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anabaptists, Quietists, African American religious traditions, and the small beginnings of Judaism and Catholicism. We'll then hit higher education, the First Great Awakening, and the status of religion in the American Revolutionary period. 

Instructor Bio: James Showalter did seven years of historic preservation and 31 years of teaching History on the university level, including 30 years teaching American History at Langston University in Oklahoma. In addition to his university teaching, he has taught in the Oklahoma State University Osher course system for about nine years, covering a wide range of subjects. One of several areas of expertise he has developed is the History of Religion worldwide, and particularly the history of religion in the area that is now the United States. He now lives outside Strong City, Kansas, on the beautiful Flint Hills.


April 12-26, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Did Jesus have a wife? Was Judas a hero rather than a villain? What of Jesus' youth? Was he a model child or a spoiled brat? What are we to believe about the life and teachings of Jesus now that hitherto unknown gospels have come to light? Which accounts are to be trusted? Indeed, do any narratives of Jesus' public career contain reliable historical information? These are among the questions to be addressed as the course examines selected early Christian gospels, both within and especially outside the New Testament, to learn something of their literary character, their purpose, and the varied images of Jesus they present.

Instructor Bio: Barry Crawford, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of religious studies at Washburn University.


April 15-29, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The religions of the world all have a concept of an ultimate state of being or consciousness. The concept of "merging with the ultimate" is generally called "mysticism." There are mysticism traditions in both Western and Eastern religions as well as what might be called "spiritual mysticism" which is not attached to any particular religion. These traditions have much in common, including a transcendent reality and the possibility for humans to experience a merging with that transcendent ultimate being or consciousness. This course explores a few examples of mysticism from different ages in world history, examining mystical theories and methods.

Instructor Bio: James Gaither, Th.D. holds a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Kansas and ThD from Holos University Graduate Seminary. For over 25 years he has taught courses in history of Western thought, world religions, metaphysics and ethics and is currently a "semi-retired."


March 26, 2021 to April 9, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
The Second Great Awakening (1802-1850) birthed both the modern revival under Finney and several new religions. The old interpretation saw the period as a birthing of democracy, but modern scholars see a much more nuanced interpretation. From this era came the expansion of Methodism and other denominations, and new religions such as the Restorationist Movement, the Brownists and millenarianism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These events shaped U.S. religion for the next 150 years and still shape it today. Join us as we explore these various traditions. 

Instructor Bio: James Showalter did seven years of historic preservation and 31 years of teaching History on the university level, including 30 years teaching American History at Langston University in Oklahoma. In addition to his university teaching, he has taught in the Oklahoma State University Osher course system for about nine years, covering a wide range of subjects. One of several areas of expertise he has developed is the History of Religion worldwide, and particularly the history of religion in the area that is now the United States. He now lives outside Strong City, Kansas, on the beautiful Flint Hills.


June 22, 2021 to July 6, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Before the increasing news coverage, any mention of Uyghurs was mostly met with a puzzled look. Who are they...and how is that pronounced? As news venues have highlighted the plight of this Turkic ethnic group in far western China, awareness is growing, but still many questions remain. In this course, we will explore the history and culture of Uyghurs living in a region that has a contested past. The goal of this course is to promote understanding of the complex historical, cultural, political and economic reasons behind the current human rights atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic populations in Xinjiang. 

Instructor Bio: Amanda Snider has a master's in anthropology from KU. She began studying Uyghur language and culture in 2005, and spent several years teaching English in western China, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Currently, she works at the KU Center for East Asian Studies.


June 4-18, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)
Two Holocaust survivors, one a young Jewish boy, the other a Catholic teenage Polish Resistance fighter, would meet years later as professors at KU and form a strong friendship. The story of Lou Frydman explores the Holocaust and his eyewitness account of Jewish resistance in the concentration camps. Jarek Piekalkiewicz's story as a Polish Resistance fighter illustrates the mistakes, triumphs, history and organization of the Polish Resistance-the most effective underground movement to challenge the Nazis. We'll discuss what it means to lose not just one's family, but one's whole community and way of life, and the challenge of creating a new life in a new land. 

Instructor Bio: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the author of 19 books. This course is based on her book, "Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and a Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other".


July 13-27, 2021, Zoom Facilitated Sessions (Online, WEB)