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Bruce Lincoln’s “Theses on Method”

August 21, 2009

For those of you who are not already familiar, check out Lincoln’s “Theses on Method.” (Dr. Jim, I bet you’ll like them!) Here’s just a taste:

The same destabilizing and irreverent questions one might ask of any speech act ought be posed of religious discourse. The first of these is “Who speaks here?”, i.e., what person, group, or institution is responsible for a text, whatever its putative or apparent author. Beyond that, “To what audience? In what immediate and broader context? Through what system of mediations? With what interests?” And further, “Of what would the speaker(s) persuade the audience? What are the consequences if this project of persuasion should happen to succeed? Who wins what, and how much? Who, conversely, loses?”

Or this:

Reverence is a religious, and not a scholarly virtue. When good manners and good conscience cannot be reconciled, the demands of the latter ought to prevail.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Jim permalink
    August 22, 2009 10:57 am

    Thanks for posting that! “Reverence is a religious, and not a scholarly virtue” Love that line!

    I’m teaching a course in September called “What is Religion?” It is a second year course, so few of the students know much beyond their World Religion course and haven’t really had the chance to consolidate the mass of information about pilgrimages, canons, doctrines, rituals and so forth. I think the Lincoln article would be good required reading…

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 22, 2009 11:12 am

    Glad you liked it. What’s the idea behind the course?

    I would make this required reading, but my students probably wouldn’t get it. I would have to do a lot of translation.

  3. Dr. Jim permalink
    August 23, 2009 12:19 pm

    The article would need a lot of unpacking, but I’m thinking at least excerpts from it might make a good class discussion tool. I don’t mind giving students readings that are over their heads if time allows for a lot of discussion in class to sort it out.

    The course is basically an introduction to comparative religions for those interested in carrying on beyond our introduction course. I really want do address the question “what is religion?” in terms of the blurry boundaries between “religion” and other spheres of life and thought.

    The U. of Lethbridge is set up in a way that forces us to teach World Religions in a single semester so it is impossible to really get students to think about cross cultural themes or concepts or even to get them to do any writing (each of our 4 sections on W.R. has ca. 130 students and we have no teaching assistants). It is all a mass of information.

    The course will be a variety of case studies. I’m going to get them look at, say, Vedic ritual and Shabbat, Christian salvation and Satori etc., religious myths and political mythologies. I also want to look at religions change: the development of the so-called “cargo-cults” and the birth of “new age” movements in the West or the fragmentation of Western Christianity with the reformation.

    I also briefly introduce them to some of the leading social scientific theories on religion. Above all, I want them to think about how they think about religion and how an “outside” view is different from an inside one.

    It is the first time I’ve taught the course, so I’m probably trying to cram too much into it, but I’ve got a few week left to trim it down to a manageable size.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 24, 2009 7:21 am

    Sounds like a good course.

    I too have the habit of always cramming too much in. I don’t know why I keep doing it. It frustrates me, it frustrates the students: no one wins! Best of luck trimming yours down to a digestible size!

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