This course uses auto/biographies of people from different religious traditions encountered on the Fall 2019 Semester at Sea to explore how personal spiritual dynamics intersect with lived social reality, effecting changes in the person, the tradition, and the context. It begins with the Baal Shem Tov, the pioneer of Hasidism in the 18th-century Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, then the center of world Jewry. We then take up another would-be reformer of Judaism, the Apostle Paul, as we head into the Mediterranean Sea upon whose shores he made such an impact. Visiting Morocco, we will read the memoir that Fatima Mernissi, a pioneer Muslim feminist, wrote of her childhood in a traditional harem in that country. Our crossing from Ghana to Brazil will be accompanied by an account of Domingos Sodré, who took that same journey under slavery only to become a priest in a distinctly African cult in Bahia. As we move across the Caribbean, we will study the life of Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador recently beatified by the Vatican for his work on behalf of the oppressed. Our course will conclude with the edgy memoir of Jamie Wright, a California evangelical who learned, from her five-year missionary sojourn in Costa Rica, that prosperous Westerners have much to learn from the people they wish to “serve”—a lesson suitable for reflection by SAS students as they conclude their own semester’s journey.
Field WorkCountry: Spain
Date: October 1, 2019
We will explore three sites in Seville—the monumental Cathedral, the Alcazar palace complex, and the General Archive of the Indies—to grasp the role played by religion in shaping Christopher Columbus’s ideas, ambitions, and legacy.
1. Discover the coexistence and contentions between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in Spain in the Reconquista context of Columbus’s voyages.
2. Understand the role of religion in the hopes and ambitions Columbus harbored for his voyages and the impact these had upon religion both in the new world and the old.
3. Interpret the ways that religious meaning and significance can be gleaned from architecture and artifacts, along with documents.