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Grant number: ME-228682-15

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Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN 37132-0001)
Mary Evins (Project Director: August 2014 to present)

Religious Pluralism in Middle Tennessee: An NEH Bridging Cultures Project

A twenty-month humanities program on religion and civil society for twenty-four faculty from Cleveland State and Jackson State community colleges in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University.

The interdisciplinary humanities program, a collaboration between Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and two Tennessee community colleges (Cleveland State Community College and Jackson State Community College) allows twenty-four community college faculty members to study and discuss religion and civil society in the South. They consider the historical roots of religious intolerance and conflict in the region along with successful examples of religious pluralism in Tennessee communities. The proceedings provide the instructors with tools and knowledge to integrate discussions of community and cultural understanding into their literature, philosophy, government, history, and general education courses. Project co-directors James H. Williams and Mary Evins (directors, respectively, of the Albert Gore Research Center and the American Democracy Program at MTSU) begin with a week-long workshop at MTSU in summer 2015. On day one, Ronald Messier (MTSU, emeritus) leads a discussion of Middle Eastern history, with proposed readings including his own One Man, Two Faiths: Jesus, A Dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and Karen Armstrong's A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. On day two, Carlos Fraenkel (McGill University) leads a discussion on religion and philosophy, with readings including his own Teaching Plato in Palestine: Philosophy in a Divided World; John Locke, Letter on Toleration; and John Stuart Mill, On Liberty. On day three, M. Christian Green (Emory University) leads a discussion on religion and ethics, with readings including Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations, and Stephen Prothero, God Is Not One. On day four, religious studies scholar Laurie M. Maffly-Kipp (Washington University) leads a discussion on religion in America, with readings including Gods in America: Religious Pluralism in the United States (Charles L. Cohen and Ronald L. Numbers, eds.) and Thomas Jefferson's "Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association" (1802). On the final day, Emily Auerbach, (University of Wisconsin at Madison) discusses literature and religion, with readings including Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience; and Frederick Douglass, Narrative. The five-day seminar also provides a vehicle for the creation of faculty learning communities on the different campuses, focusing on civic life and community engagement; course development planning sessions; and visits by prominent scholar-mentors. Following a day-long meeting for participants to present on their curricular work, the project concludes with a conference at which participants showcase their accomplishments to other campuses.

Project fields:
Comparative Religion; Interdisciplinary Studies, General; U.S. Regional Studies

Bridging Cultures at Community Colleges

Education Programs

Total amounts:
$119,895 (approved)
$119,667 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2015 – 12/31/2016