Expanded Description. A study of what can be done about the intensifying conflicts and divisions within today’s America requires a dual focus. First, the class will explore the impact the contrast between an emphasis on values in the teachings of Jesus and the church’s insistence on right beliefs in its teachings has had on unity/disunity within Christianity. Second, the class will review examples of how conformity of belief within Christianity as the dominant religion in America has helped or hindered political unity and division in our country as a whole. The goal of exploring this dual focus is to determine practical ways all Americans can contribute more to unity and less to disunity at a time when polls suggest most of us are worried about growing national divisions.

Class discussions will utilize material in a basic text for the course, Unbinding Christianity, written by the instructor (available through bookfinder.com as low as $13.76 used, $16.95 hardcover). Also, reading material distributed by email before class sessions will be another resource for class discussions. In addition, there will also be limited PowerPoint presentations by the instructor. The outline below shows the thematic topics for each of the weekly sessions.

Week 1: Identifying andAnalyzing Contemporary Divisions in America

Week 2: Appreciating the Power of Religious Beliefs in Personal Life

Week 3: The Historical Development of Creedal (beliefs based) Christianity

Week 4: Understanding Religious Beliefs as Stories of Identity(Insights from Joseph Campbell)

Week 5: Universal Values in the Teachings of Jesus

Week 6: Exploring the Impact of Beliefs and Values on American Society

Week 7: The Genius of and Problems with the Constitutional Separation of Church/State

Week 8: Seeking Unity in the Midst of Diversity: An Ongoing Challenge.