1. Main Paper: On the Grammar of Teaching Religious Studies

On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study - James Dennis LoRusso

Leslie Dorrough Smith [+-]
Avila University
Dr. Dorrough Smith's most recent research focuses on the cultural significance of American Conservative Protestant rhetoric, with special emphasis on the Christian Right. Many scholars who study the Christian Right (NCR) often account for the movement's popularity and distinction by pointing to its absolutist moral positions, its religious fervor, and its selective embrace of seemingly anti-modernist platforms. Unlike other theories of conservative power that focus on the allure of such moral absolutes, Dr. Dorrough Smith's work shows how these absolutes are really not the defining quality of the movement. Rather, they are the byproduct of a certain type of rhetoric (which she calls "chaos rhetoric") that uses chaos, rather than order, imagery to induce persuasion and thereby secure social power. Her work focuses on the linguistic engineering involved in producing chaos rhetoric, and how such movements depend on the strategic manipulation of specific cultural symbols to naturalize and "sell" their political interests.


This essay explores what is at stake if we start talking about the category of religion more frequently in active, verb form within the classroom setting. The underlying presumption is that students (not to mention the scholars who teach them) are so steeped in perennialist assumptions that a grammar disruption may be a useful tool in helping to generate critical thought. Talking about religion as if it is a "thing" may inadvertently reinforce essentialist ideas of a cohesive, sui generis entity, but shifting our language to describe religion as an active process places attention on the very real social and cultural acts that religious speech is used to achieve. The essay considers the implications of using this type of speech in light of the ideal critical goals of the religious studies classroom while also offering classroom-tested case studies of how this language shift might be realized.

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Dorrough Smith, Leslie . 1. Main Paper: On the Grammar of Teaching Religious Studies. On the Subject of Religion - Charting the Fault Lines of a Field of Study. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2022. ISBN 9780000000000. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=41068. Date accessed: 23 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41068. Oct 2022

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