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The next feature in the Behind the Will video series launched this past summer is none other than Department of Religious Studies Professor Amy DeRogatis!  The series gives viewers an inside look into what drives our faculty’s research, teaching, and creativity in Michigan State University's College of Arts & Letters.  Congratulations to Prof. DeRogatis and to the CAL team on this!

You can see the featured video below:



Dr. Chris Frilingos' article in the Conversation! Congrats Dr. Frilingos! 




CONGRATULATIONS to Prof. Robert McKinley on his retirement this year! 


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Pictured below is a collage of our Undergraduate Research Conference and Religious Studies Awards on Friday, April 14th.  Students from MSU, K College, GVSU and WMU came together to fill the Museum Auditorium to present on their senior thesis projects.  In addition to presenting we had our Theta Alpha Kappa honor society induction and presented three outstanding REL students with awards. 



- Prof. David Stowe’s article “Songs of Worship: Why We Sing to the Lord” has been published on The Conversation



-Prof. David Stowe’s new book has been reviewed in Christianity Today - congratulations to him!



- We are delighted to announce Dr. Gretel Van Wieren’s promotion to associate professor with tenure in the Department of Religious Studies.  Dr. Van Wieren’s areas of specialty include the intersection of religion, ethics, and the environment, as well as nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship.  She is author of Restored to Earth: Christianity, Environmental Ethics, and Ecological Restoration (Georgetown University Press, 2013), and is completing a second book as well as an edited volume, in addition to various articles and other publications.  She is also the lead PI for a major Humanities Without Walls grant on “The New Ethics of Food,” and central to the Religious Studies Nonprofit Leadership Concentration.

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- CONGRATULATIONS DR. AMY DEROGATIS! Dr. DeRogatis has been awarded a two-year $200,000 grant to support a joint religious studies project of Michigan Statue University and Ohio State University! Read more about it here.

- A interview Dr. David Stowe had with a writer from the 538 Blog: The Sun is Always Shining in Modern Christian Pop 

-A Feature Article on Dr. Gretel VanWieren! Using Religion and Ethics to Restore 'This Old Earth'

-Congratulations Dr. Amy DeRogatis on being named Faculty Excellence Advocate! You can read more about DeRogatis' new appointment here.

-We are proud to announce that Prof. Amy DeRogatis will be a plenary speaker at the  Midwest Region of the American Academy of Religion conference on the campus of Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana on April 1-2, 2016.


-On Friday, January 29th, 2016, Dr. Robert Ashcraft, Director of the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofits at Arizona State University, presented to Religious Studies students and faculty in a room filled to capacity.  He gave a dynamic TED-style talk on “Your Career in Nonprofits,” and engaged in conversation with students and faculty.  After the event, the most well attended Welcome Reception in the Department’s history (it was standing-room only), Dr. Ashcraft worked with Department of Religious Studies faculty members to plan Departmental initiatives concerning the Department's Nonprofit Leadership Concentration for the next several years.  He said our Nonprofit Concentration in Religious Studies is "unique in the nation," and urged us to continue to develop it.




The Department of Religious Studies serves as MSU’s primary resource for understanding global religious and cultural diversity.  The Department’s core curriculum is one of the best in the country with regard to giving students a broad and deep knowledge of global religions and cultures.  Our mission, briefly put, is to develop undergraduate students’ global cultural knowledge, while providing an innovative new career track in Nonprofit Leadership.

Our mission is also outreach to the larger community.  In keeping with the University’s Bolder By Design plan, we seek to enrich MSU, regional, and national communities through a distinctive combination of research with public engagement and outreach.Over the past several years, every faculty member in Religious Studies has been engaged in outreach activities, organizing public lectures, workshops, and other events for undergraduates, for the broader MSU community, and for the regional community.


The Department mission, to broaden global cultural knowledge, is applied in our new transcriptable Concentration for undergraduates in Non-profit Leadership. This Concentration is the only one of its kind available at MSU, and in fact we are the only Religious Studies Department nationally with such an initiative. Our Nonprofit Leadership career track offers students career options and underscores MSU’s commitment to outreach, engagement, and local, regional, national, and international service. Religious Studies already has alumni working in non-profits and in non-profit management graduate programs, and we continue to build our network in this area.

Dr. Ashcraft’s visit provided resources to students and also for faculty as part of our strategic planning for the long term.


We are delighted to announce that Dr. Gretel Van Wieren has won a major Humanities Without Walls grant award funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation for her team’s project,  "The New Ethics of Food.”  The grant will last for two years, beginning in 2016.  


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Coming Spring Semester 2016 REL 290-002 Islamic Mysticism

This class will be taught by Professor Valerie Hoffman of the University of Illinois




Mohammad Khalil won an All-MSU Teacher Scholar Award 2015


He was recognized by Dr. Simon at the


Ceremony on
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
3:30-4:30 p.m.
Pasant Theatre, Wharton Center
750 East Shaw Lane

Dr. Khalil, Director of the Muslim Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies, is well known for his exceptional teaching.  Dynamic and inventive as a teacher, he integrates his research and teaching to create captivating courses on topics related to the study of religion , in particular, Islam.

Teacher-Scholar Awards are made to six members of the tenure system faculty from the ranks of assistant professor and associate professor who early in their careers have earned the respect of students and colleagues for their devotion to and skill in teaching. The essential purpose of the award is to provide recognition to the best teachers who have served at MSU for seven years or less, taking into consideration that the most effective teachers will have their instruction intricately linked to and informed by their research and creative activities. 



Dr. Amy DeRogatis published Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2014), and was featured in The Atlantichttp://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/11/the-warrior-wives-of-evangelical-christianity/382365/

and was interviewed on the US Religion Blog. http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2014/11/amy-derogatis-on-saving-sex.html

"Fascinating from beginning to end, this book adds greatly to the understanding of Evangelical life today. Amy DeRogatis examines the almost overlooked subject of conservative Protestant heterosexuality. Putting sex on the scholarly agenda in a compelling way, she makes a fundamental contribution to the materialization of Religious Studies in general, and of Protestantism in particular. Long dismissed as prudish and disembodied, Protestantism is rediscovered here as sexually engaged and self-aware." - David Morgan, Professor and Department Chair of Religious Studies, Duke University

"Resisting the temptation of a playful romp through evangelical marriage manuals, Amy DeRogatis seriously engages the sexual ambivalences of born-again Christianity, particularly the insistent pursuit of both purity and pleasure. Contemporary evangelicals have been instructed to approach sex as if their salvation-as well as that of the wider culture-depends on its proper performance. Saving Sex is an eye-opening examination of just how extensive and detailed that instruction has been." - Leigh Eric Schmidt, Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, Washington University in St. Louis




Dr. Benjamin Pollock ‘s current book is Franz Rosenzweig's Conversions: World Denial and World Redemption (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2014)


Franz Rosenzweig's near-conversion to Christianity in the summer of 1913 and his subsequent decision three months later to recommit himself to Judaism is one of the foundational narratives of modern Jewish thought. In this new account of events, Benjamin Pollock suggests that what lay at the heart of Rosenzweig's religious crisis was not a struggle between faith and reason, but skepticism about the world and hope for personal salvation. A close examination of this important time in Rosenzweig’s life, the book also sheds light on the full trajectory of his philosophical development.

"There is one thing that everyone—not just scholars, but informed members of the Jewish community—knows about Rosenzweig, and that one thing is false. Nobody who is interested in twentieth-century Jewish thought, whether from a Jewish, Christian, atheistic, or neutral perspective, will be able to afford to ignore this book." —Paul Franks, Yale University



Dr. Arthur Versluis’s most recent book is American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion  (Oxford University Press, 2014). 


One could hardly hope for a surer hand and a more astute guide into the fantastically complicated story of Asian religions in American history and culture.  Arthur Versluis has been that sure hand and astute guide since his first major work on Asian religions and Transcendentalism.  Here, in American Gurus, he summarizes, nuances, and develops still further decades of scholarship on the history of Western esotericism, on the magical and mystical currents of American history, and on the roles that the Asian religions have played, and continue to play, in the American story.  A genuine accomplishment.

Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University, author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion 

Where do American gurus come from?  In this fascinating study, Arthur Versluis offers a surprising answer: teachers who offer direct spiritual insight, unediated by religious institutions, stand in an ancient Western tradition.  Overturning the usual distinctions between East and West, Versluis demonstrates that Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen, Eckhart Tolle, and other contemporary teachers owe as much to Emerson and Plato as they do to Buddha or Krishna.  Versluis’s narrative sparkles with new insights into the character of American spirituality.

Dan McKanan, Harvard University, author of Prophetic Encounters: Religion and the American Radical Tradition



Department of Religious Studies faculty members were responsible for three grant proposals for a new national Humanities Without Walls grant competition, the highest number of any Department in the College of Arts and Letters.


Religious Soundmap of the Midwest

Dr. Amy DeRogatis (Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts & Letters, Michigan State University), and Dr. Isaac Weiner (Ohio State University)


Dr. Amy DeRogatis is collaborating on this grant with other MSU faculty members Dr. Mohammad Khalil and Dr. David Stowe, along with MSU librarian Bobby Smiley, Dr. Scott Schopieray, and Dr. Marsha Macdowell of the MSU Museum.

The Religious Soundmap of the Midwest project will use audio recording and digital mapping technology to study the religious diversity of American cities. Student researchers will produce audio recordings of religious practices across a wide range of local sites. These recordings will be integrated along with interviews, visual images and explanatory texts, onto a publicly accessible, online mapping platform, which will provide a valuable research tool and pedagogical resource for specialists and non-specialists alike. The project is being headed by Isaac Weiner at Ohio State and Amy DeRogatis at Michigan State University.

“We are thrilled to receive this recognition of our project from the consortium,” said Weiner. “The grant will provide critical support for launching the Religious Soundmap project and will allow us to hire graduate and undergraduate student researchers, who will be trained to produce high-quality field recordings of religion ‘in practice.’” Humanities without Walls is a consortium that links humanities centers at 15 Midwestern research universities, including Ohio State’s Humanities Institute. The consortium was founded three years ago with a $3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and exists to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching and the production of scholarship in the humanities, according to Rick Livingston, associate director at the Humanities Institute.  The consortium is based at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.



Muslims in the Midwest: An Oral History Project


Dr. Mohammad Khalil (Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts & Letters, Michigan State University),  with other MSU faculty members, including Dr. Salah Hassan, Dr. Mara Leichtman, Dr. Chantal Tetreault, Dr. Stephen Gasteyer, and Dr. Emine Evered.



Despite the significant history of Muslim presence in “the heartland,” there has been relatively little oral and visual historical documentation of Midwestern Muslims. This project will build a public archive to document and highlight the diversity of Muslim culture in the American Midwest.   The United States Midwest has been home to Muslims for well over a century.  Today, Illinois is the state with the largest Muslim population, and Dearborn, Michigan is the city with the largest concentration of Muslims in the US.

Muslims in the Midwest is conceived as a multifaceted oral and visual history project with a substantial research component. The primary goal of the project is to establish and build a digital archive that documents the varied experiences of American Muslims in the Midwest through testimonies across generational, gender, geographical, socio-economic, and ethnic differences.

The initial focus of the Muslims in the Midwest oral history project is on founding moments of Muslim communities (1890-2001) with particular emphasis on the following themes:

a)    Muslim religious practices in the absence of institutions

b)   the stages of growth of Muslim communities

c)    crises and successes of communities and individuals

d)   narratives of building community (centers, mosques, schools, businesses, organizations, educational firsts, etc.)

e)    reflections on change

This is a major project of American oral history that will advance our knowledge of Muslims in the American heartland.




The New Ethics of Food


Dr. Gretel Van Wieren, with Dr. Paul B. Thompson, Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte, Dr. Thomas G. Padilla, Dr. Dean Rehberger, Dr. Laurie Thorp, and Dr. Ian Werkheiser of Michigan State University.


There is growing public recognition that the issues involved with the global food system – from production to consumption to distribution to waste – pose complex ethical, social, and political challenges that require critical consideration as we move into the 21st century. Climate change, expanded global interdependence and shifts in the urban/rural interface for food systems create vexing ethical questions of justice.  The New Ethics of Food project has two overall objectives.  The first is to link Michigan State and other consortial and community-based partners in a common commitment to research and dialogue around a broadened understanding of the new ethics of food.  The second is to reveal and rethink the Midwest as a major force in this century’s global, regional, and local food economy and culture, and to demonstrate how the public humanities, broadly construed, can contribute to this work.  To pursue these objectives, the members of this project team at Michigan State have already partnered with faculty at Penn State, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ohio State, and we are reaching out to potential partners at other schools.  These partnerships are both interconsortial and interdisciplinary, bringing together Humanities and Science scholars from many departments and centers at multiple universities.