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As we have noted, there might be two fundamental ways to construct Christianity and understand what being a Christian is all about:
- One Model (A) focuses on individuals and their personal well being (including their eternal salvation).This approach usually emphasizes the importance of a personal belief in Jesus and the implications of that belief for personal morality and personal piety. At its most extreme, this model is concerned only with the individual and his or her welfare, and when God is viewed as the dispenser of wealth and health, then this model can be understood as a the “Prosperity Gospel” that is attracts huge crowds in both the US and Latin America.
- A second Model (B) focuses more on communities and their temporal well-being.This approach emphasizes the social (or political) order, and the threat of social (or structural) sin.This model is concerned with justice, and protecting the dignity of all persons, and working towards the common good.It is typically expressed in a communal code of conduct that challenges ways of constructing the world that lead to racism, sexism, xenophobia, global poverty, inadequate food, or water, or healthcare, and indifference to the environment.
Our class has focused on on the second approach (B), especially in what has been identified under Liberation Theologies, although to appreciate this model we spent a brief time considering the Prosperity Gospel. Your final exam brings together everything we have tried to consider in our class. It consists of five questions:
- Question 1 (Weeks 3): In 3-4 pages, select, and then thoroughly unpack, the 2 most important insights you understood about the Prosperity Gospel and its claim that God can provide everyone who asks good health and a prosperous life. One of your reflections should involve the Prosperity Gospel in America, and the second in Brazil.
- Question 2 (Weeks 4-5): In 3-4 pages, select, and then thoroughly unpack the 2 most important insights offered by Groody, and the 2 most important insights offered by Berryman, in their understanding of the church’s commitment to social justice, and how this is embodied in the rise of Liberation Theology in Latin America.
- Question 3 (Week 6): In 3-4 pages, select and thoroughly unpack the 2 most important insights explored when Liberation Theology is understood as Black Theology and other Theologies related to race/ethnicity.
- Question 4 (Week 7): In 3-4 pages, select and thoroughly unpack the 2 most important insights explored when Liberation Theology is “for the earth,” especially as this relates to the demand that the church become an advocate for all life (and not just human life).
- Question 5 (Week 8): In 3-4 pages, select and thoroughly unpack the most important insight offered when Liberation Theology is applied to issues related to women, women’s empowerment, and the struggle of members of the LGBTQ community.
General Guidelines for the Exam
- The most important choice you have is what you will select to examine the issues related to each question. You need to select what are truly central to an entire book; you must select specific texts that involve specific issues being addressed by the book (include page numbers), and you must unpack what you have selected as thoroughly as possible, given the centrality of what you have selected (i.e., central issues will be examined in more than one place in an entire book) and the constraints of 12-16 page essay).
- What you select must be among the most important points in our primary readings/texts. Obviously, there is some flexibility here: I can think of a number of issues in each text that could be drawn on to examine each question. Nevertheless, the number of “clearly important or central points” is limited.
- Although the exam requires you to consider our primary texts, you can appeal to other material we considered as long as it serves to unpack what is a central issue in the primary text. This means that if you select another reading or video to help you discuss a point, they must help to unpack what is central (and not substitute for what is central). For example, you could appeal to Romero to help you unpack one of the central concerns raised about Christianity and Justice in Groody’s text (after all, he lists Romero as one of his models); or you could appeal to Huey’s TED talk to help you unpack the challenges of Liberating Native Americans, but your appeals to the film Romero and/or a TED talk must serve the central issues you are examining.
- Although you are free to return to your posts, and can draw on the insights of others, the exam requires you to pull together your final thoughts on Christianity/Catholicism as a faith tradition that is focused on transforming our world, especially as this relates to economic, racial, environmental, and gender injustice. What you may have posted in Week 2 is not what you should be thinking in Week 8. This final, comprehensive exam is intended as a way for you to demonstrate you’re mature thinking on these issues.
- You can quote, but do so sparingly, since the exam asks you to unpack these issues in your own words.Do not cut and paste what others have said.Do not cut what our authors have said. Do not cut and paste what I have said. Do not utilize any resources other than the primary sources that were available for our class.If you plagiarize you will fail.
- Although you can interact with your peers, what you submit under your name needs to be what you wrote and no one else wrote, and needs to be your selection of what you think is central to our class. If you simply reflect what other thinks is important then you are not doing your critical thinking, and you will fail.
- Please be precise in your language and specific about what you are appealing to.Reference specific page numbers. Do not use a male pronoun to address a female author. You do not need a “works cited” page (since everything you will reference is on Canvas).
- Write 5 strong essays reflecting solid, college-level writing. Follow all the standard protocols for college-level essays (font, margins, double-space, double-proofed as a final essay). You can answer each question as a separate essay, but you need to save in a single copy.The exam requires you to demonstrate careful reading, critical thinking and thoughtful writing.
- I assume the first four questions will take you 3-4 pages to develop each question. In the end, you should shoot for a 15-17 page collection, although the low end is not a requirement and the high end is not an absolute. Save and submit Word (doc, docx). The deadline for submission is Monday, March 11, before 11:59 p.m. You can submit earlier. If you have any questions that you think would be relevant to the class, then please ask in the discussion module (set up under week 8); if private then email.