Carolina has launched an interdisciplinary, academic minor in the study of Christianity and culture, thought to be the nation’s first at a public university.
The undergraduate course offerings, based in the College of Arts and Sciences, are aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of Christian traditions and their influences on culture and society throughout history.
“No other public university in the nation offers such a program, to our knowledge,” said Christian Smith, UNC Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor of sociology and co-director of the minor. “Our curriculum is designed not to influence or change students’ religious faith or practice but to enhance their knowledge of the role of Christianity over time in the context of art, classics, literature, history, philosophy, politics and sociology.”
Beginning this semester, undergraduates may enroll in the minor as a secondary field of study. To complete the minor, they need to take five courses from more than 40 offerings, including an introductory survey course; a course in ancient, medieval or early modern Christianity; and a course on Christianity in the modern world.
Classes must be taken from at least two different departments. Students may seek permission to count other relevant classes, independent study and study-abroad experiences to fulfill the requirements.
“Through the minor, students should gain both a critical and appreciative overview of the beliefs, history, expressions and influences of Christianity and Christian peoples,” Smith said. “This will add to our related programs, including the Jewish studies minor and the Middle East studies concentration, which facilitate study of the role and history of other religions.”
Associated with the new minor is a Distinguished Speaker Series, which will bring six renowned scholars to campus each year to speak on topics related to the impact of Christianity on society and society on Christianity.
Speakers for 2005-06 will address topics including the complex relationship between religion and science, connections between U.S. evangelicals and global politics and ways European Christianity differs from Christianity in the United States. All speeches will be free and open to the public.
In addition to Smith, who led the first comprehensive study of the influence of religion on youth in the United States, the curriculum draws on the strengths of UNC faculty in many disciplines, including: