By Dr. Tiffany M. Blackmon
Professor of Anthropology and Religion, American Public University
One of my favorite aspects about the start of a new course at American Public University is learning the reasons why students have signed up for a particular class. More and more, I find that students seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Religion want to further a career in local churches, temples, mosques and other religious organizations.
The diversity of our student body is part of the reason why our classroom forum discussions are so rich and engaging, especially in the religion discipline. As an example, during a recent world religions course, I taught:
- A volunteer working in her church’s visitation and bereavement ministry.
- A student who had taken theology and apologetics courses at another university before coming to American Public University’s B.A. in Religion program.
- An Army chaplain serving in Afghanistan.
They learned with classmates from various denominations representing several world religions and also non-religious students. The three students who were actively working in the ministry, or soon hoped to, all had one thing in common. They all believed that at their core, all of the world’s major religions shared the same basic messages and goals. These students all mentioned that they felt a calling to seek a degree in religion in order to pursue or further their faith-based career paths and personal interests.
Students in our religion program frequently share with the class their personal experiences with organized religious groups. Many students indicated that they have a spouse with a religious calling to be a pastor with whom they want to better understand. Many religion degree-seekers are trying to develop a broader understanding of religion as a whole and what role it provides for people and society. They ultimately want to know how to use their education to serve others upon completing their religion degree.
While one certainly does not need to be in pursuit of a job in ministry in order to seek a degree in religion, it is true that many of our students feel that they have been called on to further their academic education in order to share their own personal religious knowledge with others.
About the Author:
Dr. Tiffany M. Blackmon has been teaching anthropology, sociology, religion, and philosophy classes for APUS since 2002. Dr. Blackmon also teaches anthropology courses at Northern Virginia Community College. Dr. Blackmon’s first book, “The Ashram Next Door Alternative Religion and Community Acceptance in Rural Pennsylvania” was published in summer 2009.
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