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Santa Clara University
Religious Studies Department, SCU
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  Course Description

This course explores the political impact of empires on the composition of biblical texts and on their subsequent interpretation. It analyzes the ways that imperial interests are both embedded in and critiqued by biblical texts. It then turns to the way the Bible was deployed in European and American imperial adventures of the 15th–21st centuries. In colonial contexts, the Bible was used as both a mechanism of dominion and a resource for resistance to the unjust excesses of empire. This ambivalent legacy endures in our world today, because even in countries that have achieved independence the old colonial dynamics persist.

How do indigenous Christians in India, in Botswana, in El Salvador, in Australia interpret a book that has been used to justify their oppression? Why would they even read it? How do women in these circumstances cope with being doubly colonized, disabled both by their national origins (and race, ethnicity) and also by their own (subjugated) men? How and why have politicians in our own country deployed biblical mythology to legitimate current military and diplomatic policy? And have western biblical scholars unconsciously served the colonial enterprise by pursuing the “historical” meaning of texts and marginalizing readings that are too political and impassioned? If you’re interested in questions like this, if you’ve traveled abroad and want to reflect on your experience, if you are a Christian and want to expand your awareness of how global Christians from very different circumstances view the tradition, if you’re a poli sci major and want a religious studies course that explores the engagement of religious practices and political beliefs, this class is for you.
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