Abilene Christian University
College of Biblical Studies
Christianity in Culture (Honors)
Spring 2010—CBS 129
Class Times: MWF 1:00-1:50 P.M.
I. Personal Stuff
Dr. Vic McCracken Phone (office): (325) 674-3718
Office: CBS building, Room 237 (home): (325) 672-1476
Office Hours: MW, 8:00-10:00 A.M. email@example.com
M, 2:00-4:00 P.M.
(note: if I’m not in my office during office hours, check the Honors College Suite).
II. University Mission
The mission of ACU is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. The mission of the Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry is to provide biblical training, Christian spiritual formation, and a Christian worldview for every student in the university.
III. Course Description
This course is a sophomore-level course that examines the relationship between Christian faith and culture, advancing a positive Christian engagement of culture as public theology. Students will be introduced to a basic structure of theological reflection and will practice theological discernment by engaging a variety of popular media, especially: music, cinema, radio, and literature. Incorporating classroom discussion, videos, podcasting, shared blogging, and some lecture this class intends both to complicate and to clarify students’ vision of Christian faith and contemporary culture. Students will leave
this course with the ability to reflect theologically on how popular culture at varying points challenges, distorts, affirms, and/or corresponds to the Christian story of God’s work in Jesus Christ.
IV. Textbooks and Class Resources
ndRobert. K. Johnston, Reel Spirituality, 2 edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).
Yann Martel, Life of Pi (New York: Harcourt Books, 2001)
This American Life (PRI radio show, available as a free download on ITunes)
Course Readings (Posted online)
V. Competencies and Measures
1. Christianity in Culture Blog/Discussion 1. Students will develop a positive theology of 2. TAL Radio Show Podcast culture which exhibits an appreciation of the 3. Movie Review Paper complex relationship between faith and culture.
1. TAL Radio Show Podcast 2. Honors students will demonstrate the ability to 2. My Music, Myself, My Faith audio blog think theologically (Honors outcome 1.h.) 3. Movie Review Paper
1. Reading Quizzes 3. Honors students will know how the arts and 2. Christianity in Culture Blog/Discussion popular culture reveal a society (Honors 3. Life of Pi response paper outcome 2.c.) 4. My Music, Myself, My Faith audio blog
1. My Music, Myself, My Faith audio blog 4. Honors students will know how their own 2. Christianity in Culture Blog/Discussion temperament, heritage, and experience shape
their perceptions and values (Honors outcome
1. Final Exam 5. Students will be able to compare and assess 2. Reading Quizzes five models of Christian cultural engagement.
VI. Course Requirements
1. Reading/Listening Quizzes (100 points)
Students will take weekly quizzes over the assigned course readings and podcast segments. Students will take a total of 12 quizzes, with the 2 lowest quiz scores dropped from the overall grade.
2. Christianity and Culture Blog and Class Discussion (50 points)
This semester each student will be responsible for submitting one 500-700 word entry on our class blog that responds to the weekly This American Life podcast. The critical response should include a
brief summary of the weekly show, a personal reaction to one or more of the podcast segments, and at least two critical questions that probe what the radio show reveals about contemporary religious faith and/or American culture. Students should reflect critically both on the content of the podcast and on the sources that inform their reaction to it (personal experiences, cultural background, etc.). Students will be expected to draw from models of theological reflection explored in the course, allowing this material to become a seedbed for personal responses to the radio show. Students who submit blog entries will be responsible for leading our class discussion of the weekly podcast during each Friday’s
class. Blog entries must be posted by Thursday at noon on the week that they are assigned. All students are responsible for reading their peer’s submissions before each Friday’s class.
3. Life of Pi Book Club (50 points)
Students will read the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel and write a 4-5 page essay which engages a
major theme from the story. They essay should reflect upon the experience of reading a work of fiction. Dr. McCracken will provide some prompts that students may respond to in their paper. A hard copy of the essay is due in class on Friday, February 26.
4. My Music, Myself, My Culture, My Faith Podcast (50 points)
Students will prepare a 5-7 minute audio podcast which explores a favorite contemporary song through the lens of their primary theological world. Students will identify ways that the song appropriates this world’s vision of obsessio and epiphania and will describe how Christian faith
informs their own experience listening to the song. The audio podcasts will be posted for peer feedback and must be posted by midnight on Friday, March 12.
5. This American Life radio show project (100 points)
This semester our class will be creating our own This American Life radio podcast. During the first
week of the semester students will brainstorm possible topics for the show. The class will select a project idea relevant to the topic of Christian faith and American culture. Students will be assigned to small groups of 4-6 students, with each group responsible for creating and editing one act in our multi-act podcast. Student groups will be evaluated for their respective contributions, with student peer evaluations figuring as 1/3 of the individual grade that each student receives. During the last week of the semester our class will have a podcast listening party and will discuss our collaboration. All groups are responsible for submitting their final edited segment no later than noon on Friday, April 16.
6. Movie Review paper (50 points)
Out class will be spending much of our time thinking about how Christian faith informs the way that Christians engage popular culture. Students will write a 3-4 page review of a film of their choice that will be posted for public reading on the class blog. In the review, students are responsible for reflecting on the experience of viewing the film as well as of critically assessing the film’s merits as cinematic art. The review should explicitly draw from one or more of the Christ and culture models, offering a theological critique of the film. Movie reviews must be posted on the class blog no later than Friday, April 23.
7. Final Exam (100 points)
The final exam is comprehensive and will include questions pertaining to material covered in the course readings and class lectures. The professor will make available powerpoint slides on blackboard that cover the materials pertinent to the final exam.
VII. Grading and Class Policies
As noted above, course assignments are weighted as follows:
; Reading/Listening Quizzes 100 Points
; Christianity and Culture Blog 50 Points
; My Music, My Culture podcast 50 Points
; Group Project 100 Points
; Movie Review Paper 50 Points
; Life of Pi Book Club Paper 50 Points
; Final Exam 100 Points
500 Points (Total)
At the end of the semester, I will tabulate points and assign grades according to the following rubric (note: I use the same rubric in evaluating individual assignments):
Excellent in all or nearly all aspects. Flawless knowledge, deep comprehension, 100-90% A critical analysis and evaluation, creative synthesis, and mature application. Full test outstanding answers reflect the breadth of pertinent material to which student has been exposed and nuanced reliance on primary materials Creatively relates material to other areas of knowledge and practice, exhibiting a high level of interdisciplinary skill.
Good in most aspects, though not marked by superiority throughout. Accurate 89-80% B knowledge and good comprehension, exhibiting analysis and evaluation, good good synthesis with perhaps the beginnings of application. Good but partial test answers, reflecting comprehension of the most crucial components of pertinent material, with
good comprehension and regular reference to primary sources. Where appropriate, makes realistic application, showing some interdisciplinary sensitivity.
Competent in most aspects with some occasional lapses, mostly relating to knowledge and comprehension. Somewhat deficient test answers, reflecting 79-70% C awareness of only one or two of the most crucial components of the material and decent scarcely nuanced by reference to sources. Applications are fairly reasonable, but do not have much interdisciplinary creativity or their appropriateness is questionable.
Shows some effort, but most areas are so marred by technical problems or flaws in
thinking or development that the work cannot be considered competent. 69-60% D Applications are unrealistic and severely underdeveloped. Test answers provide inadequate little information, make major mistakes, and exhibit little or no developed thought.
Shows little or no effort, with substantial lapses that reveal lack of comprehension,
<60% F illogical thinking, or an utter disregard for the course requirements. No attempts
made to engage course materials in a meaningful way. Test answers are illegible or failing incoherent and exhibit no thoughtful exposition.
Some important policies to keep in mind:
1. Attendance is expected at every class period. In the event of an emergency causing you to be
away, you are responsible for the materials covered in class.
2. Excused absences are those caused by a university-sponsored activity, medical emergency or
family tragedy. If you are absent due to a university-sponsored event, you should provide a
suitable explanation in advance, which must be approved by me. Illness must be verified on the
day that you return to class.
3. Concerning unexcused absences, you are allowed (but not encouraged to use) up to three
unexcused absences this semester without penalty. For every unexcused absence beyond the third
your final course grade will be decreased by 1/3 of a letter grade. Class will begin promptly at
the scheduled time. Three tardies equal one unexcused absence.
4. All assignments must be turned in by the date indicated in the course calendar. Late assignments
will lose 1/3 of a letter grade for every day beyond the due date. Assignments turned in later than
1 week past the due date will not be accepted.
5. Academic honesty is taken for granted at Abilene Christian University. Cheating on an exam and plagiarism (i.e., submitting the work of another person as one’s own) are practices incompatible with higher education, especially at a Christian university and may result in dismissal from the course with a failing grade and a recommendation of discipline to the university administration. ACU’s full academic integrity policy is available for review at the Provost office website (www.acu.edu/campusoffices/provost ) and the following offices: provost, college deans, dean of
campus life, director of student judicial affairs, director of residential life education, and all academic departments. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to:
a. Taking from another’s work without their permission. This includes classmates and
published works (whether in print or electronic form). In papers you must document all
sources used, even if you do not quote from the works.
b. The submission of a paper taken from the web.
6. Students with special needs of any kind should address these with me as soon as possible. If you have a diagnoses disability you need to contact Alpha Academic Services (674-2750) before or immediately after your first scheduled class meeting. After your disability has been verified your instructor will work with you and Alpha Academic Services to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that you have a fair opportunity to perform in the course.
7. The ACU Writing Center, located in the Learning Commons of the Brown Library, welcomes all students who would like assistance with their writing. The Center’s trained and experienced tutors will provide feedback for any writing assignment at any stage of the writing process—from
planning and drafting to formatting and editing. Services are free. You can call 674-4833 for more information.
8. I permit food and drinks in my classroom as long as they do not become distractions. You are welcome to bring cell phones and IPods to class, but they need to remain off unless otherwise instructed. Laptops are permitted as well, but you are not permitted to use them for activities that distract you from involvement in the class (i.e. no IMing, facebook, games, surfing, or emailing unless otherwise instructed).
XIII. Course Calendar
DATE TOPIC ASSIGNMENT
January 11, Monday Course Introduction January 13, Wednesday Christian Faith and Popular Culture January 15, Friday TAL Discussion January 18, Monday MLK Holiday (No class) No class January 20, Wednesday Theological Worlds (inventory completed in class) January 22, Friday Life of Pi/TAL Discussion Life of Pi, 1-93 January 25, Monday Theological Worlds (continued) January 27, Wednesday Theological Worlds and Popular Culture January 29, Friday Life of Pi/TAL Discussion Life of Pi, 97-199 February 1, Monday Theological Worlds and Popular Culture (cont.) February 3, Wednesday Theological Worlds and Popular Culture (cont.) February 5, Friday Life of Pi/TAL Discussion Life of Pi, 199-conclusion February 8, Monday In-class Film: The Fall February 10, Wednesday The Fall (cont.) February 12, Friday The Fall (conclude)/TAL Discussion Reel Spirituality, 25-54 February 15. Monday Faith and Film—class discussion February 17, Wednesday Christ and Culture—5 Models Reel Spirituality, 55-86 February 19, Friday TAL Discussion February 22, Monday Christ and Culture—Christ Against Culture Reel Spirituality, 87-116 February 24, Wednesday Christ and Culture—Christ Against Culture February 26, Friday TAL Discussion Pi paper due March 1, Monday Christ and Culture—Christ of Culture Reel Spirituality, 117-134 March 3, Wednesday Christ and Culture—Christ of Culture March 5, Friday TAL Discussion March 8, Monday Christ and Culture—Christ Above Culture Reel Spirituality, 135-184 March 10, Wednesday Christ and Culture—Christ Above Culture March 12, Friday TAL Discussion My Music, Myself podcasts due March 15, Monday Spring Break (No Class) No class
March 17, Wednesday Spring Break (No Class) No class March 19, Friday Spring Break (No Class) No class March 22, Monday Christ and Culture—Christ and Culture in Paradox Reel Spirituality, 185-216 March 24, Wednesday Christ and Culture—Christ and Culture in Paradox
March 26, Friday TAL Discussion
March 29, Monday Christ and Culture—Christ Transforming Culture
March 31, Wednesday The ethics of film viewing—Christians at the movies Reel Spirituality, 217-238 April 2, Friday Easter Holiday (No class)
April 5, Monday In-class Film: TBD
April 7, Wednesday In-class Film: TBD
April 9, Friday TAL Discussion Reel Spirituality, 239-266 April 12, Monday “Reading Film” through Christian Eyes
April 14, Wednesday Podcast work day
April 16, Friday TAL Discussion TAL class podcast—all segments due April 19, Monday “Reading Film” (cont.) Reel Spirituality, 267-conclusion April 21, Wednesday “Reading Film” (cont.)
April 23, Friday TAL Discussion Movie Review Papers due April 26, Monday Podcast Listening Party
April 28, Wednesday Open Forum
April 30, Friday Course Wrapup
May 6, Thursday Final Exam: 8:00-9:45 A.M.