Although it has always been the case, now is perhaps the most perfect time in institutional and world history to major or minor in Bible and Religion at Goshen College. Why, you may ask, should you join the ranks of the two outstanding current majors and about a dozen minors, some of whom are second-generation or multi-generational Bible, Religion and Philosophy (BRP) majors and minors at GC? (You can tell who the BRP majors and minors are because they are the kindest, brightest, most compassionate, and best-looking students on campus.)Right now, the world — and our department — is in the midst of a generational shift. Last year, we added Breanna Nickel, a professor educated at GC, Yale, and Notre Dame, and with my retirement, we hope to add a second bright young scholar to the department’s ranks.
Along with Regina Shands Stoltzfus, the department chair, and the help of some of us retired and retiring folks, the department will be adding and expanding courses relevant to the interests and passions of current college students.
Our department has always sought to help students thoughtfully review and reform their own theological, religious and ethical perspectives. Ill-informed faith can do psychic as well as political damage, but authentic faith can be life-giving and world-serving. We hope students develop religious perspectives (and perspectives on religion) that are not rigid or dogmatic, and that they will have respect for other points of view. We hope our majors genuinely become better people — better friends, partners, employees, supervisors, citizens — as a result of their study with us.
BRP has also always worked at helping students read, write and think more clearly; analyze more deeply and prepare themselves for an ever-shifting world. All of these skills are essential for success in any vocation. In addition, Bible and Religion is among the preferred majors for law schools, since students learn to critically analyze texts.
A major or minor in BRP opens doors for master’s and doctoral programs in multiple disciplines, for teaching more broadly in parochial schools, for responding sensitively to diverse employees and constituents in entrepreneurial or other business ventures, for allowing politicians and policymakers to understand the actual religious dimensions of life in this and other cultures, and for serving in leadership roles in local congregations.
Moreover, religion and religious collectivities have been among the principal agents of social stability as well as social change, of progress as well as retrogression, of conflict as well as peace. Regardless of how religious you may be, understanding religious dynamics is essential for understanding individual, social and political life around the world.
With studies in Bible and Religion, you should be able to work alongside others to contribute to resolving the world’s greatest problems — hunger, health care, polarization and intolerance for others, environmental degradation, climate change and growing gaps between the world’s wealthy and poor.
In short, the world needs more Bible and Religion majors and minors, people who have grounded value systems, an ability to think critically and constructively and an appreciation for and understanding of good faith. We hope you’ll join us for your own formation as well as for contributing to world transformation.