The Power of Prayer ?
In the days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, political leaders urged people around the globe to join their voices in prayer. People across nations came together in meditation, prayer, song, candlelight vigils, and other forms of contemplative activities. The devastation created by hurricane Sandy and the massacre of Sandy Hook Elementary School are among the latest catastrophes in the collective memory of our nation. Most Americans turned to prayer in the midst of these crises, yet prayer seems to touch a tender nerve within academic discourses. This seminar explores these zones of discomfort: Should prayer be dismissed by scholars merely as something personal and intimate? Have institutionalized religions exhausted the power of contemplative practices, such as prayer, to promote more inclusiveness and justice in our society? Can spirituality enhance the liberal arts curriculum beyond the hermeneutics of suspicion that have become synonymous with spirituality and spiritual practices? Can prayer be the focus of serious and intelligent dialogue within academic debates as a site for collective and personal transformation? This seminar will be appeal to students majoring in literature, education, psychology, religion, anthropology, and art, and to any student willing to engage in an in-depth conversation about the controversial power of spirituality to transform lives.