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marXian

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About marXian

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    Mocha

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    Male
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    United States
  • Interests
    Early 20th century ecclesiology, Marxism, social theory, critical theory, Weber, Troeltsch, political theology, theory and method in religious studies
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    Religious Studies

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  1. As you allude to in your post, the big difference is that as an undergrad, the age range of the vast majority of the people you're around is limited to 18-22 with very few exceptions. In div school/seminary and really grad school in general, that changes. You're going to meet some people who are your age and some who are 5, 10, 15+ years older than you. But that doesn't mean that you won't be able to establish friendships with those people. If you share common academic interests, you'll have something to talk about. In general, many people are amenable to drinking socially. I wouldn't worry about whether you'll find people in exactly your situation. Some of my favorite people from my first two MA programs were a bit older than me. I hung out a few times with a dude in his 60s when I was in seminary. You just meet people through coursework, study groups, group projects, etc. But regardless of age, most people are also in a different mindset in grad school. The work is more challenging, some students have aspirations of PhD work, etc. so the interest in drinking is, in my experience, rarely about "partying" in the undergrad sense (though maybe sometimes....) Doesn't mean you can't find those people at a large div school, but that isn't the culture of any grad program generally.
  2. I used a paper from a PhD seminar I took in seminary for the expressed purpose of generating a writing sample for apps (which the prof knew.) That prof gave me some suggestions for edits, things to expand, better defend, etc. The paper was 16 pages not including the works cited page (I'd include one.) I don't think they'll care if it's a shorter paper--they just want to see polished writing and significant promise for future work. Regarding your last dilemma, I'd say definitely submit your best paper as long as it's in the general realm of your field. That is, you're interested in historical theology, so if you think your best paper is an exegetical paper on the Hebrew text of Isaiah, that's probably not a good paper to submit. I'd submit what you think is your best paper in historical theology.
  3. I'll third the previous answers: it's not necessary. Sending out emails to prospective advisors is plenty, but even that doesn't really provide any significant advantage I don't think. I did meet one prospective advisor in person, but the university was very local to where I was living during my app season. I ended up being accepted there, but I was also accepted and ultimately ended up attending a program where I'd had no contact at all with my POI. Whatever money you'd end up spending on travel would be much better spent revising/editing your SOP and writing sample with a professional. But even that probably isn't necessary.
  4. I won't speak for Body Politics, but from my perspective contemporary uses of "science of religion" often refer to an approach to the subject matter that understands it as necessarily wholly reducible to natural scientific explanation--and that all other explanations are either functions of a natural scientific one or are simply epiphenomenal (i.e. not real.) It's a silly position, frankly, because clearly there are good scholarly reasons to want to understand what a religious adherent believes without those reasons committing one to the confessional claims of the adherent--because those reasons extend beyond the claims of the adherent. The classic example, in my view, is Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Some contemporary examples: The Invention of Religion in Japan, Jason Josephson-Storm; Dreams That Matter, Amira Mittermaier.
  5. 100% with you. Yes, but even the German universities tend to mean natural science these days when used in conjunction with the study of religion.
  6. To combine both sacklunch's and theophany's advice a little bit: How one responds to the first year of a PhD program is absolutely dependent upon both the program and your own constitution as an academic. sacklunch rightly points out that some people are totally fine to keep plugging along at the same pace and, importantly, that things change once you're in a PhD program. So, to echo theophany a bit, one shouldn't feel bad for not being the kind of person who can keep up that same pace--primarily because it really doesn't matter. I began my first year thinking I had to attend as many on campus talks/lectures as I could, join as many reading groups as I could, read as much secondary material, read everything in German, etc., etc. But I was also newly married--just 4 week--before moving 2,000 miles across the country to a brand new city, no family around, just me and my wife, to begin my program. So doing all of those things was not sustainable, and I realized that very quickly. But I also worried a lot about possibly sacrificing things that were going to be helpful to me (a worthy sacrifice, no doubt, but one not everyone in academia understands unfortunately.) Now at the end of my fifth year, I can say with great confidence that those things didn't matter in the long run. They didn't necessarily help me get the grades I got in my seminars (also mostly meaningless IMO) and have contributed only in the most indirect way to my dissertation. The papers I've given at AAR and other national conferences and opportunities I've had to publish are what have opened professional doors for me, and those opened without sustaining the insane schedule I made for myself in my first quarter. That's not to say the same schedule would be insane for everyone--some people would probably thrive with it. But what a feeling of freedom I had the day that I looked around at the work habits of everyone else and said "Nope, that's not how I do it, and I'm not going to feel bad about it." What Fear N' Trembling has suggested is great if you're in a M* program because you really are hustling to get noticed, get letters, etc. You can definitely relax a bit once you're in a PhD program because the important things are not the same as they were as a M* student.
  7. As @theophany rightly says, so much depends on the institution, department, and your advisor, particularly in the US. I would also say that I'm not sure whether American or UK schools are more or less accepting--they're accepting in different ways. The UK and European RS programs are much more closely affiliated with the IAHR (International Association of the History of Religions) which is a "purely scientific" organization that insists on an extremely stark distinction between "the study of religion" and "theology." The AAR is not part of the IAHR--rather NAASR (North American Association for the Study of Religion) is the American branch of the IAHR. NAASR is extremely small compared to the AAR and seen by many in the AAR as a very small subset of loud voices who insist on a very stark distinction between "the science of religion" and "confessional" approaches. The latter often includes not just theology but philosophy of religion and sometimes even cultural studies and continental philosophy more generally. In general, you don't see these kinds of clashes between "theology" and "religious studies" in the UK and Europe because those are (almost) always two distinct departments within universities with no crossover. "Religious studies" is always social/natural scientific whereas theology includes philosophy of religion, cultural studies, etc. That's not the case in the US. There are departments that lean more toward the social/natural scientific and there are those which are friendly to theology, though to clarify theophany's list--Duke Div is obviously friendly to theology, but Duke University's religious studies department is not. Other schools with RS departments friendly to theology/philosophy of religion: UCSB, Northwestern, Syracuse, Stanford. Of course, just how "confessional" one can be will vary as theophany says. Chances are that in any RS department within a "secular" university in the US, a purely constructive, confessional project is likely not going to be possible.
  8. From my perspective, and knowing the little bit I do about the divide between theology and religious studies which is actually much starker I think in the UK and Europe more generally than in the US, "theology" likely means an approach which presumes from the outset certain confessional "givens" such as the existence of God tout court--givens that would not at all be assumed in an historical or social scientific approach. Typically, one is making a constructive argument either toward the improved articulation of a theological concept/argument or the improved understanding of an historical figure and his/her articulation of a theological concept/argument (though I'd probably call the latter historical-theological--there's certainly more grey area than these distinctions imply.) Textual-interpretive I take to probably mean philological. I.e., what is Text X actually saying or how was it most likely received in time period Y.
  9. @Lysdexia A few thoughts: 1) It really depends on what your subfield is since RS covers an incredibly broad range of fields. For people doing language heavy work (e.g. NT/HB, ANE, or ancient Mediterranean stuff) two summers of language coursework probably won't cut it. Many people in top programs in those fields have years and years of language work, which usually requires two masters degrees. 2) You can't judge the present by what current professors have, how easy it was for them to get into programs and get jobs, etc. It's just astronomically more competitive now than it was when many professors were applying to grad school and going on the job market. 3) For some subfields in RS, interdisciplinarity is really exciting for PhD admission. E.g. if you're looking to do philosophy of religion/ethics/theology in an RS program, being able to draw on "cultural studies" broadly speaking (whose theoretical texts are often conversant with literature, history, anthro, philosophy, etc.) is highly attractive. That's becoming a much more common source of theoretical material in RS, so it's not necessary to have an MA in comp lit, for example, but it would certainly demonstrate you know what you're talking about if you're proposing a project that includes something about literature and/or literary theory. 4) A caveat to the above point: Interdisciplinary training is intriguing to RS adcoms because they'd like to think that there's something cutting edge about those students that will add interesting dimensions to their department. Sometimes that's definitely the case, but the job market does not reflect this interdisciplinarity. People who write tight, focused dissertations that make a very strong argument about a very particular thing get hired in response to job postings that are far more often than not written looking for a very particular kind of expertise. Some are so narrow as to be utterly ridiculous. Interdisciplinarity is a good thing, I think, to have in one's back pocket, once a job of some kind is secured because you have more knowledge to draw on for creating courses and making them interesting to undergrads. But for getting a job in the first place, it can be a hindrance. 5) I have colleagues in my cohort who came in without any masters degree at all. They did just fine in the program and we'll all likely be finishing our dissertations around the same time next spring. Some people are just smarter than others and require less training. Some people know what their interests are from nearly the beginning of their BA and can develop those to maturity without the aid of an MA. I don't have any problem admitting that, for me, I felt I needed two MAs to really get a handle on my interests and fill knowledge gaps that I didn't fill when I was an undergrad. I was in a pop punk band trying to get famous for the majority of my undergrad with the plan of being a high school English teacher if "rock star" didn't work out. I didn't give a shit about school until my senior year when a couple English professors I had each took time to show me that there was something special about my writing ability. Then I started to care school. But I didn't know anything about grad school, PhD programs, etc. I didn't know I wanted to do a PhD until halfway through my first MA. And even then, I realized it probably wasn't going to be in English, my original discipline. Because I have about four times more graduate coursework than my cohort colleagues, I have much more material to draw on for generating courses. And I suppose in some ways my previous MAs have helped to indirectly shape the direction of my dissertation and the way I think about my source material. But at the end of the day, they are just as capable as I am to actually complete the dissertation and finish the program, because our dissertations are so narrowly focused that all of that extra course knowledge could never find its way in directly to my dissertation. Everything else my extra grad work adds are "intangibles" (my particular writing style, my creativity in conference proposals or course design, etc.) All of that to say: two MAs is by no means necessary, particularly if one's interests are theology, philosophy of religion, ethics, American religious history, etc.--subfields that don't require substantial language training.
  10. Yes, 4 for sure is really hot right now. To add to 3 and combine a bit with 4, I'd say that the category of "whiteness" is something that is just beginning to be theorized in religious studies particularly in relation to home mission, colonialism, empire, etc. More broadly in RS, affect is still relatively prominent and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future I think (e.g. Donovan Schaeffer's Religious Affects) The role of "genealogy" in religious studies theory & method is also, I think, coming into question. There was a fantastic panel at the AAR last year on genealogy that was intended to ask what is in need of a genealogy but in many ways, particularly during the Q&A the whole project of genealogy in RS was called into question. Though there is a very, very small minority of people in my subfield (phil of religion/theology in the context of "secular" religious studies), those who are have been interested in the kinds of spaces that are generated by the genealogical dismantling of the category "religion." For example, you have "critical religion" folks (Craig Martin, Russell McCutcheon, etc.) who contend that the natural sciences "fill the void" so to speak once the concept "religion" is shown to be not a real "thing" out in the world. This conclusion, of course, raises interesting problems wrt genealogy, since Nietzsche or Foucault would have never accepted such a conclusion. So people in my subfield are interested in showing how engagement with theology or any metaphysical claims in general for that matter (often referred to as "crypto-theology") doesn't entail a commitment to the discipline's problematic past (e.g. Eliade and "phenomenology of religion"). Recent examples: Kevin Schillbrack's Philosophy and the Study of Religions: A Manifesto and Thomas A. Lewis' Why Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion--And Vice Versa. There have also been some really great editorials in this vein over the last two years in the journal Critical Research on Religion, the editors of which are advocates for a position called "critical theory of religion" which is a critique of "critical religion."
  11. I'm currently in a PhD program working on continental philosophy (post-Kantian), historical theology, and social theory, and I had two master's degrees (English followed by MA in theology from a seminary) before beginning my program. I think sacklunch is right that many people in top tier programs have two master's degrees. However, many of those people who have two or more seminary degrees are doing language intensive work (like sacklunch). They earn multiple seminary/div school degrees in order to milk as much language training as possible because that's what gets people admitted to top NT/HB/ANE tracks. But if you're more interested in philosophy/theology, one degree in theology is plenty--but one MA/MTS overall may not be enough. As theophany said, moving from a specialized degree to a generalist degree is going to raise eyebrows. But beyond that, you're just not going to find an MDiv helpful if you want to do rigorous philosophy/historical theology because you're going to be bogged down in requirements that are totally superfluous to your goals. Since you have a BA in philosophy and biblical studies (double major or two BAs?), applying to philosophy PhD programs won't hurt (though if you went to a Christian school, that could hurt your chances for getting in unfortunately.) But if you're really interested in theology, having an MTS and an MA in philosophy from a respected philosophy program could be a good combination. I know for certain that my MA in English and training in critical theory from that degree helped my chances significantly in the program that I'm in now. The most helpful thing you'll get from a strong, specialized program, like an MA in philosophy, is narrowing down your research interests. E.g. you're interested in both analytic and continental philosophy--for a PhD, you're going to have to choose. In fact philosophy of religion, historical theology, and religious pluralism all constitute three distinct areas of study with different faculty, etc. They're certainly not mutually exclusive, but figuring out a project that combines them in a specific and interesting way is going to take some time and a specialized MA program can help you get the focus and clarity you need to figure out where those things align for a potential project that you could see yourself working on for 5-7 years.
  12. Phd or MA/MTS/MDiv?
  13. Number 1 best practice: Find time for yourself. Seriously, it cannot be overstated. All of us could theoretically read and write 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if our bodies allowed it. First year PhD students often feel like they're not doing enough, not reading enough, not attending enough talks and lectures, not in enough reading groups, not writing enough, not presenting enough, not publishing enough (though this last one is a fair concern for all PhD students if we're talking peer reviewed journal articles.) I'm not saying don't try to publish one book review a term. If you feel that's manageable for you given all other requirements of your program, then go for it.** Most people have no problem figuring out how to fill their days with academic work. It's not hard for us because it's the only thing that we can see ourselves doing professionally, so we're just drawn to doing it. Yes, it's good to practice languages regularly, to read regularly, etc. All of that is definitely important--but I think those are the things that come naturally to us (more or less.) What doesn't come naturally to some of us is finding time to just go see a movie. Get a beer with colleagues and don't talk about your work. Explore your new city. Take a day and just binge watch something on Netflix. It's easy for us to feel guilty about doing these things, but we shouldn't. Honestly, they're healthy, and they'll help you be more productive when you need to be because you're able to take regular breaks without feeling crushed by stress and guilt. Cultivating that early on is really helpful once you no longer have the structure of a course schedule to help manage your time. **Quick note on book reviews: They're great practice for the process of publishing something because they're easy to do relative to publishing a peer reviewed article in a major journal. They give you a small window into the editing process, etc. However, they're not going to help you get a job. Even if you had more than two or three reviews published, you wouldn't load up your CV with book reviews. All that to say, once you get a couple under your belt, you might consider taking a break from them to focus on exams, prospectus, etc.
  14. Right and I certainly didn't mean to diminish your friend's experience or anything. Like I said, if a school isn't part of that resolution, technically anything could happen. I just wanted to clarify because there had been some confusion earlier either on this thread or a different one about whether or not you're allowed to make a school wait before accepting their offer, if that can affect you negatively, etc.
  15. It's not easy to do if the offer includes any financial support and the school is part of this: http://cgsnet.org/ckfinder/userfiles/files/CGSResolution_Jan2017.pdf If a school is part of this resolution, which includes just about every major public and private institution in the country, they can't rescind an offer of financial support under any circumstances before April 15. You'll notice that there aren't any seminaries listed though, so technically Union isn't under any obligation like this. However what you're describing is unlikely to happen. Schools don't tend to rescind offers because they think a student will go elsewhere. They want who they think are the best people to choose their program. So even though seminaries aren't part of this resolution, they still tend to abide by it in practice because they hope that students will choose them and know that students may be deciding between them and a school that is part of the resolution.