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Student Projects

Department of Religious Studies


Students in Religious Studies

Laura Cost

Laura CostReligious Studies classes taken:

  • Imagining the Divine, Dr. Lola Williamson
  • History of Christian Thought, Dr. Steve Smith
  • Intro to Religious Studies, Dr. Darby Ray
  • Meaning of Work, Dr. Darby Ray
  • Modern and Contemporary Theology, Dr. Steve Smith
  • Hinduism: A Textual Approach, Dr. Lola Williamson
  • African American Religion, Dr. Annie Blazer
  • Readings in Hebrew Scriptures, Dr. James Bowley
  • Religion, Peace, & Justice, Dr. Lola Williamson

Religious Studies papers written:

  • Visions of the Crucifixion: Looking at the Nature of Jesus in Art
  • Somaskanda: Representations of the Divine Family in Hindu Art
  • Religious Authority: A Comparison between the Work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
  • Religious Authority: In the Modern World Do Credentials Determine Social Acceptance?
  • "My Sweet Lord": The History, Maturation and Adaptation of the Hare Krishna Movement
  • Conversion in Hinduism
  • Relevance and Scripture in Post-Modernist and Fundamental Theologies
  • The Reality of the Theory of Forms: Plato and the Problem of Universals
  • From Linga to Dancer: A Look at Depictions of Shiva in Hindu Art and the Puranas Texts
  • Devotion to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
  • Saint Augustine's Response to the Problem of Evil
  • The Debate of Mosaic Biblical Authorship

Other Interests: Interreligious/interfaith engagement, community development/outreach, social justice, new religious movements, camping, coffee shops, watching meteor showers, arts outreach, dancing.

Working on an Honors Project proposal exploring the theology, involvement, and response of different religious communities in Jackson, MS during the Civil Rights Movement.

Favorite Books: Anything written by David Sedaris and Jhumpa Lahiri; Wuthering Heights by Bronte; Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky; Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl; The Time Traveler's Wife by Niffenegger; The History of Love by Krauss; Acts of Faith by Patel; Eat, Pray, Love by Gilbert; Ishmael, My Ishmael by Quinn.


Student Projects

Khyati Gupta Honors Project (2005)

Khyati GuptaMy project is a synthesis of religious and cultural understandings of medicine. I analyze the place of alternative medical practices in the prevalent medical systems that are mainly governed by the politics of the market. The idea of treatment - curing and healing - cannot be solely interpreted in terms of physical well-being because spiritual, emotional, social and behavioral aspects are integral parts of concepts of health. Alternative medical practices that build on a religious and cultural understanding of humans promise such a wholesome solution. Using Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, as my model for a dualistic 'scientific' and 'socio-religious' approach, I argue for the importance of the co-existence - not the integration - of biomedicine and alternative medicine.


Matt Marston Honors Project (2004)

Matthew Marston


My project is an exploration and critique of the theology of mission with the central focus on Karl Barth. I see a common error in both evangelical and liberal missiologies and attempt to use Barth to correct the problem.After exploring Barth's theology of mission and using him to address problematic elements in several contemporary missiologists' work, I argue for Barth's lasting value to missiology.


Ricky James Honors Project (2003)

"Looking For Hope Through Stained Glass: Christian Proposals for Economic Change"

Ricky JamesMy project is an attempt to answer the question posed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to the Christian Church: "Are we of any use?" The thesis begins, surprisingly, with a secular source, David Schweickart, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University. In Schweickart I found a kindred spirit haunted by the same visions of rampant poverty, worker dissatisfaction, and an unequal distribution of wealth. I wanted to believe that the church had responses to these same visions. I wanted to believe that the church was still of use to us. I used Schweickart as a secular challenge and starting point and sought to find out how Christian communities offered responses to these challenges. By searching these responses I established my own proposal, taking from these sources those ideas which I most identified with, which seemed to be most successful, and those that could also be compatible with the ideas of people, like David Schweickart, who are working for a more humane society. The proposal, borrowing from the terminology of H. Richard Niebuhr, is called "Christ Ahead of Culture." Its theological claims are that (1) people are equal in dignity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or age, (2) the church must openly confront injustice, (3) basic human rights include life, food, shelter, rest, medical care, and basic education, (4) all persons were created for wealth and no one was predestined for poverty, and (5) work is a powerful tool for humankind and the church has a responsibility to ensure that it is always exercised in a just manner--with capital subordinate to labor. The practical side of the proposal includes the establishment of cooperatives following the example of the Mondragon Cooperatives.


Kenneth Townsend Honors Project (2003)

"Faith-Based Initiatives and the Search for Consensus-Building Dialogue"

Kenny TownsendIn my honors thesis "Faith-Based Initiatives and the Search for Consensus-Building Dialogue," I argue for the creation and promotion of robust methods of consensus building. One of the guiding purposes of my research has been to connect complex theoretical frameworks with practical public policy concerns in order to show how theory can indeed inform practice. By pointing to some of the deliberation surrounding the recent debate on faith-based initiatives, I insist that similar methods can be applied to other contentious political issues. Only by genuinely embracing the viewpoints of all parties can we ensure that we arrive at substantive and meaningful compromise. Since religion in the United States is proving not to be as easily dispensable as many secular narratives would have predicted, our pluralist democracy must be willing to bring religious viewpoints into discussion with secular perspectives. Instead of necessarily stifling attempts at consensus-building, I argue that religion can provide not only the tentativeness needed for us to be willing to listen to other perspectives, but also the sense of passion necessary to make our efforts seem worthwhile. By promoting a recognition of the "spark of the sacred" in every human (a phrase of Dr. Martin Luther King), I argue that religious views of humanity can help the establishment of robust consensus-building practices.