Dr. Tim Hall, Executive Director
For students to fully participate in civic life, they must understand the diversity and complexity of religious beliefs and traditions. To gain this understanding, educators should use the lived religion model. This approach, advocated by Henry Goldschmidt of Interfaith Center of New York, takes religion out of “the rarified realm of doctrine and text and places it instead within the give-and-take of a multicultural public sphere.” (1)
To put lived religion into practice, teachers need to use a constitutionally sound and accessible framework. Benjamin Marcus of the Religious Freedom Center Freedom Forum Institute provides this framework in Chapter 1 of Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom. Using this six-point framework, teachers can successfully integrate lived religion model that avoids the generalizations and oversimplifications of the old religious traditions-based model.
To begin, points one through three of the six-point framework originate from the cultural studies approach to religion advocated by Diane Moore of the Harvard Divinity School Religion and Public Life. These framework points are also embedded in the text, Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the U.S., published by the American Academy of Religion. A Harvard Divinity School (HarvardX) video detailing this methodology is an excellent resource for conveying this approach. The points are as follows:
- Point One: Religions are diverse and not internally homogenous.
- Point Two: Religions are dynamic and changing, not static and fixed.
- Point Three: Religions are embedded in the culture, not isolated from them. (2)
Next, points four through six are based on the 3Bs developed by Ben Marcus of The Freedom Forum. For those unfamiliar with the 3Bs, they are behavior, belief, and belonging. If an educator can convey the complexity of this interchange of beliefs, behaviors, and belonging, students will have insight into the uniqueness of religious identities. The points from the 3Bs are as follows:
- Point Four: Religious beliefs (theology and doctrine) affect people’s lives in various ways in daily life.
- Point Five: Behaviors (rites, rituals, habits, and practices) affect belief and belonging to religious communities.
- Point Six: Belonging (communities of co-religionists) affects a person’s behaviors and beliefs. (3)
When the cultural studies method for study religion is combined with the 3Bs, it becomes a powerful and inclusive tool of the lived religion model that is the six-point framework. This framework allows teachers to develop constitutionally sound lessons that uncover “lived religions” and their importance to local, national, and global cultures. This tool is extremely valuable in having students develop a deeper understanding of religious literacy, diversity, and higher levels of global competence.
I have created a simple graphic organizer for the classroom based on the six-point framework. Students can complete the organizer while reading the graphic novel Ms. Marvel: No Normal or watching portions of the new Disney TV series Ms. Marvel to help build a fuller understanding of Islam (see trailers below). The graphic organizer aligns with standards from the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework: Religious Studies Companion Document (D2.Rel.2.9-12, D2.Rel.3.9-12, D2.Rel.4.9-12, D2.Rel.5.9-12, D2.Rel.6.9-12, D2.Rel.7.9-12, D2.Rel.8.9-12, and D2.Rel.9.9-12) making it very fun, appropriate and applicable classroom lesson.
(1) Henry Goldschmidt, “Chapter 7: Teaching Lived Religion Through Literature: Classroom Strategies for Community-Based Learning” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.
(2) American Academy of Religion, Guidelines for Teaching about Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the U.S. published by the American Academy of Religion.
(3) Benjamin Marcus, “Chapter 1: Teaching About Religion in Public Schools,” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.