Although TCU is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and requires students to take a religion course, students are not required to study Christianity.
“(The religion requirement) is part of a recognition that a person with a college education ought to be acquainted with the role that religion plays in life and culture,” said David Grant, professor and chair of religion.
Grant said there is a diversity of religion among faculty, and courses are taught from an academic standpoint.
“The religion department is an academic department so we are interested in studying the variety of religions from the perspective of trying to see what they are about and what people do within them,” Grant said. “We are not an advocacy group that advocates any particular religion.”
Grant said there are three ways to take an introductory religion course at TCU.
One course focuses on world religions and different religious communities. Another, called Texts and Ideas, aims to study the main text of a particular religious tradition or group.
“The third version looks at society and culture and how one can talk and learn about what religion is by looking at the roles that religion has played in human societies and cultures,” Grant said.
Grant said the academic approach to teaching religion sometimes surprises students who had previously studied their religion within their religious communities.
“Students who are Christian come who have done Bible studies within their religious communities, and are sometimes surprised because we’re asking a very different kind of question,” Grant said.
“We’re asking the question ‘What can we learn about the nature of religion in ancient Israel and early Christianity by looking at this text?'” Grant said. “Within a religious community there is a different question that’s asked. Because when in a Christian community one is studying scripture, one is asking ‘What is God trying to say to me in this text?'”
Shani Zanescu, a sophomore communication studies major from Fort Worth who is Jewish, said she is currently taking a text-based course about the Bible and said she is happy she decided to take the class because she has learned new details about both Christianity and Judaism.
Adam Gamwell, program coordinator for the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and a TCU alumnus, said he wished he had taken a world religion course as a freshman, but said he learned a lot from his “Understanding the Bible” course.
Gamwell said he recommends students take any religion course that sounds interesting to them.
A list of available religion courses can be found on the TCU course catalogue on my.tcu.edu, or through a link on the religion department Web site, www.rel.tcu.edu.