There are many things about this class that I found extremely interesting, but I think that the examination of Christianity’s history was probably one of the most important and surprising things that I learned about in the class. Our first look into Judaism, for instance, was extremely interesting to me, because it opened my eyes to the fact that religion is not necessarily completely separated from the culture that surrounds it. In fact, religion is shaped by culture just as much as culture is shaped by religion; the readings we had examining how the Torah was, in many ways, a reflection of the struggles of the Jewish people was extremely enlightening in my understanding of the relationship between religion and the culture in which it is a part of. Taking that into account, examining the effects community and culture had on Christianity and on the interpretations of Jesus’ teachings was an extremely important aspect of the class. For example, the fact that the Gospels were not necessarily written by the disciples, but by communities with their own agendas was effective in that it provided me with a better insight of the purposes of the Gospels; they were not just written for Christians as a whole, they were written for a specific community with specific needs, and by understanding that, I believe that I attained a better grasp on what the messages behind each Gospel. The insight we gained on the relationship Christianity had with the cultures that surrounded it during its early days was also very important to me; learning how Christianity effectively adapted and adopted various aspects of different religions and cultures in order to survive and flourish in an environment where it was initially unwelcomed was probably one of the most fascinating aspects of the class; learning about how much of the philosophy surrounding Christian theology was inspired by the Greek Hellenistic movement was interesting, as was learning how much of the military aspects of Christianity was adopted from Roman culture. Going off of that, learning the relationship between Roman culture and Christianity, and the how Constantine’s reign helped mold a significant portion of Christianity was definitely helpful in understanding the influences each left on the other; understanding Constantine’s influence on Christianity was extremely helpful in examining how Christianity has evolved and survived throughout the centuries. Christianity, it seems, is a religion that was born out of change, is defined by change, and will continually change as time goes on, as much as people would like to think otherwise. This is seen even in recent history, with events such as Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses, which introduced a more personal and individual interpretation of the Bible, and the expansion of America, which brought forth the ideas of feminine and muscular Christianity. Overall, recognizing Christianity’s influential nature, as well as its ability to be influence, is even seen in present day. The media projects we had towards the end of the semester were especially intriguing to me, because they helped reveal just how much of a Christo-centric nation we still are. At the same time, they helped reveal the relationship between pop culture and religion, and how they are not as separate as much as we would like to think they are. Pop culture is still very much influenced by religious aspects, whether they be positive or negative; at the same time, present day culture does very much influence religion as well. Considering how many churches have gone on to be more progressive is an example of this. Overall, I think this class really benefitted me in understanding the adaptable and adoptable nature of religion, particularly Christianity, and how religion and culture continually influence each other in various ways.
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