Any formal study of religion or religions must begin with a clear understanding of the subject matter, namely, what religion is. And and yet this task is not as easy as it seems because in any society the meaning of words is not absolute or fixed; it is as fluid as its interpretations and applications.
Although the majority of the population of the world continues to identify themselves with a religion, on the basis of some implicit and unmeasured understandings of religion, especially when it comes to answering polls, over the years religious scholars have struggled with the meaning of the term religion, or even with the essential, common traits that would lead them to classify individuals or groups under that label.
Adopting different points of view and using methodologies of analysis that embody different human experiences, many scholars have concluded that a single, definitive definition of religion is neither possible nor advisable. Since it is a social construct that reflects diversity of perceptions and thoughts, it is up to any person to decide what it means and for others to try to understand these definitions in their corresponding contexts. And yet a work-in-progress definition of religion is possible, necessary, and desirable, at least to name the subject matter and start a conversation that would elicit a wide range of qualifications, exceptions to the rule, and even critiques.
Recognizing that there is no such a thing as value-free, final definition and that, at the same time, religion is something that average people primarily experience or live and hardly ever stop to formally define it, much less to take into account the ideas of others to see where they all coincide, how could we, then, define religion?
Read on at the link.
Very pleased to note that Karen Owen, director of Reinhardt’s Master of Public Administration program, has published a book, Women Officeholders and the Role Models Who Pioneered the Way (Lexington Books, 2016). Buy it at Amazon or at Lexington Books.
From the website:
Recent electoral seasons in American politics demonstrate women’s keen interest, involvement, and influence as candidates and officeholders. Women possess political ambition, albeit in varying degrees, and as such, women seek opportunities to be politically engaged and affect America’s representative institutions. This book analyzes why American women run for political office, and explores how political role models, identified as publicly elected officials and/or those who have served in the political arena, have greatly motivated women to run for higher political office, including seats in the U.S. Congress and state governorships.
Evidence from personal interviews with ten congresswomen and fifty-five female state legislators reveals the ambitious nature of female politicians, the encouragement of political factors in their decisions to advance in politics, and their perceived responsibility to be role models to other women. Moreover, in studying thirty-five years of elections data, I find substantial support for how female political role models influence female state legislators’ candidacies and electoral outcomes to higher office. This work highlights the importance of women as symbolic representatives; female politicians are instrumental in emboldening a new generation of women to engage in politics. Role models in politics indeed have a purpose and an influential nature.
Reinhardt’s most characteristic building has been designated the Burgess Building ever since president J.R. Burgess retired in 1974. This fact was generally unknown, however: the entire time I’ve been at Reinhardt people have simply called it the Administration Building. Here is what it looked like back in 2006:
The plaque to the right of the main doors was the only public acknowledgement of its true name:
This afternoon Reinhardt, in the presence of Burgess’s daughter Martha Burgess Blanton, rededicated the building to President Burgess, and unveiled a new inscription on the entablature:
Portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Burgess were rehung in the main foyer:
If Dr. Burgess is known for anything it is for the planting of many varieties of tree on the Reinhardt campus. The main strand is known as the Burgess Arboretum and is one of the things that makes Reinhardt’s campus so attractive. From the 1960s, here is Burgess’s master plan of all the trees he wanted planted on campus:
The audience heard from Reinhardt’s President Kina Mallard, VP of Advancement Tim Norton, President Emeritus Floyd Falany, Board Chairman Billy Hasty, and History Program member Professor Ken Wheeler, whose remarks are reprinted below, by kind permission of the author.
Brief Remarks on the Importance of James Rowland Burgess, Jr., and Martha Stallings Burgess in the History of Reinhardt University
This place, Reinhardt and Waleska, appears different from how it looked in 1944, when Rowland Burgess came here to visit Reinhardt and consider becoming its president. Oh, the road to Waleska from Canton was made of beautiful concrete, but once a person entered Waleska the car started to slip and slide in the mud and loose dirt of the town—which had no paved streets. And as Rowland Burgess toured the campus, it was not inspiring. Dobbs Hall was closed in need of repair. It had 55 broken window panes, and Burgess said the wooden steps leading into the building were so rickety as to be actually dangerous. Reinhardt housed the elementary school, had a high school, the Reinhardt Academy, with 40 or 50 students, and as for the college, Reinhardt had 16 collegiate students. But Burgess took the job, and he and his wife Martha and their children moved into the president’s home, which is today our Admissions House. Livestock grazed across the street, and the Burgesses walked across the campus, which was covered in old stumps, privet, and invasive honeysuckle. The place needed a lot of work.
The Burgesses knew education. Martha had had two years at a teacher training college in Athens, Georgia, before she married Rowland. And Rowland knew Methodist higher education. He started his undergraduate years at Young Harris College, overseen by two Reinhardt graduates, Joe and Ella Sharp, and Burgess finished his undergraduate years at Emory. Rowland had Christian conviction—a sermon in his youth emphasized that “the harvest is truly great but the laborers are few,” which convinced him that he wished to “labor for the master.” Rather than go into parish ministry, he went into education and became a school superintendent for several years before coming to Reinhardt in his late 30s.
The work was not glamorous. Rowland Burgess ordered blocks of ice for the cafeteria, which had no refrigerator. He personally opened sewer lines that clogged. And while presidents today read The Chronicle of Higher Education, Burgess subscribed to the Guernsey Breeders Journal in an effort to improve the quality of the herd of cattle on the college farm. That farm included crops of cotton, corn, sorghum, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, various vegetables, and of course hay. They had hogs in addition to the cattle. A farm manager kept up with all of it, assisted by students whose job it was to plant, hoe, harvest, milk, bale, and so on. Everything that could be eaten in the cafeteria was eaten there, which kept costs low. But Burgess always had to drive to Atlanta at the end of each year and visit Mr. Dobbs to ask for a check to cover the annual deficit, a check that was usually grudgingly written. Reinhardt College had no endowment; it ran on a shoestring.
Over time, though, the college did well. The end of World War II brought veterans who had the G.I. Bill. One was my old next-door neighbor in Canton, R. J. Chastain. He was a Ball Ground boy who volunteered and wound up as an infantryman in Europe. After the war, Chastain rented an apartment in Canton with some other vets, and they would carpool up to Reinhardt. He had not yet graduated from high school, so he finished his high school diploma here, and then stayed for a couple of quarters of collegiate coursework. He represented a trend, and enrollments grew.
While Rowland presided over Reinhardt, Martha kept taking college courses. She finished her bachelor’s degree, obtained a master’s degree, and by the time the Burgesses retired from Reinhardt in 1973, Martha had taught here for 25 years, retiring as a professor of the behavioral sciences.
These were eventful years. Rowland Burgess had a certain genius for publicity. In 1949, Burgess got a federal grant to hold a “Conservation Field Day” at Reinhardt. The college bought some additional acreage, and in one amazing day tens of thousands of people came to the campus, cleared and improved the new acreage, and enjoyed the highlight, a visit from Harry S. Truman’s vice president, Alben W. Barkley. There are still some old-timers in this area who recall coming to Reinhardt as young people to participate in the biggest “work day” in the school’s history.
These were the years, too, when the Waleskans built an elementary school off the campus, and in the middle 1950s the Academy closed, so that Reinhardt became, for the first time in its existence, a purely collegiate institution. The Burgesses did not miss the high school. Some students had been local, but others boarded here, and many times they came to Reinhardt because they had been kicked out of some school system elsewhere. Rowland Burgess wrote in his memoir that “Years later . . . a lady called to ask if we still took ‘juvenile delinquents.’ I was happy to tell her that we didn’t. She said, ‘Well, I’m glad. You took my niece once and she’s still no good.’”
The Burgesses were shaped by the times. In 1954, the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. the Board of Education decision shook a segregated South. At Reinhardt, one trustee insisted this was why they had to keep Reinhardt open—the public schools would be forced to integrate. When powerful trustees over the next several years said that Reinhardt would never integrate racially, Rowland Burgess would not agree or argue, but just say “We’ll see.” When, in 1966, the federal government wrote to Reinhardt and said federally subsidized student loans could go only to integrated schools, President Burgess created an integrated Reinhardt. He went to Canton and talked with Mr. Bell, the principal of the black school there, and asked about who would be a good student to come to Reinhardt. Bell said Burgess wanted a young man named James T. “Jay” Jordan. Burgess and Bell talked with Jordan and his parents about Jay coming, and he entered Reinhardt in the fall of 1966, Reinhardt’s first African-American student. President Burgess took a strong interest in Jordan’s acceptance by students and everyone else on campus, and in fact things worked out very well. Jordan was a friendly person, a good athlete, a capable student, and he wound up having a good two years at Reinhardt. Other African-American students followed in succeeding years, and so the Burgesses, in their understated way, led Reinhardt into a positive future for the school and its students.
The world changes, and Reinhardt has changed. Our president no longer subscribes to the Guernsey Breeders Journal. The streets of Waleska are paved. Reinhardt has not only survived but thrived and done well. And in all of that, the Burgess influence is still here. One can see it in this very building, which serves our campus. One can see it in the library, which Burgess built. And, of course, one sees it outdoors on a beautiful campus, a good portion of which was planted by Rowland Burgess. The privet and the stumps are gone, replaced by trees and shrubs and flowers that create an inspiring environment in which to read, and study, and learn. Time and again, when people visit me from other schools they remark how uplifting this campus is.
The Burgesses wrote poetry, and published some of their poems. In one poem, reflecting on her teaching, Martha Burgess wrote, “How can she know where her influence begins/ Much less tell where it has its end.” I would argue that that influence has not ended. It goes on in the students of Reinhardt from that time, who are still living out their lives, and the spirit of the Burgesses is still here on this campus—it is a spirit of unselfish service, of long devotion and faithfulness, of Christian generosity, of personal warmth toward people and good humor about life. It is a valuable inheritance, and we can all be grateful for that gift.
Burgess, James Rowland, Jr., “Three Times Ten: My Thirty Years at Reinhardt College (unpublished ms., Box 2, Burgess Papers, Reinhardt University)
Flashing Eyes, Trilliums, and Trees: Personal Poems and Verses of James Rowland Burgess and Martha Stallings Burgess (Reinhardt College, 1982)
Hinson, Tyler B., “Laboring for the Master: James Rowland Burgess, Jr. and the Birth of Modern Reinhardt” (unpublished paper, 2010)
I am currently a participant in a week-long seminar, sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges, and held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, on the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. It has been pretty intense, but I am glad for the opportunity to explore this most fascinating of ancient authors, and with some genial colleagues. I will try to post more about this experience at a later date; in the meantime, here are some photos:
Via the most recent Reinhardt Recap, notice of an article by Funk Heritage Center Director Joseph Kitchens, in SaportaReport:
“Remember Goliad:” Georgians in a desperate land
By Joseph H. Kitchens
We ascended the monument aboard an elevator that was still new when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president for the third time, in 1940. The door opened upon a panorama that included the battleship Texas, looking no bigger than a canoe from our vantage point 567 feet above it. During our descent, and much to Karen’s surprise, I suggested we visit Goliad, a small town more than 150 miles to the southwest in the flat prairies of the cattle kingdom along the lower San Antonio River. I explained to her that it was where the “Georgia Battalion” had fought in the Texas Revolution. I overcame her slight reluctance by promising a stopover on Galveston Island to feel the gulf breezes and walk in the surf.
Last summer, Jamil Zainaldin wrote a column, “Our shared story — are those things that make us New Englanders or southerners more connected than we may think?,” that triggered a “memory debate” between my wife, Karen, and me. It centered on the question of when our visit to the remote town of Goliad in south Texas occurred. It was 2012, we decided. Karen’s brother was ill, and we drove that interminable stretch of I-10 across the Louisiana bayous to Houston to see him in high summer. Towering over the busy port and its oil refineries is the San Jacinto Monument, a tribute to the revolutionaries who created the Republic of Texas in 1836 and to their enigmatic commander, Sam Houston. The Mexican army was defeated when Houston’s own raw and restless men acted without orders and attacked. Their cry was “Remember the Alamo; remember Goliad.”
We spent the next night in Victoria, a bustling little city with a shopping center and the usual fast food restaurants. We left for Goliad Sunday morning and found it a sleepy town of 2,000, looking unchanged for the past 75 years. Church parking lots were filled with cars, and businesses were closed for the Sabbath. Leaving Galveston behind the next morning, we were met by a wall of fierce heat and drought — the driest summer in anyone’s memory. The grazing was meager, and white-faced steers were being shipped out to market, far short of their usual weight. Newspaper reports told of horses and cattle being put down because feed and water were both expensive and scarce. We were in search of history in a desperate land.
Signs directed us out to Presidio La Bahia, a fort built by the Spanish in the 18th century, a lonely sentinel guarding the Spanish frontier from the Rio Grande to the Mississippi. Here, volunteers, including about 30 Georgians, gathered under the command of Georgian James Walker Fannin Jr., a West Point dropout turned slave trader (and the namesake of Fannin County). Hopelessly posted to stop an enormous Mexican army, they waited on reinforcements from the Alamo that never came. When the Alamo fell, General Sam Houston ordered Fannin to move his forces north to Victoria.
A few escaped to tell the story, but more than 200 men were killed. A great cry of angry revulsion swept across the plains and bayous back to the United States and beyond. Santa Anna’s reputation as a pompous, petty tyrant was transformed into that of a cruel monster, and support for Texas and its revolutionaries swelled. Independence was won when Santa Anna was defeated and captured at San Jacinto. Fannin hesitated for days, then began a withdrawal across open ground toward Coleto Creek and its covering trees. His little army was overtaken by an overwhelming Mexican army, and after a brief but determined resistance, Fannin surrendered. The able and wounded were taken back to the Presidio La Bahia under promise of fair treatment, expecting to be paroled at New Orleans. Instead, they were marched out the next morning and shot by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s troops. Fannin was accorded an officer’s death, shot as he was seated in a chair in the courtyard.
We ended our visit to Goliad and La Bahia by walking the steps up to the great monument erected near the site of Fannin’s defeat at Coleto Creek. It bears the names of those who died nearby. Far away from the famous Alamo, the much less visited La Bahia stands, restored by a generous benefactor. It includes the beautiful original Spanish chapel where Fannin’s men spent their last night in this world. It is still used by the local Catholic congregation. In a great show of pride, Texans celebrated their centennial in 1936, erecting monuments and markers and organizing reenactments. Georgia had given weapons to the “cause of ’36” and never sought repayment, the story goes. The Texas governor offered to ask the Texas legislature to appropriate money for that purpose, but was told instead to honor the dead, including the Georgia volunteers. A monument was erected at Goliad bearing the names of the Georgians and their fellow volunteers.
After St. George, what could be more logical a saint to write about than St. Michael? I have been collecting material on this remarkable figure and I want to write at least something about him this summer – even if the conference I wanted to present at rejected my paper proposal (sad face). This post is an attempt at putting some thoughts in order…
St. Michael was one of the most popular saints in medieval Europe, in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. This is rather odd, because Michael is not a saint at all, but an angel. Saints were human once, and performed some noted service to Christianity; the most prestigious ones were martyred for their faith. Saints are in heaven with God, and in the Middle Ages acquired the function of intercession: you could pray to them, and they would be deputized with answering; they might specialize in providing a particular type of miracle, and amass a particular set of devotees.
Angels are different. In both the Old and New Testaments, angels function as messengers of God. Gabriel, Uriel and Michael are the three best-known. They had never enjoyed a human existence, but were always semi-divine members of the court of heaven. As such, one would think that they would enjoy a Christian cult like that of the most powerful saints, but only Michael seems to have. (One would think that Old Testament prophets like Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah could be Christianized in this way as well, but one generally does not find churches dedicated to them, prayers addressed to them, or accounts of their lives included in saints legendaries.)
Why St. Michael should have enjoyed church and guild dedications, heard Christian prayers, had his own feast day (Michaelmas, September 29), been included in the Golden Legend, etc., is a mystery I’d like to explore more. Gabriel, despite his appearance to the Virgin Mary herself, was nowhere near as popular. The only thing I can think of right now is artistic: St. Michael was often shown battling the devil, as he does in Revelation. I’m convinced that one of the main reasons why St. George was so popular was simply because he was shown fighting the dragon; people loved the action. In England, George and Michael were sometimes paired, each one overcoming his scaly enemy.
This leads to a very important aspect of St. Michael’s patronage: he was a warrior saint. He protected and encouraged “those who fight,” as they fought. This was not entirely a Christian thing to do, but once the Church endorsed crusading (Holy War to liberate Jerusalem from the infidel), it was only natural that different saints should be accepted as specialists in warfare – whether practiced on crusade or not. Once the English managed to monopolize St. George in the context of the Hundred Years’ War (following the Battle of Crécy in 1346), the French turned increasingly to St. Michael. Colette Beaune talks about this in her Naissance de la nation France; the Norman monastery of Mont-St-Michel played a role, as did the foundation of the French Order of St. Michael in 1469.
Depictions of St. Michael followed suit. Normally, he was shown as an angel, dressed in dalmatic. As the Middle Ages wore on, however, he acquired more and more pieces of military equipment, such as helmet, breastplate, greaves, and shield. And on the shield – a coat of arms.
What these coats of arms were will be the subject of another post.
Reinhardt historian Anne Good delivered a lecture this evening in the President’s College series at Lake Arrowhead, entitled “Curiosity Cabinets and the Culture of Curiosity in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” Based on her work on Peter Kolbe, Dr. Good explored the culture of collecting and its meaning during the Scientific Revolution.
• Congratulations to Wyatt Dean, 2015-16 history program student of the year.
• Congratulations to Associate Professor of History Anne Good on organizing another successful CultureFest on April 13th.
• Jonathan Good, in one of his last acts as Faculty Senate chair, carried the new Reinhardt mace at the inauguration of President Kina Mallard (from 7:52), and gave some words of encouragement (at 29:00).
• Anne Good has received a short-term fellowship for research at the University of Minnesota’s James Ford Bell Library. She will be traveling there in May.
• Anne Good was accepted to participate in a seminar entitled “Sight and Sound in Renaissance and Baroque Europe,” to be held at Atlanta’s High Museum in June. Jonathan Good was accepted to participate in a seminar on the Histories of Herodotus to be held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC in July. Both of these seminars are sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges.