Religious Studies

Middle School

The Religious Studies Department seeks to reinforce St. John’s mission to educate the whole student – intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. We believe a student enriches his education when theological exploration is part of his experience, and when he engages his mind and imagination. With this two-part goal in mind, the Religious Studies program supports rigorous academic learning and provides opportunity for meaningful experiential learning (course descriptions follow).

Grounded in critical thinking and personal reflection, the Religious Studies curriculum provides a  theological foundation to better inform the student’s faith experience. Each student is encouraged to respond to course material by: 1.) discovering the mystery of God in his life and in the life of his greater community; 2.) pursuing meaningful relationships, both in and out of the classroom; 3.) committing himself to the pursuit of justice and peace 4.) honoring diversity and multiculturalism; 5.) deepening his spiritual life through scripture and prayer; and 6.) developing his character by asking what it means to live an ethical life.

Religious Studies 6: Jesus-Carpenter to Christus

This special interdisciplinary classics/religious studies course focuses on the student’s discovery and exploration of the mystery of God in his own life. In response to the profound Catholic Christian faith story of the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, students examine sacred scripture, nurture critical thinking skills, engage in prayerful reflection, and delve into the art of storytelling to inspire their own personal faith exploration.

As they investigate the vocabulary and structure of the Latin language, students enhance their facility with English, allowing them to communicate with nuance, develop a robust vocabulary, and participate in sophisticated discourse. Throught the course, students: 1.) examine the distinction between “history book history” and “faith history,” and in doing so are encouraged to recognize and celebrate their own growing faith history; 2.) consider the ubiquity of Latin throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East and its affiliation with other ancient languages, most notably as they communicate, and contribute to, our understanding of faith history; 3.) examine the diverse social, cultural and religious conditions of the early Roman Empire that gave rise to the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth; and, 4.) be challenged to consider and respond to the profound Christian belief in Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God. Throughout this journey of thought and faith, the diversity of each student’s religious background is celebrated and understood to enhance all religious experience.

Religious Studies 7: Ancient and Modern Prophets-Exploring the Call to Serve

The focus of this course is the notion of the Prophet, which comes from the Hebrew word nabi, "one who is called.” Through an in-depth examination of literary, biblical and modern-day prophets, as well as archetypal prophetic themes, students explore the concept of prophecy; examine the model of prophetic leadership as exemplified in the figures studied (most notably through their expressions of empathy); and consider how they themselves are called to be prophetic leaders within their own communities. Progressing through the course students 1.) imaginatively step inside the lives of saints, prophets, heroes, martyrs, visionaries; 2.) explore the historical and cultural contexts of the Prophetic books in the Hebrew Scriptures, and come to appreciate them as first-person faith interpretations of actual historical events; 3.) revisit the prophetic role of Jesus, and how He calls us to personal prophetic action in the context of radical discipleship; and 4.) explore the notion of servant leadership as it applies to their own lives.

Religious Studies 8: A World of Faith-Exploring Religious Traditions Across the Globe

By means of a broad examination of the global faith landscape, the course invites students to examine the sacred texts, teachings, and practices of non-Christian religious traditions from the east (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism), the west (Islam and Judaism), as well as the primal religions. Students engage in a concentrated, experiential study of religious symbolism, ritual, iconography, art, and architecture; and they are challenged to consider how ‘the other’ sees the world through the lens of faith traditions that differ from their own. Along the way, students 1.) examine the connection between events in ancient faith history with modern rituals and beliefs; 2.) consider the question of what gives rise to religious traditions, and examine their shared and unique features; 3.) explore the notion of sacred space as it relates to personal faith and multicultural awareness; 4.) use the basic principles of archeology and art history to better understand the formative symbols and rituals of given faith traditions; 5.) propose solutions to the problem of religious conflict; and 6.) develop their own answers to the question of whether or not the vast array of world religious traditions contributes to, or hinders, human progress.

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