Tidbits & Musings
I grew up in a farming community in
southern Illinois. My dad was a carpenter (now a writer of funny stories)
and my mom was a nurse. Much of my childhood was spent in my grandfather's
library. Perhaps, as much as anything, it was my grandfather’s avocation
that influenced my vocation. My grandfather, C. C. Lowe, a United Methodist
minister, inspired my love of books and encouraged my insatiable curiosity.
My favorite quotation from my grandfather's favorite author, Albert Schweitzer,
keeps me intellectually grounded: “As we acquire more knowledge, things
do not become more comprehensible but more mysterious.”
I have a B.A. in Classics and Philosophy from Calvin College, an M.A. in Medieval Studies from Western Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan. During these undergraduate and graduate years I acquired a reading knowledge of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and Coptic, as well as, French, German and Spanish.
As I reflect on my college years, three books have played a special role in my early academic development and still have a special place in my library. John Herman Randall's old essay on western civilization, The Making of the Modern Mind, opened my eyes to the brilliance of scholarship. Walter Kaufmann's The Faith of a Heretic taught me the meaning of intellectual honesty. My introduction to religious studies was an exciting encounter with Huston Smith's The World's Religions.
Today I am an expert in the history and comparison of western religions, particularly three traditions of Middle Eastern origins, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (now collectively known as the "Abrahamic Religions"). My initial research, some of which was published in a dissertation, Salvation By Law: The Protrepetic Theology of Ad Autolycum, and in a book, Theophilus of Antioch: The Life and Thought of a Second-Century Bishop, focused on Jewish, Christian and Muslim soteriological theories. I am now focused on developing a unified history of these traditions, which includes an analysis of religious violence in western culture. This shift reflects my long standing interest in inter-faith dialogue and the personal impact of the tragic events of 9/11/2001.
I have published two pedagogical texts, Surveying the Living Religions: A Student Workbook and The Comparative Study of Religion: PowerPoint Lecture Slides. I developed and helped produce an online tool for local religious communities, which involved the mapping of the religious landscape of Washtenaw County and presentations of institutional histories. I have written several short articles on American religions for an Encyclopedia of Religious History and I am working on what I hope will be a popular textbook introducing and comparing the Abrahamic Religions.
I have taught courses in the history of religions at the University of Michigan, Albion College and Concordia College. My primary courses at EMU are “Comparative Study of Religion,” “Abrahamic Religions” and “History of American Religion.” But I have regularly taught “History of Christianity,” “History of Islam” and “Jesus and the Gospels.” On occasion I have taught “Hinduism and Buddhism” and “History of Eastern Thought.” I have developed two more courses, “History of Judaism” and “Religion and Violence,” both of which I intend to teach in the near future.
I consider myself a high impact teacher, with an energetic style of lecturing and an engaging style of leading discussions. My course expectations are considered rigorous. All of my courses are multi-media and incorporate colorful PowerPoint presentations with music and film. I was honored to be the first recipient of the EMU Federation of Teachers, Outstanding Teaching Award, for 2001-2002. I cannot imagine myself as anything other than a teacher. But what is it I do? Anatole France is reported to have said that the art of teaching is only the art of awakening natural curiosity. I think he was right and I am delighted to participate in that awakening.
I am an active member of two local organizations, The Detroit Scholars' Trialogue of The National Conference for Community and Justice and The Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. I also belong to a couple of professional societies, The American Academy of Religion and The Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.
I have traveled in the Middle East, specifically in Israel and Egypt. While in Galilee, I had the good fortune to purchase a most beautiful shofar (a Ram’s horn used during the Jewish season of Rosh Hashanah). During a visit to the ruins of Jericho, I managed to attract a very large crowd as I stood by that once famous city and blew my horn with all my might in memory of the biblical story. After wrapping my shofar for safe travel from Israel into Egypt, the following day I was stopped by Egyptian border guards, who demanded to see what looked to them suspicious. To ensure I was not transporting an illegal substance, each extremely rough looking guard felt obliged to test out their musical skills by attempting to play my precious shofar.
For fourteen years I have been happily married to Susan Kesling Rogers, not only my best friend but also my muse. Susan is the Director of Member Relations and Marketing at the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) in Ann Arbor. She is also the past President of the Detroit Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
My pastime activities include playing tennis and basketball, teaching tricks to my Scottie (Bodhi), going to the movies, surfing the Net, listening to music and reading the occasional novel. In college I was an ardent Beatles’ fan. In fact, my old buddies and I were convinced that we were the ones who first discovered and disseminated the hidden message that Paul was dead. We thought we broke the national story, or I should say, the faulty rumor, after calling a local radio station. Nowadays, I listen to Bruce Springsteen, Jewel, the Dixie Chicks and Norah Jones. My favorite novel, to which my favorite college professor introduced me, is Dmitri Merejkowski's The Romance of Leonardo Da Vinci. The suave mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers and the fantastic tales of J. R. R. Tolkien have bewitched me from early adolescence.
The above picture was taken recently at a radio station where I was interviewed about Islam in the modern world, on a PBS program called “Currently Speaking.” That was an exciting and enjoyable experience, and I would like to do it again.