The Benefits of Mandatory Theology Classes in Religious Universities
Every university and college has a list of required classes that all students must take in order to graduate, regardless of their major. It varies from every institution depending on the size of the school, number of students, number of majors, etc. Mostly though, the mandatory classes are made up of English, mathematics, the sciences, language, and history. In religious colleges however, theology classes are also a requirement for graduating. Should they be? On the one hand, the school is not making the students practice any one religions, but should it be mandatory? If you asked me five years ago, I would have said no, they shouldn’t. But after my experiences, I was forced to reconsider my standpoint.
As a student who spent her entire life in Catholic schools from Kindergarten all the way to my Bachelor’s Degree, I have had mandatory theology classes every year I was in school. You can imagine how I complained about it. As I was applying for schools, whether the college was a Catholic college or not did not really matter to me. I chose my school because I fell in love with it. I was going to study biochemistry at first before I switched to English in my sophomore year, neither having to do with religion. I thought I would never have to take another theology class again.
Of course I was wrong. But the theology classes I took turned out to be some of my favorite ones. I didn’t have to take a specific class; I had so many options. I’m also a lover of history, and what is the study of religions but history lessons? I chose Introduction to the Prophets because I knew absolutely nothing about the Prophets from the Old Testament, and World Religions. My teacher for my intro class was the chair of Theology and Religious Studies at my school, so he knew his material, and he was also the funniest priest I had ever met. He opened my mind to looking at religion in an entirely different way than what I had developed through my life. I wasn’t being made to do something, I was just learning something new. A history lesson with the cheapest textbook (the Bible), what could I complain about?
I had my doubts about World Religions. I figured that because I was at a Catholic college that the lectures for this theology class would be influenced by Catholicism and I would not get an objective view. Again, I was wrong. I learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. I learned all the ways in which the religions of the world are connected and how they are completely separate at the same time. My teacher was a Catholic, but she, like the majority of teachers at my school, taught to share knowledge, not to influence me to worship a certain god or follow a certain set of rules. The decision was always mine. Just like the decision was always mine, as it is everyone’s, to attend whichever college my heart desired, Catholic or not.
So yes, I believe mandatory theology classes in religious universities is a good thing. I’ve learned to never say no to more knowledge.