Anthropology & Sociology

Reconciliation Studies Program

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We live in a world where differences increasingly cause tensions between people, groups, and nations. We are divided in many ways including by race, culture, gender, social class, and religion. This is true in many parts of the world—Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Burma, and elsewhere—as well as in the cities, suburbs, and rural towns of the United States.

In order to address this global reality, Bethel University developed a bachelor's degree in reconciliation studies that is biblically framed and designed to equip students with knowledge, experience, and skills in the areas of cultural and religious diversity, sociology, conflict resolution, spiritual disciplines, social and economic justice issues (racism, sexism, classism), and related topics. The academic discipline of reconciliation studies is housed in the department of anthropology and sociology and significantly influenced by the social sciences. Reconciliation studies shares some similar curricular content with disciplines such as peace and justice studies, conflict transformation, restorative justice, religion and society, and the like. Since reconciliation studies draws from a number of disciplines it is multidisciplinary in spirit. What sets reconciliation studies at Bethel University apart from these disciplines is that its core understanding of reconciliation emerges from a Jesus-centered theological foundation.

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The program of reconciliation studies at Bethel University prepares students to lead lives that impact the world of the twenty-first century. Whatever their vocation, a major or minor in reconciliation studies offers students an opportunity to become more proficient in recognizing injustice, addressing conflict, and engaging diversity. With a semester abroad in South Africa, the major can stand alone as a marketable degree for students who plan to serve organizations addressing diversity, international conflict, or a host of other issues facing our world. Students can strategically align minors to further enhance their degree.

A major or minor in reconciliation studies complements any of Bethel University’s many majors (if students choose to double major or add a minor). Students who can resolve conflict and embrace diversity have an advantage in a crowded job market. A business major can demonstrate an awareness of how culture, conflict, and injustice impact the market. A physical education major can show an understanding of the particular dynamics involved in team sports when diversity is present. A nursing major can express how cultural perspectives impact the care of patients. The reconciliation studies program not only prepares students to compete for jobs in their fields of study, it also develops their character, enhances their leadership ability, and expands their world view—it helps them grow to become better people.

Major in Reconciliation Studies

The major consists of 34 credits. This includes 22 credits from Bethel University courses plus 12 credits transferred in from courses enrolled in at Cornerstone Christian College in Cape Town, South Africa. The number of credits makes the major well suited for students interested in a double major or adding multiple minors.

A) RES201—Introduction to Reconciliation Studies (3 credits)

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Course Description: This course provides an overview of theory and literature in the field, contributing factors leading to the need for reconciliation in our world, and paradigms for reconciliation praxis. It presents biblically-framed principles and processes for moving toward societal reconciliation. Cultural and religious diversity, conflict resolution, spiritual disciplines, social and economic justice issues (racism, sexism, classism), and related subjects are covered. The course utilizes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa as a model for what is possible in other contexts.

B) SOC101—Introduction to Sociology (3 credits)

C) Elective (3 credits)

Choose one course from:

  • COM203F—Gender Communication
  • GES212E—Reconciliation in a Racialized Society
  • RES207E—Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Our Multicultural World
  • SOC204E—Race, Ethnicity, and Peacemaking
  • SOC385G—Social Inequality
  • SOW227E—Minority/Majority Issues in the USA: Power and Privilege

D) RES305--Conflict Resolution and Mediation Skills (3 credits)

Course Description: Provides practical peacemaking and reconciliation skills relevant to helping Christians resolve conflict in a healthy, balanced way. Focus on using experiential learning to develop negotiation and mediation skills.

E) South Africa Term (18 credits—6 from Bethel and 12 from Cornerstone)

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The South Africa term offers a look at one of the few nations in world history that has demonstrated success in the arena of reconciliation. The antiapartheid struggle was understood by most to be a reconciliation movement (most groups were multiracial). The leadership of Nelson Mandela modeled reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission played a central role in a country-wide process of healing and reconciliation. To live in a society so fresh in its experience that it lives and breathes reconciliation is a unique opportunity for learning and embracing a lifestyle of reconciliation.

A total of six courses are offered during interim and second semester. Students enroll in four existing courses within the Cornerstone Christian College curriculum offered during their first term and study side by side with Cornerstone students. Sitting in a very diverse classroom day by day has many benefits beyond the course content for Bethel students who are majoring in reconciliation studies. The courses selected at Cornerstone are as follows:

1) Doctrines of Humanity and the Church (3 credits)

The doctrine of humankind is investigated, emphasizing teaching and the theological significance of being created in God's image, what constitutes human nature and the effects of sin upon humanity.  In the second part the doctrine of the church, formed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is investigated, focusing on its nature, ministry and mission.  Throughout the course attention is given to the spiritual, ethical and social implications of these doctrines.

2) An Overview of the Role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (3 credits)

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The course will introduce students to the primary objectives, some key submissions and the main outcomes of the TRC through readings, review of relevant materials and the interviewing of key people. The class will guide student in their understandings of the role of the TRC and its significance in building a climate for reconciliation in South Africa.

3) Perspectives on Transformation (3 credits)

This course reviews several perspectives on community development and the social transformation process. The study covers development as transformation, people-centred development, expanding access to social power, development as responsible well being, and development as a Kingdom response to powerlessness.

4) Organizational Leadership (3 credits)

Organizational Leadership explores the theory and practice of leadership in the context of the church and other community-based and faith-based organisations.Two classes offered for Bethel students (with instructional support from Cornerstone faculty):

  • RES240—Introduction to South African History and Culture (3 credits)
    This course explores the history of South Africa-- the impact of colonialism on the indigenous peoples, and emergence of apartheid and its impact. Attention is given to the role of the Church both in the evolution of apartheid and in its demise. The multiculturalism that enriches South Africa is explored.
  • SCS387 Cross-Cultural Experience (3 credits)
    This course credits the intensive experience of living and communicating in another culture for a minimum of two months. Student is fully immersed in the culture as much as possible and guided by a mentor from the host culture. This would provide Bethel students with service learning opportunities in ministries that partner with Cornerstone. Also, students would live for a short time in the townships.

RES201—Introduction to Reconciliation Studies is a prerequisite for the South Africa term.

F) RES400—Reconciliation & Leadership (4 credits)

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Course Description: This capstone course would provide a culminating experience to put to use knowledge and skills gained during studies done in the major and the minor. It would also go into much greater depth in preparing students to be leaders who can use the lenses of Christ-centered biblical “reconciliation” theology, critical thinking, multicultural perspectives, social change analysis, and conflict resolution skills. Students would study the theoretical underpinnings of reconciliation studies and the leadership models of reconciliation practice.Prerequisites: Declared major or minor in reconciliation studies and RES201—Introduction to Reconciliation Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Minor in Reconciliation Studies

The minor consists of 19 credits/six courses—four existing courses as electives (see below) and two core courses.

1) RES201—Introduction to Reconciliation Studies (3 credits)

See major.

2) Reconciliation elective (3 credits)

This elective allows students to examine some aspect of reconciliation in greater detail—how reconciliation operates in society and/or the church.

  • GES212E—Reconciliation in a Racialized Society
  • RES207E—Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Our Multicultural World
  • SOC204E—Race, Ethnicity, and Peacemaking

3) Cultural Hermeneutics elective (3 credits)

This elective helps students understand how race, culture, gender, and/or class impact an individual’s or group’s worldview.

  • ANT242E—Peoples and Cultures of the United States
  • ANT371G—Christianity in Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • ANT381G—Urbanism: A Way of Life
  • ENL220E—Literature of the Oppressed
  • ENL313—The Harlem Renaissance and Beyond
  • HIS210E—Minorities in America
  • POS242F—Rights and Liberties in Conflict
  • PSY220E—Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • SPA301—Hispanic Cultures

4) Social Justice (racism, sexism, classism) elective (3 credits)

This elective provides students with an understanding of injustice and how oppression operates in society through the interplay of power and privilege.

  • BIB309J—A Biblical Theology of Poverty
  • BIB312J—Female and Male in Biblical Perspective
  • BIB313J—A Biblical Theology of Justice
  • COM203F—Gender Communication
  • HIS245F—Women of Faith in America
  • PHI263/THE263—Christian Social Ethics
  • POS202E—Introduction to International Relations
  • SOC385G—Social Inequality
  • SOW227E—Minority/Majority Issues in the USA: Power and Privilege

5) RES305--Conflict Resolution and Mediation Skills (3 credits)

Course Description: Provides practical peacemaking and reconciliation skills relevant to helping Christians resolve conflict in a healthy, balanced way. Focus on using experiential learning to develop negotiation and mediation skills.

6) RES400—Reconciliation & Leadership (4 credits)

See major. 

Vision for the Future

The major is presently built around a semester in South Africa and offers a primary focus on issues of race and culture. Other key reconciliation issues facing the world today are gender, class, and religion. The possibility of specific concentrations in these areas is being discussed and considered.