Spittler

Janet
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

I am fascinated by the diversity of early Christianity. My research focuses on Christian literature from the first-to-fourth centuries CE, both New Testament texts and “apocryphal” texts (that is, works not included in the Bible). Our earliest Christian literature shows Christians disagreeing with and debating each other, and these texts allow us to see the development of Christian thought. It was a process that unfolded slowly over centuries, and it cannot be fully understood outside of its historical and cultural context.

My interest in teaching one of the new Ethical Engagement courses is rooted in these interests and the challenge of ethical questions. They are never simple, and moreover, they are frequently rooted in and shaped by historical and cultural contexts that are very difficult to understand completely. My training as an historian of religions charts a good course for engaging ethical questions. How should we behave? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to live a “good life”? These are questions that many (though not all) religions have addressed directly throughout recorded history.

I hope to cultivate an atmosphere in which students can speak honestly and authentically about the questions and issues that matter most. I expect each class to be a diverse group, representing a wide range of religious and cultural perspectives. We will disagree with each other on issues big and small, but our goal is not agreement! Our goal is to grapple with ethical questions and to begin to think consciously of ourselves as ethical agents in our community and the world.