Muhlenberg College Announces Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding

With a commitment to cultivate awareness of religious diversity, the program expands on the scope of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding.

 Thursday, October 1, 2020 05:09 PM

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Muhlenberg is building on the strong legacy of the College’s Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding (IJCU) by expanding its mission to consider the many religious traditions in the world. The Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding emphasizes the importance of broader religious and cultural literacy to better understand and embrace the diversity of the campus, the region and the world.

“Understanding the religions of the world is essential to understanding the motivations and actions of people everywhere,” says William “Chip” Gruen (pictured), professor and chair of religion studies and director of the Institute. “However, because religion is one of those topics, like politics, that we are encouraged not to discuss, we never develop the skills to do so. The consequences are evident everywhere from our dinner tables to social media to national politics.” 

Gruen says the Institute’s mission is to provide the opportunity, for both the Muhlenberg campus and the wider community, “to learn about the many religious traditions we encounter and, more importantly, to learn how to examine, analyze and publicly discuss these traditions productively and without judgement.”

The flagship programs of the IJCU will remain, including the Wallenberg Tribute, the Youth & Prejudice Conference and First Friday, while engaging more religious traditions. Talkback Tuesday, a facilitated discussion following each First Friday session, has launched and new programming, including a podcast and opportunities with Muhlenberg’s Continuing Education program, are in the works. The livestream and recorded virtual events and programs will be available through the website and via new channels, including social media. When the public health situation allows, the Institute will also offer enhanced in-person experiences to the local community.

“The IJCU has served a vital role in the local community for over 30 years,” says Gruen. “Our goal is to expand the scope and reach of the Institute to allow us to create additional opportunities for collaboration between the local community and Muhlenberg’s faculty, staff and students. We look forward to establishing new relationships between the campus, the local community and the worldwide community.”

For more information, including upcoming programming, please visit the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.