The Story Of Our Slogan
The idea of creating a slogan for Religious Studies came while designing a t-shirt for the Religious Studies club, Cal Poly Theisms. At Cal Poly, the Religious Studies program has no agenda, other than for people to learn about and reflect upon religion in our world. However, toward what end? What is the purpose of teaching – and learning – about religion? And perhaps equally daunting, can we encapsulate all that we think religious studies is and could be in a few quick words on the front of a t-shirt?
As Professors Kuhn and Lloyd-Moffett discussed it with a group of students, a progressive vision emerged. Religious Studies begins with understanding others. This goal is not just learning facts about others but really seeking to understand their positions from their own perspectives. It requires a bold act of perspective-taking and suspending judgment until one truly understands. Our first word would be understanding.
For the next step, Professor Lloyd-Moffett suggested that understanding should lead to tolerance. However, Professor Kuhn objected, arguing that toleration was a weak term that suggested begrudgingly accepting the presence of another, not embracing the value of diversity. The focus group tossed around other terms—unity, oneness, co-existence, harmony—but each proved problematic when pressed. We especially did not want to discount the value of difference. Professor Lloyd-Moffett finally suggested a technical term that he had encountered recently doing research: convivencia. Convivencia is a Spanish word used to describe the productive harmony that emerged for a short while between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Moorish Spain during the 10th century. During this period, there was harmony that preserved real difference and mutual encouragement for the greater good. It captured the next step after understanding perfectly.
Finally, we thought about the wider social goals that would come from understanding leading to convivencia. People who live in productive harmony that respect difference will live at peace with one another—peace is our final word. Yet, we wanted to make it clear that peace was not an abstract notion but a concrete reality we wanted to witness in our world. We decided to indicate this by writing peace in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. Studying religion alone will not make a peaceful world, but it may contribute a bit to changing it toward peace.