On Magic City Religion, Samford University students ground their study of religion in the lived experience of Birmingham, Alabama. From its founding in 1871, the city grew like “magic” at the junction of two railroads. Birmingham’s religious citizens are most widely known for being in the center of the Bible Belt and of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Even the city’s airport is named for a Baptist preacher, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a civil rights leader.
But Birmigham’s religious life is about more than evangelicalism and civil rights. Its world famous leaders include not only Martin Luther King Jr. but also Mother Angelica, founder of the Eternal Word Television Network. Today its religious citizens include Catholics as well as Protestants, Buddhists as well as Muslims, the unaffiliated as well as church members.
Students began writing essays for this site in fall 2019. That semester religion majors explored the greater Avondale neighborhood, while students in Introduction to World Religions examined eleven communities throughout the metropolitan area. These represent Birmingham’s contemporary diversity. In spring 2020 students examined prominent images of Jesus Christ in dialogue with The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward Blum and Paul Harvey. Ten other projects were underway but had to be suspended when the university closed its campus in March and moved to online instruction due to COVID-19. We plan to resume these projects in fall 2020.
Click the images below to explore aspects of our work. Please use the comments or email to share your perspectives with us. We hope to hear from you!
A Teaching Project at Samford University
edited by David R. Bains, professor
Department of Biblical and Religious Studies
Howard College of Arts and Sciences