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The Religious State of the 918: Symposium

The Religious State of the 918: A Virtual Research Symposium--Friday, February 26, 2021

This program is funded in part by Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and in part by the Tulsa Community College Foundation (TCCF), and coordinated by the Tulsa Community College Honors Program (TCCHP). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program are those of the presenters and do not necessarily represent those of OH or NEH, nor those of TCCF, TCCHP, or Tulsa Community College.

Oklahoma Humanities Logo TCC Foundation Logo  Honors Program Logo


All day: Pre-recorded poster presentations and welcome video (accessible via the RS918 web page hosted by the TCC Library  

1:00-2:15 p.m.: Keynote Speaker Dr. Eric Reitan (via Zoom)  

2:30-3:30 p.m.: Student and faculty presentations (via Zoom)  

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Plenary Speaker Dr. Lisa Barnett (via Zoom)  

4:30-5:00 p.m.: Wrap-up session (informal discussion)


Pre-Recorded Sessions (Available all day)

Symposium welcome:

Dr. Allen Culpepper, associate professor of English and coordinator of the TCC Honors Program, welcomes RS 918 Symposium participants on behalf of the Honors Program and the RS 918 project sponsors, Oklahoma Humanities and the Tulsa Community College Foundation.

Guest Interview:

The Rev. Dr. Gary Peluso-Verdend, director, Center for Religion in Public Life, “Christian Nationalism in America Today”

Interviewed by Dr. Allen Culpepper, TCC Honors Program coordinator

Dr. Peluso-Verdend, who directs the Center for Religion in Public Life at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, discussion the Christian Nationalism movement in the United States—what it is, who’s involved, and how it is connected with American Culture.

Learn more about Dr. Peluso.

Poster presentations:

Lana Nguyen, TCC student: “The Current Religious Oppression Crisis in Southeast Asia”

Many religious groups, especially Christian and Muslim minorities, are subject to violence and political persecution in numerous Southeast Asian countries. One notable example is the forcible detention of one million Uyghur Muslims who have been forcibly detained in reeducation camps.


Katherine Iwata, TCC student: “The Formative Years: Effects on Religious Belief

See presentation link at bottom of this box.

What does research reveal about how what people learn in their formative years affects their later religious beliefs and perspective on religion.


Mia Jones, TCC student: “Religious Diversity/Pluralism”

See presentation link at bottom of this box.

The theory of religious diversity/pluralism posits that various religions are essentially similar in some significant respects. But what are the positive and negative implications of this theory?


Faculty Presentation:

Dr. T. Allen Culpepper, associate professor of English, TCC faculty: “The Churches of Tulsa’s Turner Park Neighborhood as a Reflection of Post-World War II Religious Trends in the United States”

The history of the churches in Tulsa’s Turner Park neighborhood reflects broader religious trends in Post-WWII U.S. culture.


The RS918, pencil & paper, 2020, T. Allen Culpepper

Live Sessions (via Zoom)

Videos of the live Zoom sessions are included below.  We are in the process of providing closed captioning for each session, however this is a lengthy process and is ongoing. 

1:00-2:15 p.m.: KEYNOTE ADDRESS:

Dr. Eric Reitan, Professor of Philosophy, Oklahoma State University, “Is Religious Diversity a Threat to Faith? A Defense of the Value of Diversity”

Introduced by Dr. Allen Culpepper, TCC Honors Program Coordinator

Dr. Reitan will examine two kinds of philosophical challenges to religious faith posed by diversity: challenges to claims that one's faith is the sole source of truth and salvation, and more general challenges alleging that religious diversity shows religion to be a human fabrication. He will consider the merits of both challenges, arguing that diversity does not undermine faith but does necessitate humility. 

You can learn more about Dr. Reitan.


2:30-3:30 p.m.: Student & Faculty Presentations (simultaneous sessions; please choose one):

Session A: Student Research Papers:

Isaiah Abad, TCC Student: “The Fig Tree at the End of the Road”

In recent decades theories that religion is vestigial have gained traction because of an underlying religious decline in our consumeristic society. Consumerism creates a society filled with selfish people trying to win a futile race to gain more possessions. With people so focused on themselves, religion has been placed on the back burner, and the consequences are dire:  Mistrust and depression are at an all-time high. This paper argues that religion is necessary because it generates core qualities that benefit society and improve the psychological and physical health of its members, first, by examining how religion helped our ancestors form successful societies by instilling empathy; second by looking at studies showing a link between religious and spiritual wellbeing and physical and psychological wellbeing.

Jo Reynolds, TCC Student: “Religious Perspectives of The Bacchae: Religion and Humanity”

Analysis of the conflicting religious perspectives in Euripides’ classical Greek tragedy The Bacchae leads to a discussion about how a polytheistic society gave way to monotheistic religions. The Hellenistic faith of Ancient Greece and modern-day Christianity are both considered, along with observations regarding the positive and negative effects of religion on the world. A proposed non-religious perspective would better serve collective humanity.

Kaliana Lee, TCC Student: “The History of Christian Churches and the Formation of Bias”

Implicit and explicit bias in Christian churches formed historically. Widespread negligence regarding racial injustice led to increased polarization in the local community, and to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Many factors contributed to the massacre, but one primary cause was white Christian bias. The effects of bias as well as possible reparations and unifying resolutions are considered.



Session B: Faculty Presentation:

Dr. Joseph Boyne, assistant professor of English, TCC Faculty: “The Precious Object: How Poetry Leads to Contemplation”

Introduced by Mindy Stephens, TCC student

What is a poem’s purpose? Is it simply an example of elevated, fine language, what the French called belle-lettres? Or does its end extend to a higher order? To answer these questions, this presentation will focus on the writings of poet and literary critic John Crowe Ransom. We will read some poems together and consider in what way poetry approaches the world around us differently and how this approach is related to religious contemplation.



Session C: Faculty Creative Presentation

Dr. Allen Culpepper, associate professor of English, TCC creative writing faculty, “Poetry: A Religious Experience”

Introduced by Prof. Josh Parish, associate professor of English, TCC creative writing faculty

Dr. Culpepper will read a selection of his poems about churches and religious themes.



Session D: Student Panel Discussion:

Zoe Mcclean, Hunter Bamburg, Elijah Brown, TCC students, “Biases Between Religions and Within Denominations”

Introduced by Sophie Arroyo, TCC student

A panel discussion by students from a religious-diversity-themed Honors English Composition class.


3:30-4:30 p.m.: PLENARY SPEAKER:

Dr. Lisa Barnett, Assistant Professor of American Religious History, Phillips Theological Seminary, “Peyote and the Native American Church.”

Introduced by Dr. Heather Wilburn, TCC Philosophy Faculty

Dr. Barnett will be discussing peyote and the Native American Church, a topic that she studied extensively for her doctoral dissertation.

You can learn more about Dr. Barnett.


4:30-5:00 p.m.: Informal wrap-up session:

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us for an informal chat about the topics of the day. Hosted by Dr. Allen Culpepper, TCC Honors Program Coordinator.

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