Annual Fund in Action: Supporting an Academic Journal
Photo by Tom Cogill.
These days the primary source of academic inspiration in the field of religious studies flows right through the heart of Grounds. Charles Mathewes, associate professor of religious ethics and the history of Christian thought, officially began his five-year tenure as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in 2005. The 75-year-old journal is considered the central forum of inquiry in religious studies throughout the world and goes out to a readership that spans six continents.
“We average about 400 papers a year,” he said, “and out of those we can select 25 to 30 to publish.” With each paper averaging 40 pages, the numbers game can be overwhelming. And that, he says, is where the Annual Fund comes in. “My office, which is not just me, handles about 16,000 pages of academic prose a year,” said Mathewes, who receives Annual Fund support for salaries and general office support.
This prose covers a dizzying array of topics. “We cover everything from very complicated philosophical articles relying on Kierkegaard and secrecy, to U.S. Scientologists and various practices of foot-binding in 19th-century China, to cannibalism in Fiji and the spirituality of fly fishing.”
Halfway through the fly-fishing paper, Mathewes discovered a fascinating fact. “The most frequently reprinted book in the English language is the Bible. The second is Bunyan’s ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress,’ which is in many ways a model for reading the Bible. The third is Izaak Walton’s ‘The Complete
Angler.’ We convinced the writer to move it up to the front and give people a hook where they can say, ‘Oh, fishing and religion, that’s an interesting thing.’”
One of the most important challenges, Mathewes said, is convincing those inside and outside of his profession of the importance of religion in the modern world. “One of the things we have to come to terms with is the failure of our field to really have made the case in the last several decades that religion is an important thing that needs to be paid attention to by other academics and the policy world. There has been nothing new said since 9/11 that people in religious studies were not saying two decades before.”
Alumni, students, parents and friends help make things happen through their gifts to the Arts & Sciences Annual Fund — financial support for academic journals, plus career services, workshops, travel, labs and more. As of Oct. 10, 2007, the fund had reached more than $328,000 of its $4.5 million overall goal for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. As of Aug. 31, 2007, the College also had raised $140.24 million of the $500 million goal for the Campaign for the College. Overall, campaign gifts to the University stood at $1.4 billion of the $3 billion goal.