Books of Interest, Teaching Relationship-Based Courses at Faith-Based Institutions

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Fresh Thoughts for Teaching Relationship-Based Courses at Faith-Based Institutions

Douglas Kelley

Professor Emeritus

Arizona State University


Greetings and peace. I’ve long wanted to send a note like this to my Christian-oriented colleagues. Now that I’m sort of retired (I’m officially no longer getting paid by ASU, but still active), I’m taking time to do it. As you know, it’s not the norm in higher education to promote your work. However, I believe that three of my publications are well tailored to prompt faith discussions in the classroom.

A quick background on myself for those who don’t know me. In my college years I attended community college, state university, and Westmont college. I went on to teach and write at Seattle Pacific University and Arizona State University. I also did a little adjunct work for Fuller Seminary Southwest. During my time at Seattle Pacific University I thought seriously about the integration of faith and learning. When I left Seattle, so that my wife and I would be closer to family in Phoenix, I continued this practice at ASU. As a social scientist I see my field of study as an extension of how God has created the universe and, specifically, the human species.

One example of how faith plays out in my work occurred when a colleague in the Cal State system responded to one of my books (Just Relationships) by stating, “You know that you are channeling Meister Eckhart don’t you?” The comparison to Eckhart was mostly due to the rather easy flow in my teaching and writing between the discoveries of science and what I believe are essential characteristics of how we are created. For instance, my work on human intimacy echos Eckhart’s understanding of intimacy with God and the social justice bent to some of my work resonates with Eckhart’s similar bias.

With this in mind I would like to make you aware of three books that might be of use to you. If you are interested in the books, but can’t imagine how or in what courses you might use these, I would also be glad to chat about the conceptual interaction that is present within and between these books. I am also willing to provide sample syllabi demonstrating how I’ve used each of these works in the classroom (e.g., I used Just Relationships and Intimate Spaces together to teach Relational Communication). I also have Zoomed into various classes across the country to discuss these writings with students who have been exposed to my work and would be happy to do this with your classes, as well.

Thank you for your time and interest. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, requests, or discussion.

Much Peace




Just Relationships: Living Out Social Justice as Mentor, Family, Friend, and Lover (Kelley, 2017)

In Just Relationships, I discuss interpersonal connection using a social justice framework of sorts. For instance, interpersonal scholars seldom use words like justice, advocacy, or reconciliation when discussing personal and social relationships. And, yet, that is where we are in today’s world. As such, Just Relationships presents the quest for justice as one that is embedded deeply in our efforts to grow as human beings and is actually embedded in a foundation of love, morality, and advocacy. Significant chapters, such as those on dehumanization, shame, and resilience, open deep spaces for students, utilizing case studies as a safe space for discussion.

*Of note, this book emerged from teaching a service-learning course wherein students volunteered in embedded inner-city organizations, some of which were faith-based.

**This link takes you to an article I wrote to flesh out the thinking in the first four chapters.


Intimate Spaces: A Conversation about Discovery and Connection (Kelley, 2021)

 My Young Life mentor, almost 50 years ago, told me that he thought that our faith is really about intimacy with God. Those words have guided my spiritual journey and part of my academic career. Intimate Spaces explores academic models of intimacy and relationship development, but also looks at intimacy myths. Ripe for classroom discussion, the third section of the book reports findings from a study I conducted wherein respondents were asked to describe times they experienced intimacy through talk, sex, play, grief, conflict, and/or forgiveness. Early in the book I offer the perspective that we are indeed made for intimacy and, as such, to understand intimate relating is to better understand an essential part of our human journey.


A Communication Approach to Conflict, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation: Reimagining Our Relationships (Kelley, Waldron, and Kloeber, 2018)

My initial interest in forgiveness as a central component of our faith spurred over two decades of studying this complex process. Reimagining Our Relationships builds on Communicating Forgiveness (Waldron & Kelley, 2007) in a way that is more digestible for undergrads and lay persons, and digs deeper into certain processes such as emotional intelligence and reconciliation. Like most of my books, there is a sequencing to the chapters (although they can be taught in mixed order). They build upon one another creating a comprehensive perspective as to how one might work through difficult situations with others and oneself (self-forgiveness). This book is particularly unique as we share how to conduct Forgiveness Tree workshops in various community settings and provide you with tools to recreate this experience.

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