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tv   Religious Influence on U.S. Politics  CSPAN  August 24, 2021 3:10pm-4:39pm EDT

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forecompetition rule, tips and more information on how to get started visit our website at next from purdue university, historians talk about religious influence on u.s. politics and foreign policy in the 20th century and why they believe this isn't a widely studied topic. this was part of a two-day conference called remaking american political hits try. >> thank you all for coming. i'll be chairing this roundtable today. i'll give a brief overview of how it came to be and what we're going to talk about and then we'll introduce our group and then we'll get started. so 15 years ago -- >> can you turn the mic on? >> oh. >> there's a switch.
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>> oh, there we go. is that -- all right. thank you. yeah. so there's a switch on the mics. great. 15 years ago in a "journal of american history" article john butler challenged historians of modern america to pay attention to religion. in particular, he noted, religious continuing importance in 20th century american politics deserves sustained attention and analysis. scholarship in religious history has pro-life rated over the past 15 years and in political history religion has often retained in butler's evocative term a jack in the box quality, colorful, surprise, anomalous, idiosyncratic but left on the periphery to pop up occasionally rather than systematically, so today our roundtable will address how religion matters in american political history, and we'll do so in three ways.
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first, i'll ask each of our panelists to focus on a way in which religion matters, that is in their own research how religion plays a role and in situations that they are working on but also how centering religion in these spaces gives us a different narrative, a different story than if it were on the periphery or ignored in some way. second, we'll talk aloud about butler's provocation. why have political historians remained somewhat reluctant bistand efforts about religion in american history and why does religion still get left out of calls for papers, courses, synthese sze. there's a few stalwarts but not as many come to something when religion is centrally part of it, and finally we'll discuss the way in which religion is everywhere in our current
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moment, islamophobia and the religious left, the evangelical right and the moral monday movement are just some of the things we see regularly today. we also see how religious freedom has become the catch word of the current administration as well as opponents to it, so how can and should we explain this as political historians, and how might political and religious historians work together to historicize the present moment? that's what's on the docket for today. with me are larone martin, associate professor of religion and politics at danforth center on religion and politics at washington university in st. louis. his award-winning first book was "the breaching on wax, "the phonograph and the making of african-american religion" and he's currently working on a book about religion, the fbi and the national security state which is under contract with princeton university press. to his right is lauren turik,
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assistant professor of his toy in san antonio. she's currently completing a book "to bring the good to all nations, religion, human rights and u.s. foreign policy which will be out by cornell soonish. close enough. on the far right is kate rosenblatt who is a visiting assistant professor of history, actually in the religion department at emery university. she's working on a map script, cooperative battle grounds, religion and it's on under contract with cornell. my first book "enlisting faith, how the military chaplain" came out last summer and i'm working on religion and health care. i'll come to my first question
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and ask the scholars to talk about the role of religion in their own work and the way in which thinking about religion has changed the way that we can understand some certain aspects of american history. >> thank you for that, and what she left out of her own intersduks that her book is also an award-winning book, church history prize for the best first book in american religious history, so thanks for bringing us all together. my current research program examines the fbi and its relationship to religion during the directorship of longtime director j. edgar hoover from 1924 to 1972. the focus on religion in the project illuminates understudied yet vital aspects of the bureau's internal cultures and practices and how that ethos shaped the public perceptions of the fbi's political work and in particular the fbi's understanding and american understandings more broadly of the relationship between
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religion and national security. existing studies of the fbi have strongly dismissed the role of religion in the making and at shaping of the bureau. the role of religion has been more prominent in political histories of post-war america, displaying how the cold war shaped america's religious landscape. yet these studies of religion and the cold war tend to downplay the war of the nation's top domestic security force and the cold war watchdog that was the fbi. in fact, all too often in these studies hoover is lurking both literally and figuratively on the margins. so in my research i folk dwrus on the link between religion and hoover's feefnlt i argue that there are three things that i will discuss today that this connection reveals about american politics and american political history. first, j. edgar hoover himself. examining the role of faith in the life of j. edgar hoover
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reveals hoover became a central figure in american religion, that america's faith expressed in beliefs and symbols and rituals in the public sphere. without looking at the religion in the life of j. ed guard hoover we'll miss a number of things. for example, in his childhood did i list they show as well as the experiences of a teenage sunday schoolteacher and he also explored a call to ministry. all of this reveals how religion shaped hoover's world view lock before he became the director of the fbi. his faith remained while he became the director of the fbi. he was a trusty and a member of the national presbyterian church, sharing a pew with president eisenhower and john douglas and he remained a pastor for the remainder of his life. all that have reveals hoover's calvinistic view of america
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showed how he understood america and how he understand and executed his job in protecting america. this is evident in his speeches, the books in which he began framing patriotic christianity as the sole antidote to communism and how he organized the bureau which i will address next. scholars and casual observers alike may doubt the sincerity of hoover's faith even as i'm speaking now. however, americans at his time did not doubt that faith. every major christian faith community from the catholic church to the african methodist episcopal church to evangelical and protestant mainline chamber of commerce alike, they all crowned hoover with award, citations and plaques and, yes, even a stained glass window at a church. hoover was deemed and crowned as a champion in american politics. hoover then can be seen as arguably, we could say, the high priest of american civil religion this. title has normally been reserved for presidents such as hoover's
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co-religionist dwight eisenhower. however, as presidents came and went usually every four to agent years hoover remained. in fact, for almost half a century he led the bureau and for countless americans he was the person to look to for all things for god, flag and country. second. a keen eye on the importance of religion reveals that the bureau itself had a religious culture which shaped how americans viewed and understood their fbi. understand hoover's auspices the fbi instituted private worship services, spiritual retreats and communion and prayer breakfasts exclusively for fbi agents and even when the fbi admitted african-american agents, she is worship services and private religious affairs were exclusively for white agents only. similar to american civil religion, the bureau's religious culture borrowed from protestant and catholic forms, especially the militaristic aspects of jesuit spiritually.
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hoover's g-men were seen as more than federal bureaucrats but as buyout soldiers drafted to embark on a crew side against all things subversive and ungodly. indeed in the cop teskts cold war, americans began to say their god-fearing fbi agents as a clearing house of sorts, of true faith and allegiance. fbi files are filled with letters from the public requesting religious and political advice. mr. hoover, which church should i attend? mr. hoover was billy graham a real christian? mr. hoover, should i listen to oral roberts? mr. hoover, is martin luther king a communist? should i attend this church that is led by a woman? is that subversive? these sorts of letters fill fbi files. americans may look to their pastors, priests and bishops to be able to address theological disputes, but many of them entrusted their fbi for the warm weightier matters of politics. the history of the fbi then can be seen and rewritten as an
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adjudicator of true faith and political allegiance in 20th century u.s. politics, something which contemporary observers of the fbi know all too well. finally, focusing on religion illuminates how the bureau was able to form partnerships with leading black and white protestant and catholic faith communities, all to influence important aspects of 20th century politics. hoover and his fbi established working professional and personal relationships with leading clergy such as father fulton sheen, president trump's pastor -- boyhood pastor norman vincent peele, billy graham and the chaplain of the united clans of america reverend george dorsett as well as the first past tor have his own television show. the fbi worked with these men and they were all men because hoover did not recognize female clergy. they all worked together bring about a certain ideal of what the proper relationship it was
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between religion and politics in the nation. indeed this, christian syndicate laundered intelligence for the fear, preaching and publishing it as gospel. they publicly and privately worked with the bureau to employ christian faith and racialize rhetoric to construct a shared ideal of religion and national security specifically and policy ideas more broadly. the fbi and hits christian network worked in concert with such policies ranging from anti-civil rights legislation, anti-communist fever and even submitting certain bible translations. those who supported such causes were discredit as domestic and subversive at best or destroyed at worst, and hoover used this christian syndicate to make sure that those folks were kept outside of the realm of what was considered american. with all this in mind, hoover's faith in his religious form's of the bureau and fruitful partnerships can lead clergy,
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perhaps we can use to to rewrite american political history in the post-war era. in the end a key eye on religion does not replace religious and studies of the fbi and american politics. rather, highlight religion serves as a compliment, that is, it adds more texture to the story. it brings more historical act tors an already crowded stage and thus provides a more vivid clearer picture of the bureau and its role in american politics. this naming and framing of this religious picture just might help us to better understand today's fbi and its fraught relationship to religion and national security specifically and american politics more broadly. thanks. [ applause ] >> so i'm a historian of u.s. foreign policy with a focus on politics and religion, and my
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forthcoming book looks specifically at how conservative evangelical christian groups sought to influence u.s. foreign policy on a range of issues from religious freedom and human rights to international trade and foreign aid starting in the person that 7 ons and moving through the 1990s. in the process of conducting this research, one of the things that i have found is that religion is a particularly fruitful avenue for analyzing not just politics but also policy-making. i find in particular that it helps shed light on the formation of ideology and national values and how policy-makers and domestic interest groups promote that's values. religious beliefs as enduring elements of american culture and ideology continued to shape the world view of political leaders as well as the public. they helped to steer a national discourse and in some cases they set the parameters of what's acceptable in policy making in
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terms the at least foreign policy-making. so one of the key arguments that i make in my book is that long-standing anxieties about religious repression and persecution and totalitarian regimes and the threat that persecution posed to the global missionary agenda of evangelical groups led to the establishment of a powerful evangelical foreign policy lobby in the united states starting in the late 1970s. now owing in part to their particular thee lodge calling beliefs, i found that evangelicals' privileged religious freedom which meant the freedom to evangelize and the freedom of others to hear their evangelization as the most fundamental of human rights. concerned about religious persecution and other abuses against the faithful led evangelical groups in the united states to advocate for a christian foreign policy, one that upheld core religious values and protected american missionaries and those that they
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evangleads, and i look at a number of case studies to demonstrate this and one that's, of course, going to be very sort of familiar for folks who say the cold war is the soviet union. there's a lot of concerns of persian accuse of religious believers in the soviet union. cases like the siberian seven were very famous in the 1970s and '1 will 0s and there's a number of other cases that i look at. there's a considerable amount of activism by evangelicals, often that aligned with say rageary-era policies, but evangelicals also at times went against reagan-era policies. with romania, for example, where the reagan administration sought to have a differentiation policy and extend trade, over gel calls were very uncomfortable about than due to the continued religious persecution interest. there's interesting activist that happened. these views used for promoting
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religious freedom in the soviet union and ore totalitarian states led them to receive anti-authoritarian regimes as against their objective. it enabled evangelicals to interpret state violence in authoritarian countries as acceptable and sometimes even desirablers to combat the spread of communism and, therefore, prevent religious persecution. this is where we see support for genocidal dictators in places like guatemala being framed in human rights and religious freedom language or support for constructive engagement -- reagan's policy of constructive engagement in south africa is an effort to prevent the spread of communism and thus religious persecution to protect christian south africa so there's interesting ways in which this language of human rights comes into play. so evangelical lobbyists in this time period were adapting human
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rights language in the advocacy campaigns and in the congressional testimony in the events of the soviet bloc and central america and southern africa, the middle east and elsewhere, and in doing that, in using this language, what i found is that it was shaping how certain policy-makers, politically conservative policy-makers were facing repression aboard. ultimately these activists were able to exert an influence on decision-making on a range of vital foreign policy issues, everything from trade, guatemala and diplomatic relations with south africa in terms of politics at home, this includes really a significant lobbying effort to strike down the comprehensive anti-apartheid act. they were not successful but played a significant role in the effort to oppose.
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it all that is to say that foreign policy activism that really mattered, right, their global network really mattered. it had a substantive effect on u.s. policy-making and bringing religion into our study of politics and foreign policy really matters. it reminds us of the way policy-makers and politicians understand the world around them. it reminds us that religion is often a part of how they sort of shape their world view. it's integral. deeply held religious beliefs motivate grass roots political act vifrm, and it's not hot button issues like abortion. it's on foreign policy as well, so what i found is that bringing religion into the study of human rights acvism, into politics, into foreign policy is critical. these groups may be offering a different vision of human rights as what we often think of being implemented by a liberal human rights activism. they are often couching their
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activism next police italy religious term terms. there's a sense that they are embracing morality or freedom of religion should be fundamental parts of u.s. foreign policy-making. there should be explicit goals, and for us one of the things that this pushes us to keep in mind is when we think about the history of foreign policy. it's not it for power. it's often foundational as what policy-makers think of shaping the national interest, expanding morality and core values and seeing the way in which religious is tied up andism kated in those particular values so bring the history religion into the study -- particularly conservative religion into the study of human rights it helps us think about the ways in which human rights history and history around activism, a lot of these terms are fluid and contested. human rights as a term is fluid and contested in the 1970s, and
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it shows us the ways in which these activists can use language of human rights and actually shape the parameters of the debate and shape the brand of politics and in the 1980s, the views and ways of thinking about conservative rights ended up shaping the politics of the reagan administration and shaping how they look in the 1980 so religious influences all have an impact in politics. we should be keeping all this in. >> i'm a modern religious -- a modern history and u.s. labor historian and i'm a his tore yap of capitalism to use the language today and i in particular write about
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cooperative corporations, cooperatives which are usually dismissed as sort of some variant of radical communalism but instead i write about them as cooperatives, and not only as cooperatives -- not only that but cooperatives are -- are democratically organized, right. one member, one vote and they are organized around service rather than profit, and the historiography on corporations tends to suggest that, you know, when we talk about corporations we usually i think most people are sort of pointing towards the are private business corporation, but corporations -- the histography suggests that the corporations emerged as the dominant form of economic life in the u.s. and this largely describes corporations as sort of national bureaucratic firms that aimed to faction number
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profits. the problem with this is you miss a lot when people don't actually deploy their financial resources. i take seriously the idea that americans across the 20th century used criteria other than profit as motivation for their pocketbook politics and importantly religion was one --. they would choose where to use their financial workers. jewish workers in new york city through the amalgamated built somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 units of cooperative housing in the early 190s. i wrote with protestant finnish immigrants who built massive educational cooperatives that are still alive and well. they are immensely successful.
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i look at cooperative models and all of these sort of groups, sort a wide range of americans look to religious texts and to teaching and to their clergy to produce what i would call a moral political economy. in order to sort of allow people of faith to sort of use their religious traditions and apply those teachings to the complex social problems of the day so indeed by the 1930, the council of chamber of commerce and all together sort of embrace cooperative models with the idea that these kinds of corporations
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could produce, well, a for humane capitalism, one that was not as extractive as private businesses and they also embraced the idea within capitalism that you could -- in other words -- they lodged that there arically. >> sort of through reformist politics to produce a system that could distribute the wealth of the nation. language was always being deployed by workers and by farmers across the united states in trying to -- to say how capitalism was not doing for them and doing it long before there was a public consensus
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that there was a challenge with capitol. bringing this as a xwratgory allows -- this is something that we can talk about. that divide exists. allows you to complicate vee mailing understanding, the rise of american and ultimately people have faith and religious traditions at various times and places have not only had in the and they have done that through large-scale corporate organizing. >> all right. thank you. it's now my turn to give a little bit about my own work which draws on many of the strands mentioned by my fellow scholars. as i mentioned earlier, my first
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book was about the military, and i'm not working on health care. two a.j. or international many workers in american history. when i think about the military, first of all, when i said the that was, rur, ilnever thought about that. why in the military? sure, maybe they were -- what i found was a massive procedure and enterprise ked dated to thinking about the religious lives of soldiers and officers and bar with you also an institution which happened are incentives and disincentives for participation in the than lanesy some religious groups and also
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if a till said power to others. >> if we like at someone like dwight eisenhower to understand mid-central religion requiring eisenhower's role in the military because what he brought to but he until. when he became a member of the church in d.c.,ed a was a part of that season we -- you know, a couple could xoet exist and. in many ways that was a vision that a lot of americans coming out of world war ii shared, but it was also a vision that could be co-opted by others who sought to use religious for other purposes, more sectarian or divisive ones, because there
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was -- somewhat someone like eisenhower understood is a perceived shared understanding was not in fact shared but used by others for different ends, and if we look at that moment, it's also the moment when more conservative sectarian-oriented religious groups wanted to enter the military and in fact made very distinct decisions to, for example, create their own seminaries so that they would be able to meet the military's education requirements and then ent into the military. what this gets at is the ways in which infrastructure in -- that someone within that space could make religious arguments and also make what appears not to be a religious argument and also the government itself how to role in either role-insing
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happened at other times -- israel them to par tis a this state and understand it so understanding american religious politics we have to think about the liberal/conservative back and forth and where they had opportunities to be engaging in one another, and the military was one such space, and then i'll just add that if we're thinking about spaces of government and governance, i'm not working on a different project on hospitals and health care, and -- and the i have nom to believe that you can't actually understand the shape of the american health care system without understanding the role of religious hospitals and religious groups in it, and by that i don't simply mean the current debates about abortion or contraception or end of life care, the sort of flashy moments that clearly involve theological disagreements but i was in the
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archives this past week looking at a number of papers about hospitals in the '30s and '40s and '50s and one of the things that made me think is our narrative around health insurance and the prospect and then absolute erasure of the possibility of a national health insurance program in part because i think the traditional narrative associates that as an impossible resolution due to both pressures from groups like the american medical association and from unions like the uaw that wanted it to tie insurance to employment but forgotten in that narrative is a group of hospitals, religious hospitals that on the one hand would publicly say it's absolutely vital to provide health care to poor people, that this is necessary and it's tied to our religious beliefs, and at the same time because they felt that a government health care system
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would completely destroy their own hospital systems didn't want any part of a government health care system, right, so this -- this is an area in which it doesn't necessarily seem to be about religion or theology but hospitals are businesses, hospitals are corporations and groups that are heavily invested in the health care industry therefore were making calculated business decisions that in some ways contradicted their own sort of social justice or other theological orientations around health care and healing and it's a contradictory nature of religion in these institutional spaces that i think deserves far more sustained attention not just by me and by others and in part because it is so complex, because there isn't a single party line about what religion is in this space but also religious groups themselves. there's a really wonderful back and forth i found in the early
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1970s between what was then the national conference of catholic bishops and catholic theologians disputing what should or shouldn't be acceptable in catholic health care and what specifically it meant if catholic hospitals were serving a pluralistic population including many patients and health care providers working in them who weren't catholic. the theologians were far more interested in pluralism than the bishops, that isn't surprising, but the fact that they were willing to call some of the positions of the hierarchy a disaster i do think is worth attention, and so thinking also then about these intrareligious debates as well as interreligious debates and secular religious debates that emerge from the key and formative institutions of american society i think is critical to understanding american politics in the 20th century, but with that i'll turn
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to the next question i asked everyone to think about is we've all just made claims for the ways in which religion tells us something about american politics and american history, especially in the 20th century that's not necessarily evident or clear if we don't pay specific attention to religion itself. so why then is this still a struggle to get religion into spaces, into courses, into syntheses and into calls for paper? i regularly see fascinating calls or conference calls that list, a very long list of subfields in history and religion is still not mentioned, even with religion clearly around us, so just to reflect and think about why this is and how we might rethink how this works. anyone can. >> so i'll offer two responses
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to that -- to that question. they are simple and short but i hope they are generative for our discussion. the first reason i would offer is perhaps it's an issue of definition. perhaps the reason why political historians fail to engage religion is that we struggle still to understand exactly what is religion. where does one look for religion in sources? is religion statics? does it change overtime? is it church attendans, private devotional life, consumption habits? is it our relationship to capitalism? is it fill throbbic? what exactly is religion? >> this is a debate so much so that most of us on the panel and elsewhere in the field are still debating exactly what religion is and the debate ranges from people who see it everywhere to folks who say that it doesn't actually exist at all, so perhaps maybe settling on a
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definition on religion that does not focus on the supernatural but actually focuses more so on how individuals see the world or maybe as others talked about that religion can be seen as symbols in which case where people locate others in the world with reference to ordinary powers, means and values? perhaps that type of definition can help us wade through. but since religion is usually not understood in this way it's actually -- usually treated as john butler once said as a jack in the box. it's an eniphenomenon, it's an experience that accompanied a physical phenomenon but has no causal relationship to it whatsoever so religion as john butler once said in his article, oftentimes in political history pops up colorfully appearing as
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a momentary idiosyncratic thrusting of impulses from had a more distant american past, but perhaps armed with a more robust definition of religion that is not simple police put forth an extraordinary or an idea of a mystified power and values, but if we have a definition that deals with the everyday and the everyday life perhaps we can listen hey new to our historical actors and in their political motivations. we can move away from foregone conclusions about religion and the lives of our historical actors and really get down to the nitty-gritty of what our actors actually believed. how eisenhower, for example, understood the role of religion in joining a church. how j. edgar hoar understood it, for example. perhaps this can avoid our own present understandings of religion or even reading into our own actors and biasses as it relates to religion. finally and second, perhaps another thing that hinders the study of religion and political
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history is the idea that the study of religion section conclusively confessional, this idea that the popular notion amongst scholars and the broad public for those who study religion are not religious and pious but also studying religion as apologist to promote the faith and defend the faith. few understand that religion like race, sexuality, gender, clarks et cetera, can be approached as a subject and tool of historical inquiry. for this very reason i must conference i often avoid discussing my research when i'm on planes, trains and automobiles and other casual venues. ordinarily people see me reading a text and if it has anything to do with religion, they feel free to ask me any type of theological question that has plagued them since their childhood. is heaven and hell, are they real? will i go there, or even sometimes more mundane questions like did adam name the dinosaurs? these are sorts of questions that i'm not making up that have actually happened to me.
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now -- and this is often far from the truth about what religion scholars actually do, especially my colleagues here on the stage, the podium, the platform. people actually do study these questions in theological training but that's not the exclusive fear of religious inquiry especially when we're talking about political history. oftentimes folks who study religion are not even religious themselves. this is not to call myself and my colleagues heathens but it's to call our attention to the fact that such notions can hinder us from engaging a critical aspect of the american experience and the american history. we have more historians, heatenous or otherwise studying religion and we can help dispel the myth that the study of religion is done exclusively on confessionary terms and historians can put a stop to the jack in the box phenomenon that john butler referred to and even admit that the religion can be
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colorful and surprising at times but it should not be left on the periphery. it should not be left to pop out of a confessional box occasionally usually surrounding a presidential election. no. we should engage religion and our political religion as a transformative notion, one in a physical and triumphant narrative nor one that's relegated to a periodic disdain and neglect but actually a rigorous and consistent narratives so instead of a jack in the box perhaps we could let religion enjoy what john butler called a conductive performance, not a stand-alone performance on the stage but alongside the american experience and democracy. >> i'm going to start treefrg myself as a heathenous historian. just very briefly i would echo some of what lorne said in that
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there is an assumption that historians who work on religion are religious. that is definitely not necessarily the case and folks coming from an external perspective have a lot to offer religious studies and one of the challenges that i think historians and foreign policy encounter when they seek to examine religion is that it is challenging to demonstrate how an idea or a faith or a world view leads to a specific policy, and it's not always mob to show the exact mechanism by which that happens which means you have to be creative in reading sources and thinking about the ways that ideas and influence work in making policy so i think it may be a me todayological challenge. how do you prove it was faith and not an appraisal of power or national security, that it was the driving force in shaping a
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particular decision, and it may not always be to be do that, but it adds a lot when we consider the ways that religion has influenced policies. perhaps not the only factor, but an important factor, but since it's hard i think, you know, one might always want to go in that direction. they might get a lot of pushback. >> yeah. i have a few thoughts on this. i mean, one is structural related to the academy as the person who thinks about capitalism a lot. there is this -- there's been a resurgence, a new history of capitalism. it wasn't that historians weren't previously doing quite history on the economy. they used different language, but in reframing how history departments operated particularly by the sort of '70s and '80s economics departments sort of claimed economic history away from history departments and i see something similar with respect to religion that indeed
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history departments have real jettisoned their specialty in religion to religious studies department which is, you know, fine and to some extent but if we want historians to do religion we actually have to hire them to do it in history departments. really radical idea, i know, but it is -- it is in fact about oftentimes where you are structurally located in the up. i'm a historian working, you know, based in a religion department in an institute for jewish studies and i love when people ask me what i do. i say i'm a political historians, just to let them think for a second, how -- how do those things connect, right? and -- and it always confuses them. i sort of get a good chuckle. the second thing that sort of shapes the historians who ignore religion. i might get into trouble.
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will herbert streams have a real outsized influence, and it is this kind of weird thing where everybody sort of just assumes that herbert is right, and it always streams me this this sort of underlying sort of thought process is, well, he got it. he got it right and what is there left to say. this is i think wrong in a lot of ways, but list think it's important to place herbert in his political context which is in a world consensus history. will herbert was prodescriptive, not descriptive and to a large extent i think ronit's work sfeeks this more effectively by the time he wrote protestant catholic you in 1955 the structures itself is almost collapsed. it's almost a decade later that "time" magazine can ask on its cover is god dead, right, which in some ways points to how
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problematic it is that we sort of accept this idea of judeo-christian tradition, man, that's, you know, now really popular these days to invoke that, but as an historian i'm saying i'm not even sure what that means and i think also by the mid-1950s there's a range of other safe traditions that are banging at the door of the state in particular for resources and acknowledgement, right, so buddhist and hindus and atheists and evangelicals most importantly are sort of critiquing that structure, but even so historians, particularly those who don't do religion when they try to do religion they try to reference herbert and move on and i think that that might be part of why historians may be talking about it. it's connected to me which is
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it's really hard to teach religion in. so far as a student of mine comes in and they say something that i would consider to be in the vain of white supremacy i know how to combat that. i know how to respond to that, but saying things are actually different in so far you either have to agree or believe them or actually have to respect them and my first time teaching in the religion department was at emery and fryar that i had only tout history classes and no student had ever proclaimed their religion to me before asking a question but in my classroom now i would say that at least half of my students begin their question by saying i am or am not "x" but -- it's real intimate and it requires, you know, deafness that not all of us i don't think -- certainly we're not trained to have in graduate school and i think many
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of us have sort of cobbled together skills to be able to teach religion for those who are not religion people by birth or methodology or something so i think, that you know, it's hard to teach religion and i think that that's also a real barrier. >> and this question around finesse and how do we work whether with students or with sources and one of the things that i've been working a lot about, it's trite to say that religion is complicated, of course, so in many ways are race, gender, sexuality and capitalism, all sorts of other categories as a historical profession regularly engage and, when you know, if you do legal history you learn law and if you do medical history you learn a lot about medicine and if you do business history you do alearn a lot about business med odds but part of what it means to do religion well is to become
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fluent in a number of different religious languages to be able to discern the difference between what certain words mean and what different faith traditions and what they are therefore signaling to this. to be able to think about what it is, that those words are suggest falling to -- to a faith community and what at the same time they may be registering quite differently with other faith communities and with other communities in general and i think that that's a real challenge so figuring out this sort of religious literacy necessary to unpack and work with terminology that often is -- not necessarily intentionally coded but speaking in many different registers at once and understood in many different registers at once and the do i think that that is a real challenge that religion presents, that i think one of --
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i think me todayologically we do a lot of work in history trying to think through sources in deep and so fist ways and religion often challenges what that looks like in ways that maybe other categories also challenge us but not in quite the same way, not of sort of with the need to other language in the same way and i think similarly the challenge that religion presents which i think is a wonderful challenge but still can be difficult is that religious faith groups, religious groups don't necessarily adhere to conventional political alignment, so how do we look at the african-american church that is, you know, very much on the progressive left when it comes to racial justice, the carcerial
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state. it's really challenging to think about how a space that in many ways was a space of liberation was also a space of not -- not of sort of accepted suppression or repression of gender and sexuality. these are both operating at the same time. i was reading religious entally the pamphlets of this extraordinarily right wing catholic league for civil and religious rights. i mean, so to the right, that again, the bishops were like didn't like it, but amidst all of the screeds in terms of the need to support, you know, vouchers and parental rights and education and like an overwhelmingly anti-abortion, anti-contraception stance is in 1979 an article arguing against any effort to stop the flow of immigrants, and it was like a very pro-immigrant don't build a
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wall, we need to welcome immigrants there. 's no such thing as illegal immigration, so this isn't fit necessarily how we understand politics of either the present or the past, and so i think that does give us i mean a lot to work with if we're willing to work with it, but one of the renks that it can be set aside is because it does challenge some conventional narratives so i think that brings us to the present moment which when i started in many ways politically religion is all around us. it's invoked constantly and it certainly seemed to be generating a lot of the policies of the trump administration. we see it, you know, whether it's with the muslim ban on the one hand or the setup of the office of the division of conscience and religious freedom in the office of civil rights within health and human services, you know, we see religion playing clear roles in the administration. we also see, what are we at, 22
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candidates in the democratic primary, also talking about religion if i think interesting and new ways. we see reverend william barber, his organizing of the moral monday movement and, again, when we look at immigration and the sanctuary movement very much led by religious leadership, so, you know, the question, therefore, to think about, how do we work with this, how do we explain this religiously, politically? what does this do to our notion of our narratives of history in the 21st century and to think about whether it's historical anti-cedants or just as we do as historians, how did we get here? what's changed or what's different or not about this moment? >> i think one thing that i would say in response to that, thinking of the long trajectory of history, if we look back one of the things we might notice is there's moments in time when religion is particularly salient, particularly influential in politics and
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foreign policy and then it kind of ebbs and flows and my sense is that there is more salience for religion in moments of social dislocation and challenge, so when i think of the gilded age and progressive era, right. religion has more salience in politics. when i think of the long civil rights movement, this isn't to overgeneralize. when there are these moments it seems as though religion and religious actors, either because there is a -- sort of a built-in locus for organizing in a particular faith community or because those arguments, the nature of the theoretical arguments are -- can be applied, it seems that that -- that that can be sort of more salient in the moment so religion can be a way to understand the problem and to propose what seemed to be god-ordained answers to them, though it can also be a way to argue for keeping things as they, are right, so there are plenty of, you know, robber
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bearons who made religiously inflictive arguments for the reason things were the way they whether and imperialism was great for reasons related to god. you can make the arguments on both sides. it's not just the left or right. religion is inherently male. a can you have different interpretations of the key religious text, and who is the outside arbiter to tell you that you're right or wrong and, therefore, it's really easy -- one of the questions that ronit posed was the question of the language of religious freedom in our current political debate and, you know, how do we see religious conservatives and religious liberals making arguments about religious freedom and they are talking about completely different things, right? you know, being forced -- being forced to provide services equally to everyone as seen as an infringement of religious freedom and then people are saying, well, if you look abroad at people being killed and imprisoned for their religious beliefs, that's an attack on
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religious freedom but both sides are making these arguments based on this language and that language is politically power. if i don't want ton arguing against religious freedom. the language is powerful even it is meaning different things to different people and so because these sort of terms are so malleable it's a challenge but it also -- it also means that -- that they are -- that we're going to keep seeing this. it's not going away in this particular moment of this so much sort of challenge in society. >> me? >> yeah. i'm not sure i have a great answer. in some ways for me my inclination is always again to ask about money, an, you know, i think perhaps one of the things that can help of explain or political moment is how seemingly disinterested academics are in americans' religious beliefs but those people were not ambivalent in
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any way about those beliefs and they invested heavily. they give money and they tie their whoever form of labor that they have to their religious commitments and they built -- they build institutions, and i think that part of the reason that religion is so powerful in our moment today is because they actually as it turns out have a lot of capital and in this sort of financial. they also have other kind of capital, but they have a lot of money, and they use that money and those resources in pursuit of their political world views, and so without paying attention to religion, i think we're getting a really thin understanding of, you know, americans, their political commitments and where those commitments come from. >> you know, also thinking just one thing that that raises for me, thinking institutions but also tv, radio and other media. >> yeah. >> universities and colleges,
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the other question is also thinking forward. what is the rise of folks who don't identify with a particular religion going to mean for those of us who study religious history? how is that going to introact with some of these groups with a tremendous. a capital and an incredibly large population of americans who are not part that have community. >> yeah. >> right. i think it raise these questions -- i mean, i said, know, religion does exist as a protected constitutional category, and, i mean, i do think that probably belief is the most protected category legally in the united states. you can believe whatever you the with a. the expression of it, action on it is, of course, where the challenges are, but what gives rise to a lot of people -- if my belief is protected i should be able to do with whatever i want with this belief and on the other han, as we've seen
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particularly with immigration, migration, what happens on the border works gets labeled a terrorist in this country works doesn't. these are all questions that do tie into american understandings of religion which, again, i think has been as much shaped by government as by religious groups themselves, but i also -- we want to leave time for questions from the audience, for questions, for challenges, for things that you think are interesting to discuss to be otherwise talk about. >> if you could just say who you are. >> sure. >> my name is paul crochet. i teach at a liberal arts college in florida, and i'm really interested in all the presenters here, very helpful for so much research and teaching, too. and my question is about the
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attention beyond its professional terms. you put it most sharply. tacit throughout much of the panel here and that suggests a way of thinking about religion beyond church and beyond theology towards lived experience and and at the same time it's a tacit acceptance of a less transcend entalists of religious. i just wonder your thoughts whether through methodology, a tacit acceptance of this broader range of religiousity and for extra credit if anyone is interested in commenting on how that might make some
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conservatives rather upset? >> yes. >> well, let me maybe give an example. so one of the things that i've been thinking about lately jesuit spiritually and the jesuits based on st. ignatius are all about what they so as cooperating with god in the world, to help bring humanity back to god, so that to me is a very lived experience. this is the very idea that everything that we do is somehow related to a worship of god so it's not necessarily about going to church. it's not about necessarily how much you pray, but it is about the kind of actions that you do in the world, and this is why in my own research i find that j. edgar hoover finds this so helpful for his fbi agents because their actions in the world can be framed in a way
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that they are cooperating with the divine to bring america back to god or to keep america on track, so for me i'm very comfortable with that, because it helps me as a historian to sort of track these ideas and these actions that are stemming from certain religious categories and ideals that are -- that -- that have referenced to transcendent ideas but are real, real lived out in the world, so i'm comfortable with that, and i think that those of us who are living in the world today and watch the news understand that even though the religious right, right, has this kind of idea, right, that everything that they are doing in their political activism is somehow for them rooted in a certain type of religious commitment to god in that regard so i'll leave the extra credit to other folks. >> i sometimes tell my students that we study not earthly matters but matters of the earth as a kind of play to sort emphasize the extent to which,
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yeah, questions of faith are always intimately connected to -- to, you know, questions of politics. in fact, i think they are inseparable, and -- i'm not sure everyone agrees with us. >> ronit. >> nathan conley, johns hopkins university. i really enjoyed this panel, and i've been grappling a lot in my own effort to achieve kind of legitimacy and fluency in thinking about what to do about ips tugsz in churches that are actually funding black diaspora projects or thinking a lot about the language of religion as being one that is as important as learning romance languages or language of music and so i wonder if one of the answers to the dilemma of religion as a language is that there needs to be some kind of method logical
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piece that's dropped in a -- kind of throw it down there that gender as analysis did some work, just a moment where you need that piece to really call to arms the historians who would benefit from having that in the tool kit that they have. that's a gentlemen question for the panel to respond to. >> very specifically i'll reduce this to one. i want to get professor martin to around the documents and marginality being scrolled around martin luther king and historian david garrow thought it his duty to release salacious scuttlebutt around martin luther king that had to do with unnamed authors in the fbi that thought dr. king had been a party of or at least a witness of a crime of
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sexual violence. i'm curious to -- it's an extraordinary revision of the fbi to think about it as a religious institution and to think about the moral fbi and believe it or not i have access to colonial office records about my grandfather and crimes that he may have committed with salacious nature and grappling with it thinking about my own writing and the news cycle itself and where you may come down on what we may credibly draw or infer given your research on a moral fbi about what the character of the organization might be and what it's telling us about the nature of state surveillance and what to do with these kinds of claims where tourly you have a bundle of documentation that's talking about folks who are very intimately concerned about the spiritual lives hand morality on the one hand and we also know that the fbi is trying to very clearly engage in preemptive strikes against black radicals and the likes. where are we supposed to balance your findings with what leaves
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historians broadly, you know, very uncomfortable? >> i guess we'll goback wards and raise the mlk thing and thanks for raising that and i read the comments that you made about this as well. i have to say that i was disappointed in the way that david garrow, when i count as a colleague, i -- i was disappointed in the way that they framed his findings. as we all know from his wonderful work on bearing the cross and the fbi, martin luther king, we know that as you mentioned the fbi was out to get martin king there. he's no doubt about it. i was disappoint that had he presented the research in a way and leaving most of that context out so for folks who haven't read his books they don't know that the fbi makes a claim in 1963 to j. edgar hoover in his 70-page report by saying martin
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king is not a communist. the communists don't have any influence on the civil rights movement. everything is fine. hoover is upset and writes back to sir william sullivan and this is absurd and ridiculous and after martin king's march on washington address they immediately change their analysis. you know what, mr. hoover, you are right. he's the most dangerous knee grow in the world and we cannot count on, and this is key, and i wish that garrow would have cited this. we can no longer count on evidence that will stand up in a court of law or congressional committees in order to discredit martin luther king. we have to go beyond that sort of evidence. he doesn't mention, that and i think that that's really important that the fbi is aiming to find anything they can to discredit him including as i mentioned in my own work funneling and having ministers launder information about martin luther king as if he's a communist. when they said themselves they have no evidence of this. so one of the things that i
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think garrow could have done in the article was at least mention the broader background that the fbi has already decided, that they are not going to depend on evidence that will stand up in a court of law or before a congressional committee. the second thing i think he -- i wish he would have done is also to put the fbi surveillance of martin king and his sexual habits in a broader history of black sexuality and black bodies that we know in lots of records and lots of centuries the way that african-americans' bodies, politician we're talking about sexuality, especially black women, is always, always characterized as unnaturaling right, or something that is abnormal so for the fbi to make this claim, they are in a long tradition of doing that within america. and finally the framing of the article i think was made to be a kind of me, too, format, the idea that martin king had sat back and laughed and given
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advice while a woman was sexually assaulted. i think it was framed as a way to be palpable for a me, too moment but the me, too moment has taught us among many things that we need to listen to the voices of women, both past, present and future around these issues of sexual assault, especially around people and particularly men of power, but we don't have these women's voices in this article. we have is the fbi and written by an unnamed person in the fbi upon a transcript an audio reporting and that's a lot of steps, an audio recording that we won't have access to until at least 2027. so it was framed in a way i think that it was inappropriate, that was not true to the evidence that is available to us right now, and i think that if garrow had done some of those things, we could have engaged the work and engaged the claims but instead it was presented in a way that i think was unfair to the historical evidence that is
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there. now in 2027, perhaps we'll be able to listen to the tapes and we'll be able to judge for ourselves. it may be in fact a sexual encounter and the way it was described the fbi agents again it has to be understood in light of the longer campaign against king and not to be concerned about evidence and data. for example, let me say quickly if it was, if that was the case that the fbi had actually had martin king on tape with evidence that he was sitting back watching a sexual assault occur, why not turn that over to the local authorities in d.c. and then you have martin kick supposedly with evidence and being part of the crime and i was wondering if that's the case why didn't the fbi use the material to do that which they wanted to do. to use the information that was framed with the broader, longer historical context about the fbi
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and african-american activists like your family, the article, we could have engaged it in a way but instead it was presented in a way that i would argue was salacious and not always truth to the historical record, in the context of the historical record. les wonderful question about a article being drorngsd i will just say yes. >> isn't one of the reasons, particularly in secular academe why religion and politics is not discussed a lot, first of all, a number of historians and other scholars in academe are instrinsically hostile to any form of religious express, and is it also possible that a reluctance to discussion the interaction between religion and politics and other sectors of life based on the misplaced fire
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that engaging in such a discussion would involve establishing religion or promoting any form of religious expression or preference? >> i mean, i think it is certainly a long-standing convention that the explanation for historians not deep lip engaging with vehicle that they are not religious or more extremely hostile to religion, but that doesn't explain why religion has retained importance in early american his trips. you don't do early american history without paying attention to religion so i don't think early americanists are somehow a more religion bunch than modern americanists and, you know, similarly i think if we hook at other related fields, sociology, for example, where i don't think
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religion is always the central category but it is present in a way with most sociological analyses that hasn't been the case for history, and i don't think as a group, though i haven't studied it, i wouldn't mutt pun on sociologists being more friendly to historians either. so i think that's why these other -- i think there's probably some maybe disinterest or disinclination because it doesn't seem personally powerful perhaps or because it is seems less critical to a -- a certain ways of understanding the past than other categories do, but, you know, i -- i think -- i think some of the explanations that we've offered today kind of help get at some of the other structural and other difficulties because i think sort of mere indifference, i think if it were mere
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indifference, then, you know, deyou know, there are lots of other -- lots of other -- not everyone comes to graduate training in history with an intrinsic interest in race, gender, class, sexuality, and you could not get away with not engaging in those categories i don't think so the question to me remains why this one, and i -- i think, yes, some disinterest may explain part of it, but i think that there are other dimensions. >> yeah. that just captures that. i'm not sure -- i'm not religious and i find this -- i find it fascinating the way so many people's world views and beliefs shape their engagement with the wired world and it's so significant in the past for so many different -- in the all but so many different groups. it seems surprising to me that we don't talk about it more in the 20th century.
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>> and it's still significant. >> it's still significant today. >> i taught american religious history this semester and a number of students said, you know, whoa, like this -- this just explains things that i've never -- that i've recognized but haven't understood. i teach in california. they are like, you know, this is not the narrative of cesar chavez that you get. there's a lot of things that you don't get with cesar chavez at a public school system in california, but nevertheless paying attention to his catholicism does explain certain aspects of his organizing farm workers and also the ways in which why when he sets up -- when they set up health care clinics they don't provide contraception at them, right. like to are a lot of trejsters that are important or, you know, california has finally done away with the build a mission project in fourth grade which is incredibly problematic for, you know, imperialistic reasons but also for the simplistic
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understanding of what the role of missions in california but at the same time students would say to me, oh, like even just understanding the geography of california and the certain politics of california. it's important that understand the -- the legacy of spanish colonial missions, and students i think are really thankful for this, so, you know, one of the things that i would urge is just, you or -- i say this also as the first person to teach american religious at berkeley since the mayor retired in 1980. >> i would also add thinking about the class room, i think this is why professor conley's point is so sporin that i find students in the classroom struggle in -- in the same way that students in the classroom struggle to talk about race and sophisticated informed ways, i think i think our students also
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struggle with talking about religion and sophisticated and informed ways especially in the midst of, in this country where our students, if they are inundated at all with religion, it's mostly the groups are the loudest and mostly the religious right so i think a lot of our students struggle when they hear religion, they think religious right and then when you introduce them to someone like martin king or someone like fanny lou hamer, for example, and they are saying, well, this is not what i thought religious people did, right, so i think we're confronted with a wonderful opportunity but to professor conley's point we also have to be near about giving them a language and discomfort to talk about these other things in the classroom. >> i don't know if this is actually true but my sense is a lot of students' only engagement on american college campuses is usually related to the arab-israeli conflict and muslim
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groups and jewish groups disagreeing and now nobody wants to touch that stuff with a ten-foot pole. i pitched a class on american zionism and all of my colleagues went bush know, of course, they would let me teach it, but, you know, they are sort of looking at me that you're opening up a bag of worms that you really don't want and so i think my sense is that we cannot sort of underplay how much that conversation has hijacked any sort of serious engagement around religion for fear of enflaming tensions that already exist and that the university is so poorly managed to begin with. >> i've learned to take religion very seriously. my question comes out of teaching as well and not just my
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own personal experience. so i teach at walamette university, a small liberal artz college in oregon and most of our students, it's the west, you know. they are very unchurched for the most part. they don't know -- they don't even know what the reformation was, right, most of them, not all. but part of me -- in trying to understand the res sense that the students have and the difficulty that they have talking about religion, and i'll frequently have this occasion where a student will be talking about religion in class and then afterwards a student will come out to me as being religious. myself, i identify as a person of faith. this is a safe space where they talk about the fact they go to church and that it's okay and it's stunning to me that they feel this sense that it's not okay and i wonder how much of that has to do with the death of this narrative of ecumenical
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americanism and the -- how the cold war fits into that. >> yeah. >> in the 1970s and '80s there's the catholics and protestants and the "jungle cruise" and we're not commies. and then the sense of i'm the goes away. it's connected to the polarization in general where the identities have gotten so stacked and polarize that had students and much like around race or other issues it -- it -- i get the sense that teachers are afraid to say the wrong thing and there isn't that space to kind of create a shared sense of openness with difference. that it's okay that we are of different faiths and that we can talk about that, so i don't know -- for those of you who teach religiousries try -- what have you done that's enabled students to release some of that
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usual and how done in a diverse setting with people of different faiths. >> one thing when i teach my religion in politics seminar which is a senior level seminar, sometimes the first time that my history students are reading about just how pluralistic american society was, even as you know, from very early on so some of it is just introducing them to notions of different religions, interacting in native american religious, islam early on, i mean, there's so much happening in early america so giving the students a way to think about pluralism and it's so far removed from the pluralization that they do feel comfortable talking about it and then we talk about the religious right, there are politically left-leaning evangelicals, a
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whole group of them. most students don't realize that, so to try to pull them out of the sense that the only religion is the religious right and it's very polarize and they don't identify with it, many of them, not all of them. i think -- i think introduce this idea that there has always been such a wide verse of religion real gives them a space to talk about. what does it mean for politics and the constitution and the laws that get passed? why do some groups who might be relatively small in numbers and very loud have so much outsized influence and when does that mean for us now? >> i would say primary sources, i think -- i mean, it's so obvious. having them start with a piece that isn't related to them allows them to opportunity to start talking and eventually they do begin to assert their presidents and thoughts and
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that's in black and white and i think they appreciate that. yeah. >> my students will see religious as a deficit, especially secular students. this person has a set of beliefs that blinds them from seeing the world where i, of course, see the world exactly as it is, the bill maher, stilly, agnostic, this -- this -- and so to get in the students out of that space, right, to respect it and then when you add the politics on it, they are like i don't want to get inside of that. not only does the that person have a deficit and it's. someone i don't like and bursting that bubble is hard. >> not to go after herbert today.
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>> just go for it. >> the bulk of 20th century american religious histories, like the history of contestation and despite discussions and discoursive attempts to make everything seem very consensusy and united it's actually like difficult to find sources that if we take out, you know, the protestant catholic jew ones, it's hard to find the other ones like the brotherhood week, the one week a year, city or municipalwide events and so, yeah, it's -- if you just reveal the past to them you can't escape it. it's so painfully obvious that sort of protestant, catholic, jews, doesn't in any way get at the complex diversity and deep, deep sort of discontent between an amongst and within even.
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we even talk about the religious groups, denomme nations, right, as somehow they are unified. they are going at each other, too, in their spaces, so, you know, understanding that this kind of religious history is always kind of a battleground i think is, you know, key to being able to sort of combat that kind of like ecumenical, civil religion, we're all in this together cold war kind of thing. >> and i'll add to what my two colleagues have wonderfulfully pointed out, one way that i point out that contestation and also with my students, we have a religion in politics and wash u and what i've been finding increasingly is students, while some of them may doubt importance of religion or some may view it as some type of deficit i've also found at this age that students from the age of 18 to 23, whatever it may, 17
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to 23, are also trying to figure out who they are, right, and there's a way that i think studying religion for some of them is a way to help them figure out, you know works they are and who they want to be and the type of world they want to live in, so one way that i do that is to expose them to folks who felt compelled by religion to engage in progressive politics and do i that particularly in a class called right in the civil rights movement or i try to expose them to folks in the modern civil rights movement who felt compelled and the longer sem lar or longer course on religion in politics in america, that, of course, would extend to other folks in the 20th century, worker movement and things of that nature. i've found that at least in my context in the midwest to be very helpful for students to say oh, well, there are other religious voices besides those that i view as trying to be regressive in some ways in politics but actually being more progressive so that i think
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helps with the contestation and also helps students to understand as lauren said earlier that religious -- religion has been involved in a number of projects, both progressive and -- and liberal and conservative and otherwise. >> all right. one final question. >> real, just a comment or a shout-out for the whole panel. when i asked a question that in the brevity of a question was kind of binary between imminentism and transdidn'tlism, martin when you answered in particular showing ways in which there are intersections with your examples i think from the jesuits and eve gel calles and others and that's just a microcosm of how each of your presentations is adding complexifications but contexturalizations, another benign word, to understanding
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religious history so just a shout-out to say thanks. >> well, thank you. thank you all for joining us today. >> thank you. [ applause ]
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middle hand high school students, your opinion matters, so let your voices be heard with c-span's student cam video competition. be part of the national conversation by creating a documentary that answers the question how does the federal government impact your life? your five to six-minute video will explore a federal policy or program that hey fekts you or your community. c-span's student cam competition has $100,000 in total cash prize, and you have a shot at a grand prize of $5,000. entries for the competition will begin to be received wednesday, september 8th, for competition rules, tips and more information on how to get started, visit our website at next, university of notre dame professor darren dochuk talks about the oil industry's
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impact on american religion and politics. he's the author of "anointed with oil, how christianity and crude made modern america." the southern methodist university center for presidential history and clements center for southwest studies co-hosted this event. >> good evening. thanks so much for coming. it seems particularly appropriate given the subject of today's lecture tone courage you to pretend as if you're in church and to move in, if you would, to give folks, not necessarily late-arriving but people who are fashionably on time room to sit. i should say that this answers an age-old question for me


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