Religion in the American Experience
The Women and Men of American Religion. Story 2: Billy Graham

The Women and Men of American Religion. Story 2: Billy Graham

January 11, 2021

Hello, this is Chris Stevenson, host of the podcast series “Religion in the American Experience.” Due to the events of last week at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. we will not publish, as we usually do, our normally scheduled episode on Monday January 18th. Instead, over the next two weeks we will convene a panel of American religious history scholars to discuss how the history of religion and politics can help us better understand and react to the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. The recording of this discussion will be released Monday January 25th, on Podbean, Apple Podcast and Spotify. I look forward to meeting you then!

 

If anyone thinks about religion in America, which thinking is absolutely essential to understand America itself, one of the first things that comes to mind, whether one is religious or not, is “Billy Graham.” And even if not, because of his 20th century (the “American century”) influence, we should think about him. Born in 1918 on a dairy farm in North Carolina, Billy Graham later would be an advisor to American presidents, travel the world including behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, and fill stadiums to witness his preaching.

Our discussion about this towering figure on the American historical stage will help us better understand what religion has done to America, and what America has done to religion, and we trust that as a result, listeners will see how indispensable the idea of religious freedom as a governing principle, is, to the United States and its ability to fulfill its purposes in the world.

Today we have with us Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Christian History at Duke University, and author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. He specializes in the history of Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, World Missions and American Protestant thought. He is the author or co-editor of seven books, including Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (2001, Harvard University Press). He has served as a senior editor of the quarterly journal, Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, and is past president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies and of the American Society of Church History, and a trustee of Fuller Theological Seminary.

This episode was recorded on December 8, 2020.

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The Women and Men of American Religion. Story 1: Joseph Smith

The Women and Men of American Religion. Story 1: Joseph Smith

January 4, 2021

The name Joseph Smith is known to many Americans, as is the faith he founded, once called “Mormonism”, but recently having requested to be identified by their original, historic name: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Joseph Smith is revered by members of that church as a “modern prophet of God”; and derided by others as a “charlatan” or worse. We thought that to understand American religion, which is really part of the quest to understand America itself, it would be helpful to know, as best we can in an hour, what the historical record has to say about this man.

 

Today we have with us Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History, United States at Columbia University, to help us understand who Joseph Smith was by discussing his book Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, A Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder. Mr. Bushman specializes in the social and cultural history of the United States and received his PhD from Harvard University. He is the author of several other books, including From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765, King and People in Provincial Massachusetts, and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities.

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What Role Did Religion Play in the Founding of the American Republic?

What Role Did Religion Play in the Founding of the American Republic?

December 31, 2020

The interest in religion and the founding of the United States is broad, deep, intense and continuous. And this interest is had by those who are themselves religious and those who are not.  

Today we have with us two scholars who have expertise in this area, Mark David Hall and Daniel Dreisbach, to help us understand what we know about this from the historical record and what we don’t. 

Daniel Dreisbach is professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Criminology at American University in Washington, D.C., with primary research interests in American constitutional law and history, First Amendment law, church-state relations, and criminal procedure. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia and his PhD from Oxford University. Dr. Dreisbach is the author, editor, or co-editor of a dozen books on religion in America, including his recently published Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers. 

Mark David Hall is the Herbert Hoover Distinguished professor of politics at George Fox University in Oregon, with primary research interests in American political theory and the relationship between religion and politics. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia.  Dr. Hall is the author, editor, or co-editor of a dozen books on religion in America, including most recently Did America Have a Christian Founding?

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For What Purposes Has Religious Freedom Been Invoked in US History?

For What Purposes Has Religious Freedom Been Invoked in US History?

December 28, 2020

“Religious freedom” is everywhere in the news: it is invoked, it is debated, it is implicated, it is litigated, it is ridiculed, it is derided, it is loved, it is honored, it is before the Supreme Court & school boards, and it is found in religious sermons. The National Museum of American Religion offers to shed light on its history, in the hope that Americans, knowing some of its history, will understand this governing principle better, how revolutionary it is, how fragile it is, how dynamic it is, and how indispensable it is to America in fulfilling her purposes in the world, and so commit to protect and preserve it.

Today we have with us Tisa Wenger, associate professor of American religious history at Yale Divinity School, to show us some of this history of religious freedom by discussing her book Religious Freedom: A Contested History of an American Ideal. Professor Wenger’s research and teaching interests include religious encounters in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States; the cultural politics of religious freedom; and the intersections of race, religion and empire in American history. She is also the author of We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom.

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How Have Baptists Influenced the American Narrative?

How Have Baptists Influenced the American Narrative?

December 21, 2020

When one thinks of what religion has done to America, at least for me and I think for many of our listeners, “Baptists” come to mind – they are influential, they are large in number, and their history is very much linked to American history. If one wants to understand America, one needs to understand America’s religious history – and if one needs to understand America’s religious history, one must understand Baptist history.

We have with us today Barry Hankins, Professor of History and Department Chair at Baylor University, who will walk us through some of the more important parts of Baptist history in the United States (focusing on post Civil War up to the present) using the fantastic book Baptists in America, written by Professor Hankins and his Baylor colleague, Professor Thomas Kidd. Dr. Hankins’ research interests include religion and American culture, Protestant Fundamentalism and EvanGELicalism, and church and state in American history. He received his PhD from Kansas State University in 1990, and is the author of several books including Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President, Jesus and Gin: Evangelicals, the Roaring Twenties, and Today’s Culture Wars, and God’s Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism.

Also, as with each episode in our podcast series “Religion in the American Experience”, we trust that listeners will come away with a better comprehension of what religion has done to America and what America has done to religion, and thus come to value the necessity of this idea of religious freedom as a governing principle to America fulfilling her purposes in the world.

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The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War

The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War

December 14, 2020

A few months ago I saw the title of a new book about missionaries who spied for the United States during World War II and knew we had to do a podcast episode about it. Religion’s influence on American foreign policy is an important and fascinating one, and this is a relatively unknown story that is just coming to light. It may have also caught my attention because I was a missionary in northern Germany in 1989 and 1990, and spent time in Berlin both before and after the Berlin Wall fell.

We are honored to have Dr. Sutton with us today to discuss his book Double Crossed: The Missionaries Who Spied for the United States During the Second World War. Dr. Sutton is the Berry Family Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts in the Department of History at Washington State University. He teaches courses in 20th century United States history, cultural history and religious history. Dr. Sutton received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2005, and is the author of several books including American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelism, Faith in the New Millennium: The Future of American Religion and Politics, and Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America.

Also, as with each episode in our podcast series “Religion in the American Experience”, we hope listeners come away with a better comprehension of what religion has done to America and what America has done to religion, and thus more fully comprehend the necessity of this idea of religious freedom to America fulfilling her purposes in the world.

Sign up for podcast notifications at https://storyofamericanreligion.org/sign-up/.

The Political Mobilization of Black Churches

The Political Mobilization of Black Churches

December 7, 2020

Blacks in America are seared into the national consciousness. Slavery is considered one of America’s two “original sins.” Jim Crow, lynching, racism, inequality, mass incarceration, police brutality, specifically the death of George Floyd earlier this year, white supremacy – all are part of our understanding of the flawed yet noble and grand American tapestry. To many Americans, I think, the “Black church” holds some sort of special place in our thinking of Blacks and the varied roles they have played in the fragile American experiment in self-government

 

Professor Eric McDaniel is here with us today to discuss his book Politics in the Pews: The Political Mobilization of Black Churches, in an effort to help us better understand this particular part of American religious history – the role of the Black church in American politics. 

Eric McDaniel is Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Professor McDaniel specializes in American politics. His research areas include religion and politics, Black politics, and organizational behavior. His work targets how and why Black religious institutions choose to become involved in political matters. In addition, his work targets the role of religious institutions in shaping Black political behavior. He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2004.

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Has Religion Influenced American Diplomacy and War?

Has Religion Influenced American Diplomacy and War?

November 30, 2020

United States foreign policy is of great interest to all Americans because of the important thread in the American narrative that says we should use our blessings of freedom and wealth to benefit the world: foreign policy matters.

The burning question for us is, how did religion influence American foreign policy and war?

To help us answer this question we will talk with Andrew Preston, Professor of American History at the University of Cambridge and author of Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy. Mr. Preston specializes in the history of American foreign relations, specifically the intersection between national and international, including the influence that domestic politics and culture – particularly religion – have had on conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

Also, as with each episode in our podcast series “Religion in the American Experience”, we hope listeners come away with a better comprehension of what religion has done to America and what America has done to religion, and thus more fully comprehend the necessity of this idea of religious freedom to America fulfilling her purposes in the world.

Please go to https://storyofamericanreligion.org/sign-up/ and sign up for notifications of future episodes!

Are Race and Religion Intertwined in American History?

Are Race and Religion Intertwined in American History?

November 23, 2020

As we all observe and participate in the national reckoning with racism after the death of George Floyd on May 25th of this year, a fuller and more accurate understanding of how race and religion have been intertwined in United States history will be of use.

Paul Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of History and Presidential Teaching Scholar at University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, where he researches, writes and teaches in the field of American history from the 16th century to the present. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkley in 1992. Dr. Harvey is the author of many books, including Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography; The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in American History; and Freedom’s Coming: Religious Cultures and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era.

We are very happy to have Paul here to help us understand a particular part of American religious history – the intersections of religion and race, by discussing his book, Bounds of Their Habitation: Race and Religion in American History published in 2017.

Also, as with each episode in our podcast series “Religion in the American Experience”, we hope listeners come away with a better comprehension of what religion has done to America and what America has done to religion, and come to see how revolutionary and indispensable the idea of religious freedom is to America being able to fulfill its purposes in the world.

Be sure to follow the podcast series "Religion in the American Experience" by going to storyofamericanreligion.org under the Podcast tab.

Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America

Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America

November 16, 2020

When European Christians arrived in this vast territory we now call the Americas over 400 years ago, they found indigenous people here with their own meaningful and personal and sacred religious beliefs. The contact and conflict between Europeans and Natives sparked a long-term series of religious encounters that intertwined with other settler colonial processes, such as commerce, government, enslavement, warfare and evangelization. The taking of Native Americans’ land and their lives have been called one of America’s two “original sins.”

The legacies of colonialism swirl all about us still, including broken treaties, reservations, alcoholism, poverty, despair, misunderstandings, and questions of sovereignty, alongside of survival, persistence, cultural and linguistic revitalization, and a return to traditional practices. Because religion was central to these processes in colonial America, and continues to play an important role today, taking a look at the religious interactions between European colonists and Native Americans will help us all better understand these issues and help each other flourish in the American 21st century.

Linford Fisher is a professor of history at Brown University. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in 2008. Professor Fisher's research and teaching relate primarily to the cultural and religious history of colonial America and the Atlantic world, including Native Americans, religion, material culture, and Indian and African slavery and servitude. 

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