|Over the course of the semester you must
all 8 of the response papers. Each reading response requires a
to 2 pages,
typed paper. You may go over that length if you so choose.
These will be graded on a 1-10 point scale.
OF READINGS & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
(All readings are to be completed on the day they are listed.)
13: Introduction, review syllabus, course guidelines
RELIGION IN EARLY AMERICA, 1500-1750
18: Butler, Wacker, Balmer Religion in American Life, xi-70; Stephens,
Recent Trends in American Religious History, 1-7; “Hopi Ceremonies,”
(CP); and “Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish Castaway, Becomes an
Indian Healer, 1542” (CP).
Set 1: Select 3 questions from
section A and 2 from section B.
1. In the introduction to Religion and American Life, what do the
authors mean by the claim "the story of religion in America, then, is
not an aberrant story"?
2. What role did dreams play in the religion of Algonquian Indians?
3. The authors use Henry Fielding's fictional character, Reverend
Thwackum, to make a point regarding religion in early America.
What do they make of Thwackum's statement: "When I mention religion, I
mean the Christian religion; and not only the Christian religion, but
the Protestant religion; and not only the Protestant religion, but the
Church of England"?
4. How did the religious worldviews of Africans and Indians differ from
those of European settlers?
5. How did Indians receive missionaries in both New Spain and New
France? How did native Americans in what is now California and
Canada resist the incursions of missionaries? For those native
Americans who were receptive to the newcomers, what would their adopted
Christianity look like?
6. How did Jesuits in French Canada conduct their missions? Were
they a successful?
7. Why do the authors contend that the "importance of religion in New
England was not unique among England's American colonies"? What roles
would religion play in the southern colonies? How would religion
differ in the North and South?
8. What are some of the myths concerning Puritanism? How should
we understand the Puritans? What was the basis of their beliefs?
9. In what ways was New England "spiritually diverse" during the late
10. What advice did the Puritan John Winthrop offer to those intrepid
souls heading to Massachusetts? (69-70) What does this say about
the Puritan vision of America?
11. Stephens, Recent Trends in American Religious History, 1-7.
Why does the study of religious history seem to matter now
perhaps more than it did a generation ago?
12. What are some of the subjects and eras that religious historians
13. “Hopi Ceremonies,” (CP). Describe the role kachina dolls play in
the lives of young Hopi Indians. What lessons do they learn from
14. “Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish Castaway, Becomes an Indian
Healer, 1542” (CP). What did Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca think of the
Native Americans he encountered in the American southeast?
19: Last Day to Register, Add a Class, or Change to Audit (1 week from
1st day of classes)
THUR Jan 20: Religion in American Life, 71-109; David D. Hall, “A World
of Wonders: The Mentality of the Supernatural in Seventeenth-Century
New England” in Religion and American Culture, David G. Hackett, ed.
(CP); “John Winthrop Outlines his Plan for a Godly Settlement, 1630”
(CP); “William Bradford Sees God’s Mercy and Judgment in New England’s
Changing Fortunes, 1654” (CP); “Why Harvard College Was Founded, 1643”
(CP); “Maryland’s Act of Religious Toleration, 1649” (CP); and “Cotton
Mather Advises John Richards on Detecting Witches, 1692” (CP).
Set 2: Select 2 questions from
section A and 1 from section B and 1 from section C.
Wacker, and Balmer write
that "New York prefigured the religious
future of 18th-century America"? What do they mean by that
kinds of religious
communities migrated to America? Why
did these groups settle in the regions they did?
the first Jewish
community in colonial America.
4. How did
the American religious
landscape change after the 1690s?
reading the letter on pages 89-90, describe why Abigail Franks
was disturbed by her daughter's decision.
6. What do
the graves of African
Americans and Indians tell us about
their religious beliefs?
authors assert that the "outright disappearance of many distinctive
Indian societies . . . constitutes one of the most distressing facts of
early American religious history." Those natives who did
would find a number of ways to resist and adapt to Christianity.
Explain how they did this.
8. Why did
English efforts to
convert slaves meet "with little success
before the American Revolution"
9. What did
Reverend David Brainerd
discover about Indian religion?
(108-109) How did Indian beliefs differ from those of whites?
does historian David D. Hall
counter the idea that Puritan religion
in the 17th century was a rational and coherent, Christian intellectual
does Hall mean when he
states that the people of New England
lived in an enchanted universe, or a "world of
12. How did
Puritans read signs
of nature as spiritual portents?
Puritans' peculiar beliefs
mean that they were in some ways
14. Juding from the document in your course pack, "John Winthrop
Outlines His Plan for a Godly Settlement, 1630," how did Puritan
leaders envision their communty's relationship with God?
15. How does "evil" arise, according to Wintrhop and Bradford?
16. What was the initial purpose of Harvard College?
17. In what sense was Maryland's Act of Religious Toleration
18. In Cotton Mather's estimation, how can one detect withes and the
work of the devil? Why did witchcraft trials, and the fear they
generated, dissappear in the 18th century?
EARLY AMERICAN THEOLOGICAL HISTORY
25: Religion in American Life, 110-151; Selection from Mark Noll,
America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, course pack
(CP); and Thomas Kidd, “The Great Awakening and the Contested Origins
of American Evangelical Christianity,” and forum on George Marsden’s
Jonathan Edwards, Recent Trends in American Religious History, 69-95.
Set 3: Answer 2 questions from
section A and one each from B and C.
1. What were the basic differences between those Americans who
revivalism in the 18th century and those who opposed it?
2. During the 1700s, how did American religious groups start to diverge
from religious groups in Europe?
3. What were revivalists' core Christian beliefs? How did
Edwards (pgs. 138-39) and Sarah Osborn Leads (pgs 140-41) embody this
4. The American Revolution, the authors note, was a truly secular
event. Yet it would also profoundly impact society. What
affect did the American Revolution have upon denominations in the
5. In what ways did the First Amendment to the Constitution represent
the American religious situation?
6. Mark Noll states that he is interested in a social history of
American theology. How does Noll try to connect social movements with
religious beliefs? From Noll's perspective, how would events in
American history influence Christian theology?
7. Why does Noll compare American religious beliefs with those in
Europe? What conclusions can he draw from such comparisons?
Was American religion unique, exceptional?
8. What is the meaning of Noll's concept of an "American Synthesis"?
9. Thomas Kidd, “The Great Awakening and the Contested Origins of
American Evangelical Christianity,” Recent Trends in American Religious
History. In Thomas Kidd's estimation, why did the Great Awakening
produce so much conflict between various groups?
10. Forum on George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards, Recent Trends in
American Religious History. How does George Marsden argue that
Jonathan Edwards life and influence has often been overlooked?
What does American history look like with a greater focus on Edwards?
11. What do Wilfred and Bruce Kucklick think of Marsden's
26: Last Day to Drop a Class (2 weeks from 1st day of classes)
THUR Jan 27: “Interview with Stephen Prothero,” Recent Trends in
American Religious History, 28-33; David L. Holmes, “A Layperson’s
Guide to Distinguishing a Deist from an Orthodox Christian,” in The
Faiths of the Founding Fathers (2006) (CP); David D. Kirkpatrick,
“Putting God Back Into American History,” New York Times, February 2,
2005, pg 4 (CP); “Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious
Freedom, 1779” (CP); and “James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance,
Set 4: Answer 1 from each section.
“Interview with Stephen Prothero,” Recent Trends in American Religious
1. In Stephen Prothero's view, how do historians and religious
studies scholars differ in their research and writing?
2. What do American's know about religion and religious history?
David L. Holmes, “A Layperson’s Guide to Distinguishing a Deist from an
Orthodox Christian,” in The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (2006) (CP)
3. After reading the selection from David Holmes' book, explain the
argument that has developed over the faith of the founding fathers.
4. According to Holmes, in what sense were the founders religious?
5. How can scholars determine the extent of the founders' devotion or
6. Describe the reservations a Deist might have had concerning
David D. Kirkpatrick, "Putting God Back Into American History," New
York Times, February 2, 2005, pg 4 (CP)
7. Who is David Barton?
8. How has the controversy over the founders' religious views shaped
America's conservative culture?
9. What does David Kirkpatrick mean when he writes: "But academic
historians, including some conservative and evangelical scholars, give
the Christian conservative veneration of this history about a B-minus"?
Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, 1779”
10. Describe Jefferson's argument for religious toleration.
11. Under this statute, could tax dollars be used to support churches?
(This question requires some digging beyond the document.)
“James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785”
12. To what extent does Madison's arguement rely on Enlightenment
13. What does Madison say about historic Christianity?
19TH CENTURY AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY
1: Religion in American Life, 155-210; and selection from Nathan O.
Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989), (CP); “Lucy
Wight Meets Shaker Leader Mother Ann Lee (c. 1780), 1826” (CP); and
“Joseph Smith Explains How an Angel Guided Him to Found the Latter-Day
Saints (Mormons), 1842” (CP).
Set 5: Answer one from each section.
Religion in American Life
1. Describe the state of organized religion in the years immediately
after the American Revolution.
2. According to the authors, what is "civil religion"? Does it
still exist in contemporary America? How so?
3. How did some early Americans resist traditional Christian
religion? Is this set of religious circumstances similar to
religion in America today?
4. Explain the difference between the First Great Awakening (1730s-40s)
and the Second Great Awakening (1800-1860s). How would these
differences shape the outcomes of each of these revivals?
5. Why is Francis Asbury often called the "founding father" of American
Methodism? Describe his activities, strategies, and religious
6. What was innovative about Charles Grandison Finney's "new
measures"? How would his views change American
Christianity? Do his innovations still influence American
7. What do the authors suggest is the legacy of evangelicalism
Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1990)
8. Historian Nathan Hatch asserts that American Christianity underwent
a dramatic change between the American Revolution and 1845. What
were the most significant features of this transformation?
9. What does Hatch mean by the term the "democratization of
American Christianity"? What is "religious populism"? Do
most Christians still believe in a form of democratized Christianity?
10. Hatch claims that the leaders of new religious movements in the
early 1800s held "convictions that were essentially modern and
individualistic"(14). What does he mean by that?
“Lucy Wight Meets Shaker Leader Mother Ann Lee (c. 1780), 1826” (CP);
and “Joseph Smith Explains How an Angel Guided Him to Found the
Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), 1842” (CP).
11. Explain the role of trances and visions in the account of Lucy
12. Why did Wight not feel that most religions were built on a solid
foundation? Why did the Shakers appeal to her?
13. Joseph Smith, like Lucy Wight, came to similar conclusions about
religious groups he encountered. Why was he dissatisfied?
14. What did Joseph Smith have to say about the ancient history of
America, and why?
15. Smith spent some time recalling the persecution Mormons
endured. Why would Mormons be harassed so fiercely?
16. What can one say about the place of religious authority based on
the accounts of Wight and Smith?
THUR Feb 3: Jonathan D. Sarna, “American Judaism in Historical
Perspective,” 37-46; and forum on John T. McGreevy’s Catholicism and
American Freedom, Recent Trends in American Religious History, 48-65.
Set 6: Answer two from section A,
one from B, and one from C.
1. Why did Jonathan Sarna originally encounter opposition when he
talked about writing a history of American Judaism?
2. How did Jews in 19th century America “revitalize” their faith?
Why did they do so?
3. Sarna writes, “Diversity is the third theme in the history of
American Judaism and one, to my mind, that has been absolutely central
almost from the very beginning” (42). Explain that
statement. How has diversity been central?
4. How did Jews try to “save American Judaism”? (45)
5. What is the central theme of John T. McGreevy’s Catholicism and American Freedom?
6. According to Leo Ribuffo, why have American Protestants worried so
much about the influence of Catholicism?
7. What kinds of questions does Ribuffo think McGreevy’s book raises,
or leaves unanswered?
8. What sort of criticism does Christopher Shannon offer of McGreevy’s
9. How does McGreevy respond to his critics?
RACE, GENDER, AND RELIGION IN 19th CENTURY AMERICA
8: Ann Braude, “Women’s History IS American Religious History,” in
Retelling U.S. Religious History, Thomas Tweed, ed. (1997), (CP);
Charles Joyner, “‘Believer I know’: The Emergence of African-American
Christianity,” in Religion and American Culture (CP).
Set 7: Answer two from each section.
Ann Braude, "Women's History IS American Religious History," 159-175 in
Religion and American Culture
1. Anne Braude writes "this essay explores how we would tell the story
of American religion if we took as our point of departure that fact
that women constitute the majority of participants in religious
activities and institutions" (161). That being the case, how does
her piece challenge the work of earlier historians?
2. What is Braude's answer to the question "what made each
group's teachings and practices meaningful to its female members"? (163)
3. What does Braude mean by "declension"? How does she argue
against this motif?
Charles Joyner, "'Believer I know': The emergence of African-American
Christianity," 179-195, in Religion and American Culture.
4. Charles Joyner writes that to "underestimate the Africanity of
African American Christianity is to rob the slaves of their
heritage. But to overestimate the Africanity of African American
Christianity is to rob the slaves of their creativity" (181).
Explain what these statements mean.
5. How did slaveholders introduce a "selective" version of Christianity
6. What were the essential beliefs and worship practices of African
American slaves in the years before the Civil War? Do these
traditions survive today in black churches?
THUR Feb 10: “Samuel Ringgold Ward Escapes from Slavery and Becomes a
Minister (1820), 1855” (CP); “Harriet Beecher Stowe Advocates
Enlightened Observance of the Sabbath, 1853” (CP); and “Angelina Grimke
Uses the Bible to Justify Abolishing Slavery, 1838” (CP).
Set 8: Answer two from each section.
1. Describe Samuel Ringgold’s views on Christianity and Quakerism in
2. What was the purpose of the Sabbath for Victorian Christians like
the Fletchers, who Harriet Beecher Stowe observed?
3. What might account for the change over the centuries in how the
Sabbath has been observed, or, not observed?
4. How did Angelina Grimke employ scripture to make a case against
5. Christian slaveholders in the South wrote biblical defenses of
slavery that were as fervent as Grimke’s abolitionist piece. How,
then, can one account for this radical difference? Why and how
did some use their religious beliefs to justify slavery and others to
6. The period from which your documents are taken was a time of
religious reform and denominational zeal. Millennialists preached
that Jesus would soon return. Temperance, dress reform, prison reform,
poor relief, peace movements, and much more captured the imagination of
Christians. Southerners and northerners both made cases for and
against slavery by using the Bible. And the Civil War conflict was
preceeded by religious and cultural unrest. How does one explain
the heightened religious and social conflict from the 1830s to the
1850s? What factors made this era so contentious?
7. Compare Protestant Christianity in the antebellum era with the same
today. What are the major differences?
RELIGION AND THE CIVIL WAR
15: Reading Day/Faculty Development - No Classes
THUR Feb 17: Religion in American Life, 212-260; Selection from Timothy
L. Smith’s, Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the
Eve of the Civil War (1957), (CP); Charles Reagan Wilson, “The Religion
of the Lost Cause: Ritual and Organization of the Southern Civil
Religion, 1865-1920,” The Journal of Southern History (May 1980), (CP);
and “Robert Ryland Reminds His Son That the Confederate Cause is Godly,
Set 9: Answer two from each section.
1. How do the authors of Religion in
American Life use the word "outsider" to frame chapter 12?
2. What do the authors mean by the "many ironies" of the Civil War?
3. To what extent did Christianity play a role in the Civil War?
4. Explain some of the conflicts that irrupted between new Catholic
immigrants and American Protestatnts. (chpt 14)
Timothy L. Smith, Preface and "The Evangelical Origins of Social
Christianity," in Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism
on the Eve of the Civil War (1957).
5. According to Timothy Smith, Thomas Paine would have been astounded
had he lived long enough to see New York in 1865. What would he
have found shocking?
6. Why does Smith contend that "popular Protestantism" acted as a
"mighty social force long before the slavery conflict erupted into war"
7. What made northern religious leaders such committed social reformers?
8. What was the social impact of "perfectionism" on America?
Charles Reagan Wilson, "The Religion of the Lost Cause: Ritual and
Organization of the Southern Civil Religion, 1865-1920," in Religion
and American Culture
9. How does University of Mississippi professor Charles Reagan Wilson
assert that southerners turned the Civil War into a "holy cause" after
the Confederate surrender at Appomattox?
10. In what ways did this amount to a secular faith, or a civil
religion? Who were the deities, saints, and martyrs of this
11. Wilson observes: “In the South, in short, the civil religion and
supported each other” (232). Unpack that statement.
12. Explain how educational institutions helped pass the Lost Cause on
to future generations.
13. Are there connections between the religious ideas and movements
that Timothy Smith writes about and those that Wilson describes?
Turn in bibliography for research paper with at least 10 published
WEEK 7 PEN OF IRON & MIDTERM
22: Robert Alter, Pen of Iron:
American Prose and the King James Bible
are writing your short, 2-page, double-spaced book review, answer
either question 1 or 2. Read this writing
guide here for details on style, prose, and form.
1. Robert Alter writes that "in regard to the American novelists from
the nineteenth century to the twenty-first whom I shall be considering
. . . the language of the Old Testament in its 1611 English version
continued to suffuse the culture even when the fervid faith in
Scripture as revelation had begun to fade" (Alter 3). Write a
review of Alter's Pen of Iron:
American Prose and the King James Bible
, focusing on how the
King James Bible inspired and influenced American writers.
2. Write a review of Robert Alter's Pen
with an emphasis on the relationship of various
American writers to biblical Christianity. How did American
novelists relate to and/or reject Christianity?
THUR Feb 24: Midterm. Studyguide
RELIGIOUS INNOVATION & THE PLACE OF RELIGION IN AMERICAN HISTORY
March 1: Religion in American Life, 261-322; “Mary Baker Eddy, the
Founder of Christian Science Denies the Reality of Suffering, Sin, and
Death, 1887” (CP); “Booth Tucker Describes the Salvation Army’s Social
and Gospel Work in Slums and Saloons, 1900” (CP); and “Abraham Cahan
Shows How American Business Life and Religious Pluralism Shattered a
Russian Jewish Immigrant’s Traditional Faith, 1916” (CP).
Set 10: Answer one from each section.
Religion in American Life, 261-290
1. Who are the “innovators” the authors describe in chapter 15?
2. What were some of the questions theological liberals raised in the
19th century concerning the Bible?
3. How did the World’s Parliament of Religions (1893) challenge
Americans’ views concerning religion?
4. “Religious conservatives came in a bewildering variety of species”
(292). Explain what the authors mean by that statement.
5. Why did the theology of premillennialism take hold in certain
quarters during the late 19th century?
Religion in American Life, 291-322
6. The authors of your text state that in the 1880s and 1890s health,
poverty, alcohol, and missions dominated the attention of religious
groups. How was this so?
7. How did healing capture the attention of religious groups in this
era? Why did Mary Baker Eddy find an eager audience in Boston?
8. Describe the goals of the Salvation Army and Social Gospelers.
9. What did American missionaries hope to accomplish in the 19th
10. What were some of the key beliefs of early pentecostals?
11. Did the religions of new immigrants pose challenges to traditional
American Protestants? How so?
“Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science Denies the Reality
of Suffering, Sin, and Death, 1887” (CP) and “Booth Tucker Describes
the Salvation Army’s Social and Gospel Work in Slums and Saloons, 1900”
12. What did Mary Baker Eddy mean when she wrote: “the mind which is
good, or God, has no knowledge of sin”? (232)
13. To what extent was Mary Baker Eddy an innovator or, as the authors
of the text put it, an “adventurer of the spirit”?
14. Booth Tucker noted that the Salvation Army “adapted their methods
to the savage hordes of semi-barbarians to whom they had consecrated
their lives”(236). Explain how he applies that statement.
15. How was the Salvation Army tailored to the poor and destitute?
“Abraham Cahan Shows How American Business Life and Religious Pluralism
Shattered a Russian Jewish Immigrant’s Traditional Faith, 1916” (CP)
16. In Abraham Cahan’s view, why was the American scene corrosive of
17. Cahan suggested that Judaism could not adapt to modernity as
Christianity had. Why?
THUR March 3: Jon Butler, “Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem
in Modern American History,” Journal
of American History
, Vol. 90, No.
4 (March 2004): 1357-1378 (CP); James O’Toole, “Religious History in
the Post-Ahlstrom Era”; and “Beyond the Niebuhrs: A Conversation with
Robert Orsi on Recent Trends in American Religious History,” Recent
Trends in American Religious History
Answer two from each
1. Jon Butler suggests that religion “has not fared well in the
historiography of modern America” (pg 1 0f 19). Why is it that
religion plays such a pronounced role in early American history and
such a diminished role in the post-Civil War era?
2. How does Butler answer the question: “What do we mean by religion
and secularity?” (pg 3 of 19)
3. What does Butler mean when he states that religion in the post-1870
period often appears as a “jack-in-the-box” in textbooks?
4. Is religion any less significant to Americans now than it was 150
years ago? Provide evidence to support your case.
5. How does Butler answer the question: “Did religion’s powerful
influence in the lives of modern children, adolescents, and adults
significantly affect public life, especially politics, between 1870 and
2000?” (pg 8 of 19)
6. According to James O'Toole, how did the religious historian Sydney
Ahlstrom conceive of American religion? What these did Ahlstrom
through the decades and centuries?
7. How has the focus and questions historians ask changed since
Ahlstrom's book came out in 1972?
8. Why does O'Toole say that "it has become easier to connect the
history of religion to other areas of historical study"? (17)
9. What has drawn Robert Orsi to the study of devotionalism?
10. Why does Orsi remark that “American religious history, as it is
practiced in the universities today, is insistently committed,
consciously or not, to Niebuhrian neo-orthodoxy as its moral vision,
and this profoundly influences the historiography”? As a result
what subjects merit the attention of historians?
11. How does Orsi criticize the arguments of historians like George
Marsden, Mark Noll, and Nathan Hatch? Is that a fair critique?
12. How does Orsi treat what he calls figures of “special power”?
How might these figures be treated among non-Catholic groups?
13. What are some of the problems historians like Orsi face when
writing about children and religion?
on Robert Orsi, read this review
of his book
, Thank You, St.
Jude: Women's Devotions to the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes
which appeared in Sociology of
– Spring Break, March 7-11
FUNDAMENTALISM, EVANGELICALISM, & GENDER
March 15: Harold Frederic, The
Damnation of Theron Ware: Or
(1896). We will be using the questions (below) from
Robin Taylor Rogers' excellent site on The Damnation of Theron Ware. We
will be using the questions (below) from Robin
Taylor Rogers' excellent site
on The Damnation of Theron
Ware. If you choose to write your book review on the book, choose
one of the two questions below. If you are completing this as
question set 10, answer any three of the questions on Rogers'
Religion, science, and art are key elements to understanding several
characters in The Damnation of Theron Ware: Father Forbes represents
both Catholicism and intellectualism, while Theron Ware represents
fundamentalist Methodism and intellectual naivete; Dr. Ledsmar
represents post-Darwinian science and atheism; and Celia Madden
represents art and beauty. Critics argue that Frederic’s treatment of
these elements reflects not only the spirit of the times, described as
the “turbulent” nineties, but also his own perspectives on Catholicism,
Methodism, Darwinism, and Decadence. How do the elements of religion,
science, and art work together in this novel? How do they work against
each other? Where does Theron Ware fit in the religion-science-art
2. Many critics have blamed Sister Soulsby and/or the trio of Father
Forbes, Dr. Ledsmar, and Celia Madden for Theron Ware’s fall. To what
extent are any of these characters responsible for either his
“damnation” or “illumination”? To what extent is Ware himself
WED March 16: Last Day to withdraw or take a course as pass/fail
THUR March 17: Religion in American Life, 323-339. R. Marie Griffith,
“Submissive Wives, Wounded Daughters, and Female Soldiers: Prayer and
Christian Womanhood in Women’s Aglow Fellowship,” in Lived Religion in
America: Toward a History of Practice (Princeton University Press,
1997), (CP); “William Jennings Bryan Defends Biblical Infallibility,
1924” (CP); “Sinclair Lewis Satirizes the Narrowness of Midwestern
Baptists, 1927” (CP); “Walter Lippmann Traces the Fading of Religious
Confidence, 1929” (CP); and “Tina Bell joins an Anti-Abortion
Demonstration, 1988” (CP).
Set 12: Answer two from section A
and one each from sections B and C.
Religion in American Life, 323-339.
1. How did American religious groups in the early 20th century begin to
split over political and theological issues? Why did this occur
when it did?
2. What distinguished fundamentalists from modernists? Why did a
minister like Harry Emerson Fosdick fear the power of fundamentalism?
3. In what ways did the Scopes Trial showcase the liberal-conservative
divide? What issues were at stake for both parties?
4. Describe some of the modern movements toward Christian unity that
stirred believers in these years.
5. In what sense was the new KKK a kind of religious revival?
6. How did the Great Migration of blacks to northern cities reshape
7. What aspects of American Protestantism did the theologian Reinhold
8. The author of the selection from Christian Century (p. 339) calls
for a new, social Christianity. What does that mean?
R. Marie Griffith, “Submissive Wives, Wounded Daughters, and Female
Soldiers: Prayer and Christian Womanhood in Women’s Aglow Fellowship,”
435-460, in Religion and American Culture.
9. In this selection Marie Griffith focuses on the conservative,
charismatic Women’s Aglow Fellowship. How does Griffith argue
that these women, though conservative about the roles of women,
actually championed the power of women?
10. What does Griffith mean by “the power of submission”? What
criticisms would these women have of feminist groups?
11. How did the members of Aglow believe women were called by God?
“Tina Bell joins an Anti-Abortion Demonstration, 1988” (CP).
12. What are some of the parallels between Tina Bell's piece and Marie
“William Jennings Bryan Defends Biblical Infallibility, 1924” (CP)
13. Describe W. J. Bryan's view of the Bible. Why did Bryan
believe the Bible needed to be "defended"?
“Sinclair Lewis Satirizes the Narrowness of Midwestern Baptists, 1927”
14. In Elmer Ganrty how does Sinclair Lewis depict the narrow, insular
world of midwestern evangelicals?
“Walter Lippmann Traces the Fading of Religious Confidence, 1929” (CP)
15. Why did the writer and journalist Walter Lippmann criticize liberal
16. How did Lippmann explain the appeal of fundamentalism? Was
his view correct?
APOCALYPTICISM & CONSUMER RELIGION
March 22: Stephen J. Stein, “Apocalyptic Religious Movements in
American History”; and Nicholas Guyatt, “The End of History; or, My
Summer with Apocalyptic Christians,” Recent Trends in American
Religious History, 109-123.
Set 13: Answer two from each
Stephen J. Stein, “Apocalyptic Religious Movements in American
History,” Recent Themes in American Religious History 109-117
1. Stephen Stein begins his essay by observing that, “America has been
a highly receptive environment for religious movements defined in some
primary way by their apocalyptic message” (109). What does he
mean by that?
2. In what ways did Americans in the colonial era think about their
world in apocalyptic terms? How do modern Americans differ from
their 17th and 18th century counterparts with regard to millennial
3. The Civil War marks a turning point in millennialism, says
Stein. In what ways did that conflict reshape apocalypticism?
4. What millennialist religious movements have had the greatest
influence on American society? How and why have they?
Nicholas Guyatt, “The End of History; or, My Summer with Apocalyptic
Christians,” Recent Themes in American Religious History, 118-123.
5. What kinds of reservations did historian Nicholas Guyatt have as he
embarked on a study of current American beliefs?
6. How did Guyatt go about doing his research? Did he encounter
problems along the way?
7. Guyatt explains some of the differences between writing a book for
scholars and writing a more popular, trade press book. Describe
8. In the end, what did Guyatt think of the apocalyptic Christians he
Turn in abstract for research paper.
THUR March 24: Religion in American Life, 340-359; David Chidester,
“The Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and the Potlatch if
Rock’n’roll: Theoretical Models for the Study of Religion in American
Popular Culture,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (Winter,
1996), (CP); and Melani McAlister, “An Empire of Their Own,” The
Nation, September 22, 2003, pgs. 31-36 (CP).
Set 14: Answer one from two of the
sections and two from the remaining section.
Religion in American Life, 340-359
1. Describe the "common ground among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants"
in the post World War II era (366).
2. What was the course of Roman Catholicism after 1945? How would
Catholics become "Americanized"?
3. How did Billy Graham represent the new evangelicalism of the
4. Why was Thomas Merton drawn to the Trappists? (381-383)
David Chidester, "The Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and
the Potlatch of Rock "n' Roll," Religion and American Culture
5. How does David Chidester find religion in various forms of pop
6. Is Chidester right? Are these manifestations of popular
7. How do various definitions of “religion” serve us when we examine
religion and popular culture?
Religion and American Culture; and Melani McAlister, "An Empire of
Their Own," The Nation, September 22, 2003, pgs. 31-36 (CP).
8. Why does Melani McAlister argue that the Left Behind book series “is
also a cultural phenomenon that goes well beyond books”? (31)
9. In McAlister’s estimation what are some of the connections between
evangelical theology and domestic and global politics?
10. Do you agree with McAlister’s assessment? Why or why not?
RACE & RELIGION IN 20TH-CENTURY AMERICA
March 29: Religion in American Life, 360-394; James H. Cone, “Martin
and Malcolm,” in Religion and American Culture (CP); and “James Baldwin
Becomes a Boy Preacher in Harlem (c. 1936), 1963” (CP).
Answer one from each section.
1. How did John F. Kennedy’s run for the presidency in 1960 reveal a
2. The authors of the text write: “For some Americans the dawn of this
new era demanded a new theology, one that broke with the quaint
suspicions and prejudices of bygone days” (362-63). Explain what
they mean here.
3. How did Vatican II change the Catholicism? How did Pope Paul
VI later react to some of the innovations of Vatican II and how would
his pronouncements affect American Catholicism?
4. Describe the ways the charismatic renewal movement reshaped
“James Baldwin Becomes a Boy Preacher in Harlem (c. 1936), 1963” (CP).
5. Why did James Baldwin consider the ministry as a young man?
6. How did Baldwin's ideas concerning race and identity develop through
the world of black holiness religion?
7. Describe the religious roots of the Afro-American freedom struggle.
8. Discuss Malcolm X's racialized view of history. According to
Malcolm, what role did Christianity play in the history of the West?
9. The authors of Religion in American Life note that “while science
offered glimpses of a brave new world of technological advances, other
Americans began to harbor second thoughts, and they used the language
of religion and theology to express their discontent” (379).
Unpack that statement.
10. How did Chuck Smith respond to some of the challenges of the West
11. In what ways did the sexual revolution reshape the American
12. “The media were entranced by what they believed was the novelty of
an evangelical Christian running for President,” comment the authors of
the text. (388) How and why was that so?
13. “Carter was, in a way, then responsible for the rise of the
Religious Right” (389). How do the authors make that case?
James Cone, "Martin and Malcolm," in Religion and American Culture (CP)
14. Black theologian James Cone contends that Martin Luther King, Jr.,
and Malcolm X represent two broad streams of thought within the black
community. What cultural/religious sources did King and Malcolm
draw on to form their ideas and agendas?
15. Explain how "integrationism" played out before MLK. Where did
this philosophy come from?
16. Describe "black nationalism" before Malcolm X. What were its
roots and sources?
THUR March 31: Advising Day – No Classes
PLURALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF ASSIMILATION
April 5: “In Focus: Mormonism in Modern America,” http://pewforum.org,
May 16, 2007 (CP); Jenna Weissman Joselit, “Jewish Food and Jewish
Identity,” in Major Problems in American Religious History, Patrick
Allitt, ed. (1999); and Noah Feldman, “Orthodox Paradox,” New York
Times Magazine, 22 July 2007 (CP)
Answer one question from
two of the sections and two questions from the remaining one section.
Mormonism in Modern America,”
Pew Forum, May 16, 2007 (CP)
1. Why has Mormonism received so much negative attention in recent
2. Describe what Russell M. Nelson might mean when he comments, “I
believe that experience has shown that human nature cannot be changed
by reforming public policy.”
3. Nelson and Lance B. Wickman consider the links between Mormonism and
politics. What are some of their observations?
4. What do these two leaders have to say about the tensions between
evangelicals and the LDS?
5. According to Wickman and Nelson, why do so many Americans when
polled characterize Mormonism in ways that are “inaccurate”?
Jenna Weissman Joselit, “Jewish Food and Jewish Identity,” in (CP)
6. In Jenna Weissman’s view, what is the "relationship between food and
identity" in American Judaism? (317)
7. Joselit writes: “. . . in the America of the interwar years kashrut
was no longer a given, a cultural assumption, or an intrinsic part of
the modern Jewish experience” (318). How and why was that?
8. Explain how early 20th century Jews described dietary laws in terms
of scientific rationalism.
Noah Feldman, “Orthodox
Paradox,” New York Times Magazine
22 July 2007 (CP)
9. Why did Noah Feldman and his girlfriend not appear in Feldman’s 10th
year high school reunion photo? What larger themes concerning
assimilation vs. separatism does this bring up?
10. In Feldman’s view, what are the challenges Orthodox Jews face in
“reconciling the vastly disparate values of tradition and modernity”?
11. Why does Feldman bring up Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 massacre of “29
worshipers in the mosque atop the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron”?
12. Are there other American faiths that face similar dilemmas
regarding: modernity vs. tradition, inclusion vs. exclusion, etc.?
THUR April 7: Religion in American Life, 395-426; Fawaz A. Gerges,
“Islam and Muslims in the Mind of America,” Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, (Jul., 2003), (CP); and
Richard Hughes Seager “Discovering the Dharma: Buddhism in America,”
Historically Speaking (Sept/Oct 2008), (CP).
Answer one from each
Religion in American Life, 395-426
1. What did the Jonestown incident reveal about American
religion? How did it affect the American public?
2. Describe the appeal of televangelists in the 1980s. What did
they offer their audiences? Did the help or hinder the cause of
Christianity in the US?
3. How and why did Pat Robertson enter politics?
4. Do certain religious groups and individuals need "enemies"? (408)
Why or why not?
5. In the 1950s and 1960s scholars predicted an end to the religious
era. Many assumed that widespread secularism would replace
religiosity. In the May 2005 issue of Harper's
magazine editor Lewis
unbaptised child raised in a family that went to church only for
weddings and funerals, I didn't encounter the problem of religious
belief until I reached Yale College in the 1950s, where I was informed
by the liberal arts faculty that it wasn't pressing because God was
dead. What remained to be discussed was the autopsy report; apparently
there was still some confusion about the cause and time of death, and
the undergraduate surveys of Western civilization offered a wide range
of options--God disemboweled by Machiavelli in sixteenth-century
Florence, assassinated in eighteenth-century Paris by agents of the
French Enlightenment, lost at sea in 1834 while on a voyage to the
Galapagos Islands, blown to pieces by German artillery at Verdun,
garroted by Friedrich Nietzsche on a Swiss Alp, and the body laid to
rest in the consulting rooms of Sigmund Freud.
Why did these predictions turn out to be so wrong? What examples
do the authors of Religion and American Life offer to prove their case?
6. Describe the various "religious confrontations," which occurred in
America after the 1970s. What issues were at stake? What
factions were involved?
7. To what extent was the Promise Keepers movement an example of
8. Describe the recent appeal of Christian millennialism. Why has
it gained in strength since the 1970s?
Fawaz A. Gerges, “Islam and Muslims in the Mind of America,” Annals of
the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Jul., 2003), (CP)
9. Using Fawaz A. Gerges' article, describe the nature of the
interaction and conflict between the Christian West and the Muslim East.
10. What events and movements shaped the way that the post-World War II
American foreign policy establishment viewed Islam?
11. Explain what Gerges means when he writes: "Although the religious
and intellectual challenge of Islam continues to seize the
imagination of many people in the United States, it is the
security and strategic implications of the mass politics of Islam that
resonates in the minds of Americans"
Richard Hughes Seager “Discovering the Dharma: Buddhism in America,”
Historically Speaking (Sept/Oct 2008), (CP).
12. What are some of the misperceptions Americans have of
Buddhism? How does Richard Seager try to correct these?
13. How has Buddhism in America come to differ from Buddhism in Asian
A NEW RELIGIOUS AMERICA?
April 12: Stephen Prothero, “Worshiping in Ignorance,” Chronicle
Review, 16 March 2007 (CP); selection from Diana L. Eck, A New
How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously
Diverse Nation; “Jacob Needleman Discovers the Appeal of Eastern
Religions, 1970” (CP); and “J. Stillson Judah Explains Why Hippies Join
the Hare Krishnas, 1974” (CP).
Answer one from each section.
Stephen Prothero, “Worshiping in Ignorance,” Chronicle Review, 16 March
1. How does Stephen Prothero gauge the religious literacy of average
2. Why does Prothero argue that Americans should know more about
American and world religions?
3. How might religion be taught in college and university classrooms?
4. Describe the way Prothero distinguishes his proposal from ones by
George Marsden and Warren A. Nord.
Selection from Diana L. Eck, A New Religious America: How a “Christian
Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation
5. In the Introduction to A New Religious America what does Diana L.
Eck say are the “architectural signs of a new religious America”?
(1) What does she mean by “new”?
6. How has the American religious landscape changed in the last three
7. Unpack the following: “This will require us to reclaim the deepest
meaning of the very principles we cherish and to create a truly
pluralist American society in which this great diversity is not simply
tolerated but becomes the very source of our strength” (6).
8. Compare the Harvard of today with the Harvard of the 17th and 18th
9. The late John Neuhaus criticized Eck’s book in First Things in 2001
wrote: “A New Religious America
a spirited tract, and its author’s enthusiasm is sometimes infectious.
But it has as much to do with the religio-cultural reality of America
as did her beloved World Parliament of Religions in 1893.”
Explain what he might have meant. What was the nature of this
“Jacob Needleman Discovers the Appeal of Eastern Religions, 1970” (CP)
10. What did Jacob Needleman find troubling about traditional western
religions in America?
11. Why was eastern religion attractive in Needleman’s opinion?
“J. Stillson Judah Explains Why Hippies Join the Hare Krishnas, 1974”
12. Why did hippies gravitate to Hare Krishna?
13. What stages did a seeker have to go through to become a Hare
14. Did new experiments with non-western traditions have precedent in
American religious history? Did the interest in eastern religion
in the 1960s and beyond mark a departure, or a break from history?
THUR April 14: Reading Day/Faculty Development - No Classes
STUDYING RELIGION IN MODERN AMERICA
April 19: Stephen Prothero, “Belief Unbracketed: A Case for the
Religion Scholar to Reveal More of Where He or She Is Coming From”
Harvard Divinity Bulletin 33:2 (Winter/Spring 2004); and Robert Orsi’s
and R. Marie Griffith’s responses to Prothero (CP).
Set 18: Answer one from all three
1. Why is Stephen Prothero not satisfied with Robert Orsi’s treatment
of southern serpent handlers?
2. Prothero criticizes the field of Religious Studies for “bracketing
out” certain issues in the interest of “empathetic
What is wrong with that in his view?
3. How did Prothero’s experience of writing American Jesus make him
rethink serving “up our expertise with a bit of judgment”?
4. Describe how Prothero uses the counter-example of David
How did Chappell’s work seem to contrast with the writings of religious
5. Why does Prothero remark: “we Religious Studies scholars have been
largely irrelevant to the public debates”? Is that true?
6. In his response to Prothero, Robert Orsi writes, “Prothero has
sketched out a vision of the future of religious studies that is in
fact the past.” How does Orsi make that case?
7. Orsi contends: “I have never said that scholars of religion should
endorse every religious idiom they approach, but I have argued that we
need to learn precisely how to pay disciplined attention to the very
practices that disturb or repel us, and that we need to do so in a way
that holds our own worlds in suspension.” What do you make of his
counter to Prothero?
8. Marie Griffith notes that Prothero’s gendered prose seems oddly like
that which he critiqued in his book, American Jesus. Is that a
9. Griffith is not convinced by Prothero’s argument about reaching the
public: “[A]iring a pithy opinion on the topic du jour—The terrorists
did not represent true Islam! Those American Christian prison guards in
Iraq were hypocrites!—is not the same as contributing thoughtful
insights to public knowledge, and a scholar must draw careful
distinctions here.” What do you make of her response on this
10. Griffith concludes her response by praising empathy. What can
gained and lost by being empathetic to the subjects we study?
THUR April 21: Robert Wuthnow, “Old Fissures and New Fractures in
American Religious Life,” Religion and American Culture (CP); Robert N.
“Is There a Common American culture?” Journal of the American Academy
of Religion (Autumn, 1998), (CP).
Set 19: Answer two questions from
Robert Wuthnow, "Old Fissures and New Fractures in American Religious
Life," Religion and American Culture, 357-37 (CP)
1. Robert Wuthnow notes that Americans were once divided into
Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Yet by the 1960s, tensions
between these three had subsided. After that period, religious
groups in America, states Wuthnow, split along liberal and conservative
lines. Why did this take place? What factors led to the new
2. Wuthnow contends that American religion has had a strong “this
worldly” orientation. How has that been the case?
3. How did religious conservatives respond to the social upheavals of
the 1960s? Did that response differ significantly from how
religious liberals responded?
4. American Protestants once viewed both Catholics and Jews
disdainfully. How was it, then, that these views were so altered
by the 1980s?
5. Wuthnow wrote this piece in 1989. Do his observations still
hold true in the early 21st century?
Robert N. Bellah, "Is there a common American Culture?" Religion and
American Culture, 535-545 (CP)
6. How does a country like the United States compare to France on
issues like multiculturalism?
7. Judging from Robert Bellah's work, is there still a common American
culture? How are Americans divided? What factors, beliefs,
and institutions unite them?
8. Why does Bellah contend that Baptists and other sectarians in the
colonial period were critical to the development of American ideas and
9. On page 524, Bellah discusses the role of "individual conscience" in
the shaping of American beliefs and political views. How has
individual conscience informed American religious culture?
10. How does Bellah argue that "individualism" acts as the common
thread in the American religious tapestry? What is
individualistic about American religion?
MAJOR THEMES SUMMARY AND PAPER PRESENTATIONS
April 26: Final presentations.
THUR April 28: Final presentations.
– Final Exam