Religious Studies | Religion and State in Postwar America
R202 | 3590 | Bivins

R202 Religion and State in Postwar America (3 Cr.) TR 6:00-7:15 PM BH 340
Robert Wuthnow has written that since 1945 political affiliations have
become more important to religious traditions in America than theological
or doctrinal similarities.  Catholics and evangelicals were once bitter
religious rivals but now find common cause in movements for pacifism or
against abortion rights.  African-American Muslims in America's cities
once railed against the meekness of Christian ministers but now work with
them to protest unfair housing and education policy.  For these and other
reasons, the old maps of American religion are less and less helpful in
guiding us.

We will attempt in R202 to pursue a new way of understanding American
religion by studying why and how political or social issues have assumed
prominence on the religious landscape.  This course will provide an
overview of these changing patterns by focusing on the relation of postwar
American religions to the state.  Our focus will be on several issues or
areas through which American religions have redefined themselves in
relation to the state or the political order:  law (the separation of
church and state, the role of the courts), economics (poverty,
industrialism, global capitalism), the body (abortion rights, sexuality),
race (the Civil Rights movement, the Nation of Islam, white supremacist
churches), education (home-schooling, debates over curriculum), and the
military (pacifism and nuclear power).  American religious practitioners
may protest or celebrate the state's positions on any of these issues, but
in each case these religions have placed the state at the center of their
world view.

The course begins with some background work on the nature of the American
state and American religious history leading up to WW II.  Thereafter, we
will immediately begin exploring the contours of postwar religious history
by focusing on the issues.  Our goal for each issue is to focus on smaller
or more "local" struggles over specific concerns in order to understand
broader changes taking place in society.  R202 requires intense
participation and discussion from students, and there is often quite
challenging reading.  But by concentrating intensely on this relationship,
we will better be able to understand the complex relation between politics
and religion in contemporary America.