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Religion &

“Religion &”: Center Conversations on the State of Religion and the Current Moment

Season 2 (2021-2022)

As we begin the second season of “Religion &”, we continue to find questions about religion and American culture at the center of public conversations and policy debates. The COVID-19 pandemic still rages on alongside political realignments and environmental catastrophes that are unparalleled in their ferocity and the their impact on our social, political and religious structures. The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture is uniquely positioned to facilitate conversations on the relationship between these cultural shifts and the category of religion. For over 30 years, CSR&AC has brought together scholars and practitioners to engage religion and its relationship to the most important questions in our fields, on our campuses, and throughout our society. “Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and public thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture to continue these critically important interventions.

Every third Thursday at 3:00p ET via Zoom and Facebook, young and emerging scholars alongside established thinkers will engage the pressing issues of this current moment, their impact on our fields of study, and the groundbreaking work and engaged research taking place across the country. This is our opportunity, as thinkers of religion and American culture, to assess and respond to this current moment and create a culture of sustained conversation on “Religion &” the pressing issues of the day.

Season 1 (2020-2021)

2020 has been a year of significant changes that have impacted the climate and conversation of the American and global public. The COVID-19 pandemic and the current protests associated with the long struggle for racial justice in the United States have informed every aspect of American culture, from politics to music to religious communities. The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture is uniquely positioned to facilitate conversations on the relationship between these cultural shifts and the category of religion. For over 30 years, CSR&AC has brought together scholars and practitioners to engage religion and its relationship to the most important questions in our fields, on our campuses, and throughout our society. “Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture to continue these critically important interventions.

Every third Thursday at 3:00 ET via Zoom and Facebook, young and emerging scholars alongside established thinkers will engage the pressing issues of this current moment, their impact on our fields of study, and the groundbreaking work and engaged research taking place across the country. This is our opportunity, as thinkers of religion and American culture, to assess and respond to this current moment and create a culture of sustained conversation on “Religion &” the pressing issues of the day.



Stay tuned for Season 3 coming FALL 2022!


Season 2

Religion & Teaching in the Public Sphere

May 19, 2022 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Andrew Ali Aghapour, Scholar and Comedian
Kyhati Y. Joshi, Professor of English, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Jeff Sharlet, Frederick Sessions Beebe ’35 Professor in the Art of Writing, Dartmouth College
Philip Goff, Chancellor’s Professor of American Studies and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

As the modern university transforms and there continues to be a growing appetite for the history and engagement of religion and religious subcultures, scholars of religion and American culture have increasing opportunities to present their research to a broad public. For this episode, we will focus on teaching outside of the classroom and even beyond the typical venues for academics, with guests who write for broader publics, work on documentaries, create blogs, consult with businesses and policy makers, and use social media to instruct and engage. We will discuss the tasks involved in building and maintaining an audience; the opportunities and professional costs associated with translating scholarship to a more general audience; and the possibility of creating spaces where knowledge and knowledge production are democratically accessible. Join four engaged scholar-teachers as they discuss the ways their scholarship and teaching move beyond the university and impact broad segments of the public sphere.

Religion & Spirituality in Museums

April 21, 2022 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Eric Lewis Williams, Curator of Religion, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Yvonne Chireau, Professor of Religion, Swarthmore College
Ben Garcia, Executive Director, The American LGBTQ+ Museum
Lois H. Silverman, Professor of Museum Studies, Public Scholar of Museum Education, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

In foundational museum studies literature of the past 50 years, museums have been called “temples,” “sacred groves,” and places to connect with “something higher, more sacred, and out-of-the-ordinary.” How do museums today engage religion and spirituality, with whom, and why? Can encounters with objects and exhibits move people beyond the material world to consider the divine, the transcendent, the magical? In what ways do museums serve the growing number who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” those of different faiths, and those of no faith? In light of global challenges, how could museums contribute further to spiritual well-being as well as our collective future? Join four public-engaged scholar-practitioners of museum studies and/or religion to explore these intriguing questions and highlight the growing connections between religion, spirituality, and museums.

Religion & Jackie Robinson and the Long Shadow of Integration

March 24, 2022 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Randal Maurice Jelks, Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Kansas
Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández, Professor of Hispanic Theology and Ministry at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago
Chris Lamb, Chair of Journalism and Public Relations and Professor of Journalism at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Mike Long, Author and former Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Conflict Studies at Elizabethtown College

Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers played his first game in the major leagues on April 15, 1947, ending the “color line” in baseball and forever changing sport and society. Robinson famously promised Branch Rickey, the team’s president, that he would turn the other cheek when confronted with the hostilities of racial bigotry. How did Robinson’s faith prepare him for the trauma he endured and the sacrifices he made? Moreover, how have the presumed obligations of religious faith and nationalism haunted professional athletes, especially athletes of color, ever since? Major League Baseball will commemorate the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s first game on April 15. However, it will do so once again within the lens of white America alongside the ways in which religion, capitalism, and sport intersect. “Turning the other cheek becomes an expectation of subsequent Black and Brown players,” Professor Carmen Nanko-Fernandez writes, “and martyrdom is a way of domesticating dangerous memories and complicated inconvenient prophets such as Jackie Robinson.” In this episode, the panelists will not only discuss the complicated history and memories of Robinson’s integration of baseball, but they also will address the ways in which American sport has been an especially compelling case to theorize the relationship between race and religion. Join humanities scholars and journalists for a timely and thoughtful conversation at the intersection of American studies, religion, and sport.

Religion & the Politics of the Vote

February 17, 2022 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Besheer Mohamed, Senior Researcher, Pew Research Center
Lerone A. Martin, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Chair and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds, Professor of Africana Studies and Religious Studies, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Leah Gunning Francis, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology, Christian Theological Seminary

On the first Monday of February 2022, the Supreme Court reinstated an Alabama congressional map that a lower court had argued diluted the power of Black voters and was a threat to equal representation for all communities.  These type of challenges, court cases, and state laws are on the rise and the question of the access to the franchise to all eligible voters has come under great scrutiny during the last couple of election cycles.  Who gets to vote? When do voters have opportunity and access to vote? How have and how do electoral maps shape policies, elections, and the future of the US democracy? What roles have religious organizations and emerging activists groups played in bolstering or challenging the dilution of voting rights/access across the country? There has been considerable scholarly and public attention given to the ways that religious institutions and ideologies have impacted and continue to impact the mobilization of voters and political activitsts across the country.  In this episode of Religion &, we will address the long history of the Voting Rights Act and voter suppression, the relationship of religious and civil rights organizations to this act, and how current communities and activists are deploying language, protest, and direct engagement in order to re-imagine and transform the possibilities of democratic participation. Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, voting rights, and competing visions of democracy.

Religion & Animals and Food Justice

January 20, 2022 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Christopher Carter, Assistant Professor, Assistant Chair and Department Diversity Officer of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego
Lori G. Beaman, Professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change, University of Ottawa
Andrea R. Jain, Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Jonathan Sparks-Franklin, Independent Scholar

At this time of planetary crisis and pandemic, it is critical to address questions about overlapping and multispecies injustice. This episode will interrogate issues about food accessibility and the frontline communities of climate change (human and non-human animal), specifically those who are the first to bear the brunt of environmental degradation and pandemics and the industries and policies most responsible for contributing to them. These panelists illuminate the ways that religious institutions are constructed and enacted in response to these evolving social and environmental conditions, especially as they pertain to animal, food, and racial justice; the histories of activist communities; and the work of diverse coalitions, including Black vegans, radical healthcare advocates, and animal rescue efforts, that imagine and enact forms of multispecies solidarity in the midst of society’s death-dealing structures. Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, animal rights, and food justice.

Religion & the Supreme Court

December 9, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Beth Cate, Clinical Associate Professor, O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington
Fred Smith Jr., Associate Professor, Emory University School of Law
Arthur E. Farnsley, Senior Research Fellow, The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture
Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Religion and religious freedom are often key themes before the Supreme Court. A 2021 New York Times article went as far as to claim “An Extraordinary Winning Streak for Religion at the Supreme Court.” Both the current docket and the faith traditions of the sitting justices have ignited a series of questions around the issues of disestablishment, free exercise, and the ways race, class, and gender identity interact with each of these bedrock American principles. For instance, does the Supreme Court’s protection of religious freedom undermine equality before the law? Does this protection go beyond what even the Founders intended? Panelists will discuss the justices’ understanding of religion, the ways religion is changing in America, and the impact of these combined variables on American life. How can new scholarship about religion, race, gender identity, and jurisprudence help us interrogate the current moment? How can scholars in these fields help us understand the inflection points that define the relationship between Supreme Court decisions and our shared future? Join humanities and legal scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, equality, and the Supreme Court.

Religion & Conspiracy

November 18, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Candace Rondeaux, Professor of Practice at the School of Politics and Global Studies and Senior Fellow with the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University
David Robertson, Lecturer in Religious Studies at The Open University; co-founder of the Religious Studies Project; co-editor of Implicit Religion
Robert Saler, Associate Dean and Research Professor of Religion and Culture, Christian Theological Seminary; Director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence and the Lily Endowment Clergy Renewal Program
Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University

Religious participation in conspiracy theories has received increased attention in both scholarship and public discourse lately. As a result, a number of key questions have emerged: Why are some worldviews described as conspiratorial when others are seen as rational, or at least unthreatening? Are conspiracy theories in the body politic a problem to be solved as well as a phenomenon to be understood? What are the material, social, intellectual, and class conditions under which conspiracy theories arise and are transformed? How can religious studies understand and influence public invocations of terms like “conspiracy,” “cult,” etc.? This panel discussion will examine these and other questions in light of what many argue is a recent intensification of the connection between religion and conspiracy theories, particularly in the United States. Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, the state, and conspiracy.

Religion & Disability

October 21, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Dan Bowman, Taylor University
Meredith Olivia Harris Hope, College of Wooster
Kenzie Mintus, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Sarah Imhoff, Indiana University, Bloomington

Religious communities have often been at the forefront of providing services and support for parishioners with varying health, social, and economic needs.  However, this attention to difference has not always translated to a thoughtful encounter with intersectionality and the ways in which ability operates differently across race, gender, and class.  This panel hopes to address questions of access by examining the intersection of disability and religion through a lens that focuses on embodied religious practice and embodiment more broadly.  Moreover, this panel will address how disability and religion provide a novel space to think critically about inclusion and visibility in the political arena, classrooms, and religious spaces. We ask: “How has disability theory and activism opened up new arenas for social protest and political belonging—particularly with regard to religious spaces?” This panel discussion will examine these and other topics in light of what many argue is a renewed attention to neurodiversity, varied abilities, and access in an age of social media and distance learning. Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, disability, and resistance.

Religion & Refugees and Immigration

September 16, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Salah Ansary, Senior District Director, Lutheran Community Services Northwest
Todd Scribner, Educational Outreach Coordinator, Department of Migration and Refugee Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Religion and Resettlement Project, Princeton University
Melissa Borja, University of Michigan
Soulit Chacko, Postdoctoral Fellow and Affiliate Faculty, Department of Sociology, IUPUI

At this very moment, thousands of Afghan refugees are arriving in the United States and other places around the world after a frenzied evacuation effort and bungled military withdrawal. This moment not only revives old debates about the United States’ relationship with Afghanistan and the Taliban regime, but it also reopens critical questions about policies on refugees, migration, and asylum. At the same time, the US continues to contend with the ongoing arrival of migrants fleeing Central America and the contested nature of a US-Mexico border policy. In this “Religion &”, panelists will address the history of refugee and migration policies and the role of religious organizations in supporting or challenging policies. Additionally, this episode will explore how scholars of religion and practitioners are employing new methods to study the movement, agency, and institution building of refugee and migrant communities. Join scholars and leaders in the field of migration policy as they explore these issues and the larger relationship between religion, refugees, and migration policy in the United States.

Season 1

Religion & Teaching In and Beyond the Classroom

May 20, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Caleb Elfenbein, Grinnell College; Gerardo Marti, Davidson College
Cohosts: Kate Bowler, Duke Divinity School; Philip Goff, IUPUI

Given the renewed attention to teaching–including public teaching and online learning–that emerged during the pandemic, we want to end this yearlong series of discussions with the topic of teaching and public engagement. How are our fields thinking about re-imagining teaching in light of the pandemic/racial reckoning and how are faculty and universities preparing for the fall? This topic, of course, goes beyond the pandemic and we want to think about the role and impact of public teaching and how creative and thoughtful scholars are shaping the classroom, the blogsphere, and podcasts to better reach their core audiences.

Religion & Grief

April 15, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Candi Cann, Baylor University; Michael Brandon McCormack, University of Louisville
Cohosts: Laura Levitt, Temple University; Brian Steensland, IUPUI

Given the year we’ve been through—the multiple types of losses and “sadnesses” people have struggled with—it is fitting that we consider the roles of religion in all of this. “Religion & Grief,” however, extends beyond the pandemic, and this discussion will explore the ways scholars of religion and American Studies are theorizing grief, death, suffering, and the rituals that attend to these moments. Have our understandings of grief changed or expanded in this current moment? Do new religious movements or the deeper engagement of groups (like the nones, women of color, victims of racialized or sexual violence) complicate our analysis and narration of grief? Is grief an adequately compelling and capacious term to address the loss and sadness that we theorize in our work?  Join humanities and social science scholars as they explore these questions and the larger relationships between religion, ritual, and various types of grief and loss.

Religion & Climate Change

March 18, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Amanda J. Baugh, California State University, Northridge; Evan Berry, Arizona State University
Cohosts: Lisa H. Sideris, Indiana University, Bloomington; Peter J. Thuesen, IUPUI

As the pandemic dominated Americans’ attention in 2020, another crisis—climate change—worsened with alarming speed. The year 2020 brought the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever, the West Coast’s worst fire season, and the hottest global temperatures (tied with 2016). All of this unfolded even as the Trump administration, in alliance with evangelical climate-change deniers, continued to thwart policies that would combat global warming. Now, with the election of Joe Biden, the U.S. has rejoined the Paris climate accord and environmentalism is regaining political momentum. What is religion’s role in this new environment, and how does it shape Americans’ understanding of climate change? What questions should scholars be pursuing on religion and climate? Join our expert panelists as they reflect on these and related questions.

Religion & Reimagining Black Futures

February 18, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Corey Miles, Morgan State University; Melanie L. Harris, Texas Christian University
Cohosts: Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds, IUPUI; Sylvester Johnson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The field of Africana Religious Studies has undergone significant reappraisal in the last 10 years.  Specifically, the field has begun to actively and from an interdisciplinary perspective engage the idea of futurity and Afro-diasporic futures. Scholars from across the spectrum are advancing new approaches to understanding the human condition and social institutions in an age of intelligent machines, social media and technological innovation. In this panel, we will look at the emerging approaches to Black futures in the fields of religious studies and American studies and how approaches from new media, social sciences and brain sciences have opened new models for studying Black religious futures.  Join humanities and social science scholars for a conversation at the intersection of religion, technological innovation and Black futures.

Religion & Memorializing the State

January 21, 2021 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Elaine Peña, The George Washington University; Nichole R. Phillips, Emory University
Cohosts: Kristina Horn Sheeler, IUPUI; Raymond Haberski, Jr., IUPUI

The United States is an idea, one that, for better and for worse, has been contested and affirmed for generations through the practice of voting. And while democracy is far more than a presidential election, that contest captures both the popular imagination of what the nation is while also quite directly designating who will run the country. Therefore, Presidents inherit a popular faith as well as an office; they assume a role that is often seen as much sacred as it is political; and they perform duties not unfamiliar to leaders of religious communities throughout the country. Thus the presidential inauguration every four years serves as perhaps the key ceremony in the memorialization of the state—offering Americans a singular opportunity to reflect upon the purpose of their country and their quasi-mystical relationship to it. Join social science and humanities scholars for a conversation about the relationship between religion and memorializing the state.

Religion & Pandemics, Vaccines, and Public Policy

December 17, 2020 at 3:00-4:00pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Ryon Cobb, University of Georgia; Philippa Koch, Missouri State
Cohosts: Richard Gunderman, IUPUI; Krista Hoffmann-Longtin, IUPUI

2020 has been dominated by a variety of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, from outright fear to blatant disregard to interventions sanctioned by local, state, and federal organizations.  With a vaccine on the horizon, scholars, public health officials and the greater public are asking how do we approach and communicate a thoughtful and ethical model for the distribution and safe implementation of a vaccine protocol.  In this panel, we will look at the history of pandemics and vaccine protocols; discuss the role that religious organizations and leaders played during  these historic moments; and outline the tools our fields offer to deal with the thorny ethical issues that emerge in the midst of surviving and responding during a global health crisis.  Join social science, medicine and humanities scholars for a conversation about Pandemics, Vaccines, and Public Policy.

Religion & the 2020 Election

November 19, 2020 at 3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Jamil W. Drake, Florida State University; Janelle Wong, University of Maryland
Cohosts: Amanda Friesen, IUPUI; Andrew Whitehead, IUPUI

Religion and politics are intimately intertwined in American civic life, especially when it comes to presidential elections. In this “Religion &” panel, we’ll unpack the 2020 Election focusing on questions like: What role did religion play in the U.S. election? Which candidates and campaigns reflected religious themes? How did religious Americans vote? Join social science and humanities scholars for a conversation about election results and the aftermath.

Religion & Gender and Race in the 2020 Political Landscape

October 15, 2020 at 3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Panelists: Melissa Borja, University of Michigan; Grace Yukich, Quinnipiac University
Cohosts: Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania; Philip Goff, IUPUI

100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment and at this moment of racial reckoning, the American political climate is still dominated by the unequal representation of women, especially women of color, in local, state, and electoral politics. For the inaugural session of “Religion &”, we will explore the intersection of gender, race, politics, and the role of religion. Specifically, this panel will analyze the role that religious traditions play in sustaining or mitigating  new models of engagement, political formation, and social change. How do current works on the intersection of gender, race, religion, and political participation help us frame and anticipate this current electoral season? Furthermore, have our theoretical focus on certain groups, like white Evangelicals, and insistence on traditional constructions of topics, like climate change from the perspective of nation-states and the corporate elite, adversely impacted our ability to tell a compelling story of the American religious landscape and its resistances to the current moment? How might we tell a more comprehensive story of the American electorate and its relationship to gender, race, religion, and belonging?



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