The Religions in America Workshop explores the role of religion in American culture from the colonial period to the present. Our goal is to better understand the complex ways in which religious traditions, practices, and concerns shape and respond to the American experience. To that end, this interdisciplinary workshop will consider American religion’s relevance and relation to other categories such as race, gender, economics, politics, and literature. We will consider work from a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives, in keeping with the most current trends in the study of religion in America.
While based at the Divinity School, the workshop welcomes scholars from a variety of academic disciplines and departments. Presentations by students, faculty and distinguished guest speakers take place in a discussion-oriented environment designed to further the research, inquiry, and knowledge of both presenters and participants alike. Our hope is to provide a vibrant intellectual community for students and faculty in the growing Religions in America subfield at the university, as well as to connect the burgeoning work in that department with the broader intellectual life of the university.
Curtis Evans is an historian of American religions. His teaching interests are modern American religion, particularly since the Civil War, race and religion in US history, and slavery and Christianity. His first book, The Burden of Black Religion (Oxford University Press, 2008), was an historical analysis of debates about the role of religion in the lives of African Americans and the origins of the scholarly category of “the black church.” His research emphases are interpretations and cultural images of African American religion, examinations of religion as a force for and obstacle to social and political reform, and the question of how social problems become defined and addressed as moral problems at particular historical moments. More recently, his research on Billy Graham’s political and social views have led increasingly into teaching courses on and reading more deeply about the rise of the Christian Right and the emergence and history of conservative Protestantism in the US. His current work, A Theology of Brotherhood: The Federal Council of Churches and the Problem of Race (forthcoming) brings together a number of his research interests: the FCC’s attempt at social and racial change from the 1920s to the 1940s, the evolution of theological reflections on race, and the concrete and particular circumstances that shape historical actors as they wrestle with the constraints of their social worlds. This narrative is a critical historical evaluation of the FCC’s interracial work as a predominantly white Protestant and ecumenical organization, but also a reflection on the factors that illuminate the prominence of a certain strand of Protestantism in American public life in the early 20th century.
William Schultz is a historian of American religion with an interest in the intersection of religion, politics, and capitalism. Schultz is currently finishing his first book, Jesus in the Rockies: How Colorado Springs Became the Capital of American Evangelicalism (under contract with UNC Press), which explains how the confluence of evangelical Christianity and free-market capitalism transformed the city of Colorado Springs into an epicenter of American conservatism. His next project, The Wages of Sin: Faith, Fraud, and Religious Freedom in Modern America, uses cases of financial fraud between the 1920s and 1990s to explore how Americans have struggled with questions of religious authority and authenticity. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Schultz was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and a faculty fellow at Harvard University. He received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina and his Ph.D. from Princeton University.
Hannah Ozmun is a fourth-year PhD student at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Sam Gee is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought.