A Tribute to Mother Emanuel

Photograph by Delane Chavez, June 20, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina*
Matthew J. Cressler

Horror and heartbreak were in the air when I arrived at the College of Charleston ten months ago. The city remained in the shadows of the Mother Emanuel massacre. Each time I saw the church it seemed a new bouquet of flowers greeted passersby, a new memorial made. Signs were still posted, t-shirts still sold in September when I joined Charleston's Days of Grace march and rally. Eventually, though, the wreathes came down and the church facade became a front door once more (albeit one photographed frequently by visitors). 

Photograph by Brandon Coffey, June 29, 2015
The material culture of memorialization accumulated for months in front of Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church. It was overwhelming, as you can imagine. Hundreds of prayer shawls, blankets, and textiles. Boxes of correspondence. Artwork, stuffed animals, pieces of plywood covered with signatures. Fire hydrants and trees coated with messages in permanent marker. Not to mention thousands of emails. Mother Emanuel leaders reached out to city representatives and professional preservationists to help manage this excess of condolence. The Charleston Archives, Libraries & Museum Council aided in the formation of a Memorabilia Sub-Committee. Volunteers moved material out of the heat and heavy rains and into climate-controlled storage. Visitors replaced the flowers and crosses and candles quicker than they could be archived. By the end of August 2015, the collection already filled two rooms and it continues to grow.

How could this outpouring - physical traces of the ways tragedy ripples endlessly outward - be preserved for posterity? What would happen to everything once the media spotlight shone elsewhere? One answer is this online tribute, "A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel Church."

Exporting Freedom: Paths Towards Future Research

This is the final post in our review forum of Anna Su's new book, Exporting FreedomYou can read earlier entries by Michael GrazianoJeffrey Wheatley, and Mona Oraby

Chase L. Way

In Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016), Anna Su argues that the concept of religious freedom became enshrined in a “transnational legal regime” that aided and abetted the rise of American imperialism (3). Beginning her account with the US’ possession of the Philippines, and ending with its recent misadventures in the Middle East, Su marshals a series of case studies to illustrate the US’ often well-intentioned – but nearly always problematic– attempts to impose its ideas regarding religious freedom on the “other.” Further, Su makes a highly original contribution to the scholarly literature on this topic by demonstrating how Americans’ understanding of the international nature and purpose of religious freedom evolved in lockstep with its domestic experience of faith.

My colleagues on this blog have done a fine job of engaging with the details of this study over the last several weeks. I thus think it best for me to conclude this review forum by sharing some suggestions about how future scholars may wish to expand on the research vein Su has helpfully opened up in Exporting Freedom.

First, Su’s work would be enriched by a more extensive treatment of the relationship between American theological trends and its campaign to inculcate transnational legal protections for religious freedom. For instance, Su underscores how the popular notion of the “White Man’s Burden” worked in tandem with the idea that American believers had a duty to spread “Christian civilization” worldwide; in turn, she explains that both concepts were employed to justify the US’ imperial experiment in the Philippines (11-35). Presumably due to limits of time and space, however, Su does not have the opportunity to fully contextualize the “White Man’s Burden” and “Christian civilization” tropes within the broader discourse of late 19th and early 20th century progressive Protestant theology. Thinkers like Shailer Mathews, William Newton Clarke, and Walter Rauschenbusch did much to popularize an interpretation of Protestantism that held the ideals of international progress and social redemption at its center. The lack of a nuanced history that explains how such a theological culture might be harnessed in the name of white, Christian “duty” – and, in turn, used to morally justify the US’ intertwined pursuit of religious freedom and imperial power –necessitates further research.

Second, Su’s narrative would be imbued with further depth by a complementary historical account that explored cases where American ideas concerning religious freedom did not advance the nation’s imperial intentions. For example, my current research traces how domestic American religion shaped US attitudes towards Iran. The dysfunctional foreign policy relationship between these two states certainly possesses many examples of how the US attempted to extend its Cold War version of empire, both practically and ideologically. Yet I have thus far found little evidence that the US’ general promotion of religious freedom played any critical role in its relations with Iran until, perhaps, the Carter administration (but stay tuned for updates). So what factor, or constellation of factors, led American leaders to promote religious freedom for imperial ends in one situation and not another? Su’s text shows the potent utility of religious liberty to influence and even reconstruct other states, increasing the likelihood that they would be both morally righteous (at least to American eyes) and supportive of American power. Given its tremendous usefulness, then, it is unclear why the US’ strategy of promoting freedom of faith was employed – as best we can tell from current research – haphazardly.

Third, Su’s study could be put into even sharper perspective were it interwoven with a narrative explaining how the idea of “empire” itself evolved in tandem with American domestic culture. Su is compelled, for example, to compress the bulk of her discussion of the Eisenhower administration’s strategic use of religion during the Cold War into a single paragraph (114-115). Although I assume this elision is again the consequence of inevitable limits on time and space, she mentions in passing that “President Dwight Eisenhower and his secretary of state John Foster Dulles consciously recast communism as a kind of faith – a dangerous religious creed – and thus set the stage for the framing of the Cold War as a modern-day holy war” (114-115). It makes sense that the start of this “holy war” might coincide with a deepening of America’s self-conception as, say, a messianic crusader nation. Yet the impact of Eisenhower-era America’s developing imperial identity on its use of religious freedom to gain global power is left to the reader’s imagination. Fleshing out such episodes would do much to expand scholars’ understanding of this historical epoch.

Coming full circle, Su should be praised for the thought-provoking and insightful contributions in her work. The fact that Exporting Freedom has such an impressive ability to inspire further research projects is a testimony to the richness of her topic. I look forward to reading Su’s future contributions, and also to seeing how this area of study develops as a result of the scholars she has inspired.

Chase L. Way is a Ph.D. candidate in Religion at Claremont Graduate University, where she recently won the school’s Transdisciplinary Dissertation Award. She specializes in the history of American religion and foreign policy, particularly towards Iraq and Iran. You are welcome to follow her on Twitter (handle: @ChaseLWay).

Teaching with Primary Sources: Religious Freedom and U.S.-Vietnamese Relations

Lauren Turek

In her two most recent posts for this blog, Emily Suzanne Clark spurred vigorous and productive discussions about teaching with primary sources. [1] Much like Emily, I assign many primary sources in my classes, as I agree with her that they "illuminate conflict and show moments of creative tension in American history. They show how the past can be a foreign country and they reveal how the past is not so different from today." [2] In my courses on U.S. foreign relations, I find that primary sources that address religion in some way or that use explicitly religious language can help my students think more deeply about the role that ideology has played in shaping and restraining past U.S. foreign policy decisions. Such sources also allow my students and I to consider Christian nationalism and internationalism, civil religion, and a host of other interesting themes as we discuss the history of American foreign policy. Additionally, these documents can sometimes illuminate the historical context for contemporary foreign policy challenges.

Given Emily's recent posts, I thought I might start to (occasionally) share some of my favorite primary sources from the history of religion and American foreign relations, with the hope that readers might find them useful for teaching or that they might suggest similar sources they have found helpful in their own work or classrooms.

Since President Obama made a historic trip to Vietnam this week, I would like to start off by sharing a document I have assigned in my classes that addresses the religious dynamics of U.S.-Vietnamese relations before and during the Vietnam War.

Exporting Law, Exporting Freedom

The third post in our ongoing review forum on Anna Su's new book, Exporting Freedomcomes to us from Mona Oraby. You can read earlier entries by Michael Graziano and Jeffrey Wheatley. Look for our final post in the series next week.

Mona Oraby

Exporting Freedom complements a recent spate of scholarship that queries the timelessness and neutrality that is often attributed to the right to religious liberty. Drawing on historical case studies that span twentieth century U.S. foreign policy, Anna Su charts the emergence and promotion of religious freedom first as natural law, and subsequently as a human right enshrined in national constitutions and international law. Su argues that American religious freedom promotion abroad is part and parcel of U.S. global ascendancy.

The book is a significant contribution to our understanding of how “the malleability of religious freedom enabled its invocation abroad to be articulated and made salient within particular historical and institutional contexts” (4). Su not only excavates the political and intellectual milieu in which American discourse on religious freedom took shape. She also explains the modes through which this discourse figured into three U.S. military incursions: the Philippines following the Spanish-American War, post-World War II Japan, and Iraq after the 2003 invasion. By foregrounding the interstice between discourse and imperial power, Su opens up a productive inquiry into religious liberty’s distinctly American provenance.

If Exporting Freedom casts religious liberty and American power in a new light, it falls short of articulating a broader claim about the centrality of law to the U.S. export of both Protestant values and secular liberalism. After all, religious liberty was not exclusively deployed as a discursive tool, but as a legal instrument that curtailed preexisting power structures and reorganized local religious traditions. In all three case studies mentioned above, the career of religious freedom promotion followed a categorically legal course. American officials drafted constitutions as a means to achieve occupation goals. They increasingly sought to codify the disestablishment of church and state first in order to civilize subordinate populations, but always to secure U.S. material and moral interests. To her credit, Su demonstrates that religious freedom protections became entrenched in national constitutions and the panoply of international legal instruments we are familiar with today. However, she does not theorize the significance of this multi-jurisdictional spread of religious freedom as law. How, we might ask, has the constituent relationship among law, religion, and freedom changed over time?

The U.S. colonial experiment in the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century points to the imbrication of these concepts early on in Exporting Freedom. Using a constitutional framework, the U.S. government sought to promote religious pluralism and simultaneously limit forms of religious worship it deemed antithetical to its civilizing mission. The U.S. colonial administrator of the Moro Province, John Wood, remarked that Filipino Muslims and Catholics practiced “an unruly amalgam of local customs” (32). Su further tells us that “[a]lthough Wood believed in religious freedom, it was freedom that came in a particular shape and size. He praised Jesuit missionary work in the Moro Province…because he considered the principles of the Christian religion conducive to the observance of law and order and respect for authority” (32). Given that the book provides rich historical evidence for a robust theory of what law does in the context of military occupation, it is curious that Su asks but never answers whether it is significant that religious freedom is law (161).

Viewed from this perspective, U.S. ascendance is characterized by the global propagation of law and constitutionalism, American-style, of which religious freedom promotion is but one component. The histories of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) and the post-2003 Iraq Transnational Administrative Law (TAL) are cases in point. As Su explains, “[b]y enacting the IRFA into law and ensuring that adequate religious freedom guarantees were written into the Iraqi TAL, the U.S. government brought together its old and new ways of promoting international religious freedom” (157). The old way consisted of unilateral standard setting, often by military force. The new mode interprets and implements these standards, which are supported by a variety of domestic and international legal mechanisms.

This line of thinking extends to other realms in which law’s productive capacity is used to legitimate U.S. projects of global domination. Prisoner abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, Baghram Air Force base outside of Kabul, and Guantanamo Bay are haunting examples of how U.S. officials have bent legal definitions of what constitutes torture in order to sanction harsh interrogation techniques and extraordinary rendition. And just two years ago, the Obama administration expanded the scope of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force law to justify the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The point here is that it is no coincidence that American discourses on ‘defending religious freedom’ and ‘eradicating terrorism’ are tied to national security interests. Such interests are being realized through the force of law with alarming frequency.

The ongoing centrality of law to American power thus casts considerable doubt on Su’s assertion that “the slow realization of religious freedom is and should be a profoundly political act, one that is built on continuing deliberation, contestation, and mutual recognition” (162). Exporting Freedom may be “[f]irst and foremost a cautionary tale [that] illustrates the ambitions and limits of what religious freedom promoted as law by an external actor can achieve,” (10) but the book’s elite-centric view does not suggest how the ideal of religious liberty can be instantiated otherwise.

Mona Oraby is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University.

Book Challenges as Primary Sources in the Study of American Religion

Today's guest post comes from Meredith Ross. Meredith is a doctoral candidate in American Religious History at Florida State University. She holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Studies, also from Florida State, and her research focuses upon religion and information, particularly mid-20th century church libraries. You can contact her at mr09@my.fsu.edu or on Twitter @Memo_Ross.

In 2011 Jonesboro, Arkansas, concerned adults asked that the critically acclaimed novel The Kite Runner be removed from the high school curriculum of the Valley View School District. Why? Because, they argued, the book “may cause some students to question the validity of our ‘one nation under God’” through its “presentation of Islam as a viable and genuine religion.”

Challenges like this one – the first step in officially banning a book from a school or library – are tracked carefully by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). The OIF’s numbers show that, between 1990 and 2009, 688 challenges were issued to books on the basis of their so-called “religious viewpoint;” challenges citing concerns that books espoused the “occult/Satanism,” which the OIF lists separately from “religious viewpoint” challenges, totaled 1,044 during this same time. These challenges have helped scholars illuminate concerns about the supposed “occult” nature of youth media – particularly as related to the “Satanic panic” and the attempted banning of the Harry Potter series.

Less considered, however, has been the capacity for official book challenges in schools and libraries to provide clear insight into some Americans’ perceptions of the religious other and the place of religion in the public square – especially when, as in Jonesboro, the title in question features Muslim characters or themes.

Photographing "Father Ted"

Hesburgh with donors at a Challenge Rally fundraiser, 1961
 [This month's Cushwa post is by Todd C. Ream, who is Professor of Higher Education at Taylor University. Todd's current research is on the life and writings of Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952-1987. While he has several projects ongoing, we asked him to offer some thoughts on the rationale for and method of a book of photos of Hesburgh that he's currently assembling. We're illustrating the post with three of these photos drawn from the ND archives, with thanks to archivist Charles Lamb for his help in obtaining these versions.

Speaking of Hesburgh, we'll announce the first round of grants for research in his papers shortly. Since this is a new opportunity, we're still trying to widely circulate news of their availability. If you're interested in religion in/and American higher education, and/or in any of the governmental commissions Hesburgh participated in, the papers are particularly rich sources and we encourage you to apply for research support.]

Religious Activism in the Pacific Northwest

Paul Putz

Kevin Kruse's One Nation Under God and Matthew Sutton's American Apocalypse are both blockbuster books on conservative American Christianity. But that's not the only trait they hold in common. Both books also prominently feature Christian leaders who operated out of the Pacific Northwest. Sutton uses Seattle's Mark Mathews, pastor from 1902-1940 of one of the country's largest Presbyterian churches. Kruse features Abraham Vereide, also based in Seattle, who combatted socialism by reaching out to businessmen and civic elites in the 1930s. Vereide's efforts led to the prayer breakfast movement, which eventually made its way to the halls of power in Washington D.C.

I had not thought much about the shared home region of those two figures until I read Dale Soden's Outsiders in a Promised Land: Religious Activists in Pacific Northwest History (Oregon State University Press, 2015). In Soden's text both figures appear, working alongside numerous other religious leaders in the region that Patricia Killen has aptly described the "None Zone."

With Outsiders in a Promised Land Soden provides an account that stretches from the late-nineteenth-century to the present, describing the ways in which "religious activists, in this least-churched region of the country, have shaped the struggle to define the nature of public life" (p. xiii). For Soden, "religion" mainly comes in the Catholic/Protestant/Jew formula. But if his selection of subjects follows a traditional path, the setting in which they operate provides a unique frame. Rather than the standard "anxiety over lost prestige" as a motivating factor for religious (mostly Protestant) activity, Soden's religious activists -- whether conservative or liberal -- viewed themselves as outsiders in a hostile culture. For them, there was nothing to "take back" in the land of the religiously unaffiliated, only new ground to be gained.

The Last Time Methodists Split: A Primary Source

Elesha Coffman

The United Methodist church may be heading for a split over LGBTQ inclusion and the interpretation of Scripture. American religious historians might remember that this church split before, in 1844, over the issue of slavery. In poking around the 1844 history, I ran across the General Conference speech of the man at the center of that crisis, Bishop James O. Andrew of Georgia, who had become a slaveholder by marrying a widow who had inherited slaves from her previous husband. Northern Methodists pressed for a resolution that no slaveholder should serve as bishop; Southern Methodists deemed this move a galling overreach. Andrew's speech complicates the true but perhaps overly stark picture of slaveholding Christianity that one gets from, say, the relevant documents in R. Marie Griffith's American Religions reader (Frederick Douglass, from Narrative of the Life of an American Slave; Angelina Grimke, Appeal to the Christian Women of the South; and George D. Armstrong, from The Christian Doctrine of Slavery). The speech appears in many Methodist sources, including this one, but is not, I think, well known elsewhere. Some highlights:

"Strange as it may seem to brethren, I am a slaveholder for conscience' sake. I have no doubt that my wife would, without a moment's hesitation, consent to the manumission of those slaves, if I thought proper to do it. I know she would unhesitatingly consent to any arrangement I might deem it proper to make on the subject. But how am I to free them? Some of them are old, too old to work to support themselves, and are only an expense to me; and some of them are little children: where shall I send these, and who will provide for them? But, perhaps, I shall be permitted to keep these; but then, if the others go, how shall I provide for these helpless ones? and as to the others, to what free state shall I send them? and what would be their condition? ... I believe the providence of God has thrown these creatures into my hands, and holds me responsible for their proper treatment."

Adventures in Religious Materiality

Sarah E. Dees

Adventures in teaching religious materiality, that is. I'm currently leading students through an intensive, three-week (crash) course on religion in museums, which I am teaching at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Tennessee. I’ve used museums in my teaching before in a class focused on religion, race, and ethnicity (and written about it here); the present course focuses specifically on material religion and the relationship between religious studies and museums studies. In addition to introducing students to the ways in which religions were historically represented in public spaces—including fairs, exhibitions, and museums—the purpose of the class is to acquaint students with how contemporary museums display objects of religious significance and to help students understand important conversations surrounding these practices. How have museums acquired their collections? Who decides the value that objects hold? What is the relationship between the academic study of religion and the display of significant objects? What can objects tell us about American religious history?

Graduate Student Conference on Constructing National Identity in US History, Northumbria University, September 9th, 2016

Randall J. Stephens

Regular readers of this blog may be interested in a graduate student conference that will be held here at Northumbria University on Friday, September 9, 2016.  A PhD student I've worked with here, Megan Hunt, is organizing it.  Looks like the conference will be a rewarding and fascinating experience. 

Historians of the Twentieth Century US (HOTCUS) Annual Postgraduate Conference: "Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History."

Friday 9th September 2016, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Keynote speaker: Dr Simon Hall (Senior Lecturer in American History, Leeds University)

On 1 February 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asserted that "Americanism is a matter of the mind and the heart." Just a year after he approved the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, FDR’s statement about the inclusiveness of American identity highlights one of the key questions scholars face when writing the history of the United States: What do we actually mean when we talk about US national identity?

The distinction between what is and isn’t American has dominated the history of the twentieth century United States, from the Hollywood Blacklists of the 1950s and protests in the streets of Selma, Alabama in 1965, to clashes between construction workers and Vietnam War protesters in New York City and debates over U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. In these instances and many others, the process of defining national identity remains central to our understanding of U.S. history.

This conference will explore the constructions and limitations of American national identity in the twentieth century. Panels and twenty-minute paper proposals are invited from postgraduate students and early career researchers on the constructions and manifestations of Americanism in the last century.

Topics for papers or panels might include:

Exporting Freedom and the Power of Religious Freedom

The second post in our ongoing review forum on Anna Su's new book, Exporting Freedom, comes to us from Jeffrey Wheatley. You can read the first review here.

Jeffrey Wheatley

Anna Su’s book Exporting Freedom is a timely contribution to scholarship interested in state power, international relations, and religion. Arguing that religious freedom should not be analyzed as a mask for other interests, Su examines religious freedom as an American ideology, by which she means that religious freedom served as both a legitimation for American intervention and shaped the goals and processes of intervention. Religious freedom, understood by Su’s subject to be essential for democracy, has been both an element of American political morality and American self-interest abroad. She examines this ideology at work in policy deliberation and codification through six historical case studies, beginning with the US occupation of the Philippines in the early twentieth century and ending with the US occupation of Iraq in the twenty-first century. 

What I find compelling about Exporting Freedom is how colonialism, global warfare, and military occupations were the contexts that bound together the book’s six chapters. Within these contexts religious freedom, as understood by American policy-makers, was a tool of pacification and securitization, both associated with democratic nation-building. But how and why, exactly, did American officials imagine religious freedom to pacify and secure? And what assumptions are embedded in such a view? Chapter 1, which examines the Philippines, and Chapter 4, which examines post-WWII Japan, provide some of the deepest analyses and are productive sections to consider these questions. 

Religion, Revolution, and Digital Humanities: A Guest Post from Kate Carte Engel


Today I'm thrilled to share a guest post from Kate Carte Engel, an Associate Professor of History at Southern Methodist University. If you don't know of Prof. Engel from her important work on the religious and economic history of the Moravians, you might know her from her previous appearances here on the blog. What you may not know, however, is that this semester Prof. Engel has been working with her students on a digital humanities project on religion and the American revolution. I had the good fortune of watching the project unfold as the class blogged about their work. So I asked Prof. Engel if she would consider reflecting upon the experience for RiAH. Below are her thoughts--and visualizations! 

British Library, 1868,0808.10061,AN75238001
Religion and the American Revolution is a topic that tends to linger in our national discussions.  Just recently, Jonathan Den Hartog blogged about the fascinating questions raised on the subject by Mark Noll’s new book. Those on the right regularly insist that the United States is a Christian nation because of something or other that happened in the Revolutionary era, it's part of the school curriculum in Texas, and the power of Christianity alongside our founding documents in our civil religion keeps the subject on the table.

In the Beginning Was the Word (Part 1)

Jonathan Den Hartog

I've appreciated the conversations around John Fea's The Bible Cause over the last month. Today, I wanted to turn our attention to another Bible-focused history that is also a 2016 product: Mark Noll's In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783. Although there has been some discussion of the book--as a Ben Franklin's World podcast, at the Cushwa Center at Notre Dame--I've been surprised there hasn't been more. (I'll let Commenters point me to other resources.) Noll's work is an impressive piece of scholarship that deserves to be digested into our thinking about religion in colonial and revolutionary America.

Rather than offer a full academic review of the book, I want to offer a more-impressionistic response to it. Much more can--and should!--be said about it. In fact, let me share some of my thoughts in this post, and I'll save the second half for next month.

Before jumping into the book itself, it's worthwhile contextualizing this work in Noll's larger body of scholarship and in the intellectual milieu in which he's working. As for the Noll "corpus," this is a big, scholarly book to be set next to his America's God. At the same time, I also saw important echoes about the place and uses of the Bible from his Civil War as a Theological Crisis book. As to theme, it hearkens back to much earlier work, such as his Bible in America project and bears echoes of his celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Further, the book helpfully takes advantage of the types of intellectual exchanges provided by his position at the University of Notre Dame. One way of the book could be read would be as a (very) extended response to Brad Gregory's Unintended Reformation. Whereas Gregory interpreted subsequent developments in modernity from a Catholic perspective, Noll demonstrates the internal, Protestant logic that shaped the debates over the place of the Bible in society. In so doing, he demonstrates that choices were made, and that these choices differed for various groups.

Exporting Freedom and the Politics of Disestablishment

This is the first post in a series responding to Anna Su's new book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016). We'll feature other responses throughout the month of May.

Michael Graziano

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1996), Thomas Friedman put forth his “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention.” Friedman suggested that two countries that both had McDonald’s would not go to war against one another. This reassuringly capitalist teleology didn’t quite pan out, though, and he supersized it to the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention in 2006’s The World is Flat which, I will simply note, won the inaugural Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

I was reminded of Friedman’s prophecy while reading Anna Su’s new book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016). Su is no Friedman, but her book could be considered a study of Friedman-like attempts to understand the big ideas that govern human interaction. Friedman, like many of the subjects in Su’s book, thought he’d discovered a peace-and-justice algorithm built into modern society. Su is looking at something as American as apple pie (or, well, as McDonald’s): religious freedom. Su tells a story of Americans convinced that they could make the world a just and peaceful place by exporting American-style religious freedom around the globe.

Su addresses two related questions about religious freedom: (1) How did Americans theorize the world around them by extrapolating from their own national experiences? (2) How did these theories come to be applied around the world and under American imperial power? These questions are made all the more pressing by the ease with which “religious freedom” is thrown around by American leaders. Anyone with the mettle to stomach a presidential debate has surely heard it proffered as a foreign policy panacea for global ills of every variety. How did that come to be?

CFP: Boston University Graduate Conference on Religious Studies

Andrew McKee

When not throwing my own parties, I like to spread the word about good graduate conferences. So, apply to this:

Second Annual 

Boston University Graduate Conference on Religious Studies 

Protest, Public Religion, and Social Change 

October 1, 2016 

9 Questions with Jack Downey

Pete Cajka

Jack Downey is an Assistant Professor in the Religion Department at LaSalle University. We talked recently about his new book, The Bread of the Strong. This study traces the history of the Lacouture retreat in three acts: the retreat's founding by in Quebec by Jesuit Onesime Lacouture; its introduction into America by Pittsburgh priest John Hugo; and, finally, the retreat's impact on Dorothy Day. This book investigates the intersection of the Roman Catholic contemplative tradition and modern political activism. Fordham University Press published The Bread of the Strong as part of their Catholic Practice in North America series.

PC: Can you tell us about the development of the retreat and how it changed people, theologically speaking, and in terms of lived religion?

JD: The retreat I study in my book was founded by this Jesuit named Onesime Lacouture. Lacouture is born in 1881 but he doesn't start giving the retreat until he is about 50. It was 1930 when he gave his first retreat. He visualized it very much as consolidation of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. He has these enormous retreat notes. He calls them the "three series" of the retreat. He only gave the first of the three series. The exercises have a portion that focus on the grim stuff, meditations on hell which is eventually what draws allegations of Jansenism. But initially he visualizes this retreat as being explicitly for [vowed] religious. His idea was to begin a revival among clergy and other religious so they would eventually have a trickle down type of effect that would inspire the laity. He saw this as being a pushback against Anglo-Protestants in Quebec at this time.

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