5 Questions with Theresa Keeley



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Lauren Turek

Theresa Keeley is Assistant Professor of U.S. and the World in the University of Louisville history department. She earned her Ph.D. in history from Northwestern and also has a background in human rights activism and law. An expert in the history of U.S. foreign relations, religion, and gender, she is currently revising a manuscript, Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: Catholicism and U.S.-Central America Relations, based on her doctoral dissertation. In June 2016, Keeley published an excellent article entitled “Reagan’s Real Catholics vs. Tip O’Neill’s Maryknoll Nuns: Gender, Intra-Catholic Conflict, and the Contras” in Diplomatic History. The following is a brief conversation we had about her research, which straddles several fields and promises to provide the basis for an exciting, important book.


President Reagan with Tip O'Neill in the Oval Office, 1985.
Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library.
Q1. Can you tell us a little about your current book project?
I’m in the midst of revising my manuscript, Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: Intra-Catholic Conflict and U.S.-Central America Relations. The book’s pivotal event is the rape and murder of three U.S. nuns and a lay missionary by members of El Salvador’s National Guard in December 1980.  I argue that the women’s murders brought to the fore long-simmering debates among Catholics over the Church’s direction.  Liberal Catholics described the women, who worked to combat structural inequality, as human rights advocates living out the spirit of the Gospel.  They were martyrs whose deaths symbolized an immoral U.S. foreign policy that trained and armed the Salvadoran security forces.  But to conservative Catholics who supported U.S. Cold War foreign policy, these women were agents of class conflict who furthered the Gospel according to Karl Marx. As I contend, this intra-Catholic debate intensified as conservative, anticommunist Catholics played instrumental roles in crafting Ronald Reagan’s policy to fund the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras.  At the same time, liberal Catholics protested against this U.S. policy.  At their heart, these intra-Catholic debates were about who could fight the Cold War, who could shape U.S. foreign policy, and who could define what it meant to be Catholic.


4 Questions with Tom Kselman



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[This month's Cushwa post is dedicated to a short interview with Thomas Kselman, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, who is retiring at the end of the year. While Kselman is a distinguished Europeanist, he has also written on Marian piety in American Catholicism, and is one of my favorite conversation partners on 19th and 20th century Marian iconography, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the past and future of religious history-writing--his own and others'. It's still a bit far away, but you can also mark your calendars: on March 9, 2017, Kselman's former graduate students will gather for a symposium and dinner in his honor.]


ASCH/AHA Annual Meeting Registration Tips



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Elesha Coffman

This is just a quick note to remind ASCH members of the Annual Meeting registration procedures, which have changed in recent years.

ASCH no longer manages Annual Meeting registration or housing. Instead, you need to register at the AHA. If you are presenting at an ASCH session, you must be an ASCH member, but you do not need to be an AHA member. You may register at the "Speaker Nonmember" rate, which is the same as the AHA member rate ($167.00). You will also need to pay an additional fee ($70.00) for the ASCH sessions. No, that doesn't make a lot of sense, and yes, the ASCH council is still working on it. Suffice to say, at this point, without the extra fee, the ASCH would lose a lot of money on the meeting.

To present at an ASCH session, you do need to be an ASCH member for the year in which the meeting is held. Membership fees are changing in 2017 to reflect the different income levels of the society's members. Graduate students joining the society for the first time can get their first two years of membership free. (For reference, I wrote about the cost of both conferences and membership back in March.) It is now also possible to renew your membership for multiple years, saving $5 on a 2-year membership or $10 on a 3-year membership, or to set up a recurring payment, which prevents the hassle of remembering to renew each year. All of these moves reflect the council's attempts to keep overall costs down, shift those costs to the members most able to bear them, and keep enough money flowing to sustain the society.

I hope to see many of you in Denver!

Invitation to a Digital Dugnad



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Hilde Løvdal Stephens

If you’re like me, money for research is tight and any digitized archival material that is easily accessible online is priceless. So, I invite you to be part of a digital dugnad in an effort to gather a list of online primary sources on American religion.

So what's a dugnad? A Norwegian term, dugnad is something like voluntary, unpaid community work.

But it’s so much more. It’s about connections and about being useful. A dugnad is a collective effort. Any kind of association—churches, sports clubs, scouting groups, and neighborhood organizations—rely on the dugnad to raise money and to keep the day-to-day things up and running.

And then, of course, there’s usually coffee and cake. (Home-made cake, that is. A store-bought cake is, well, frowned upon.)

Sans coffee and cake, let's start the digital dugnad. Let’s dig up our favorite primary sources that can be useful for both research and teaching. Give us your online gems in the comment section.

Michael Altman listed some useful collections here. There's also some useful material in the comments.

Anyway, here's my contribution:
A big cheer for all the hard working archivists out there who have made all this available!

A Dialogue with Heath Carter on "Union Made"



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Janine Giordano Drake

Last month, I reflected on some similarities and differences between two recent books on the Social Gospel: Heath Carter's Union Made and Ed O'Donnell's Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality. You can find that essay here.

In my essay, I suggested that Carter and O'Donnell saw the Social Gospel acting differently within and upon working class communities. I saw Carter emphasizing the ways that the Social Gospel empowered workers, and O'Donnell emphasizing the ways the Social Gospel worked against some of their interests.

I invited Carter to respond to my reflections. Thank you, Heath! (Heath and I known each other a while and he has always been a very gracious and thoughtful colleague.) His response below illustrates this yet again, with my reflections following.

Dear Janine,

Thank you for this very thoughtful review, which puts my book into conversation with Ed O'Donnell's specifically around the question of whether the Social Gospel proved, at the end of the day, empowering for workers.  I should say up front that I am very excited to see how your much-anticipated book will add to this important conversation.

You argue that there is a tension in the stories O'Donnell and I tell insofar as it seems that, in NYC, the leveling movement that coalesced around Henry George was soon thwarted, whereas I contend that in early-twentieth century Chicago a working-class gospel was ascendant.  You go on to tie these differences of outcome and interpretation to the fact that a) we're writing about different cities and b) we're focused on different populations within the broader working class.  I think those are key factors: so key in fact, that I think if we follow them all the way through, we'll see that the stories O'Donnell and I tell are actually mutually reinforcing rather than conflictual.

Allow me to explain what I mean.  While you write that I see "the Social Gospel as a generative, empowering, working class movement in early twentieth century Chicago," I would actually put it somewhat differently.  Part of what I do in the book is recover the competing working-class Christianities that flourished in Gilded Age Chicago.  In the early chapters I discuss the moderate, reforming brand propounded by the likes of Andrew Cameron, as well as more radical strands articulated by some believing Knights of Labor, not to mention anarchists such as Albert Parsons, who was not a professing Christian but who was nevertheless deeply interested in the figure of Jesus (for reasons Dave Burns has masterfully recovered).  But in addition to describing a variety of working-class dissenting theologies, I'm also trying to underscore the pivotal role some working people played in a key historical development: namely, the rise of pro-labor gospels within churchly institutions in the early 20th century.  On this latter front, the activism of the AFL's "labor aristocrats" proved especially momentous, mainly because these respectable craftsmen represented the segment of the working classes that was most acceptable to Protestant and Catholic church leaders, who throughout those years were gripped by a crisis of working-class attrition. For these AFL leaders, the Social Gospel as it came to be realized in the churches would seem "generative" and "empowering."  But for Protestant radicals and even for less-skilled Catholic workers - who were so often protesting in the streets of late-19th century Chicago but whose theological perspectives are so difficult to recover - this same Social Gospel might have seemed still, on the whole, oppressive.

This is what I mean when I write, in the introduction to Union Made, "The middle-class Social Gospel was, in this and every sense, a real but distinctly moderate accommodation of working-class religious dissent."  And this is why I think that, at the end of the day, perhaps, my book and O'Donnell's may actually line up on the same side of the crucial question you've raised.

I fully agree with Heath that the two books are not conflicting at their very core. In fact, this is exactly what I find most striking about the contrast between the books. This movement which was at once empowering to Protestant AFL labor aristocrats also aimed to supppress socialists, Catholics, labor radicals, and others. My point in the essay was not to critique the analytical framework of either book. Rather, my point was that the way we describe the relationship between "The Social Gospel" and "the working classes" needs to be tempered by the detail that both Carter and O'Donnell provide us. To the extent that they refer to two different working classes, we ought to be wary of the fact that there are a number of different groups calling themselves "working classes" in the Gilded Age. I sought to observe that the collapsing of the categories of skilled and unskilled workers was--perhaps--a rhetorical tool used by American Federation of Labor and other conservative trade unionists to further their political aims. We need to be wary of why our subjects choose to identify themselves by the terms they use, and we need to be ready to critique those categories where necessary.

Carter describes the Social Gospel forged by trade union aristocrats as "a distinctly moderate accomodation of working class dissent." In his narrative, the pro-labor gospel of white, skilled laborers was heard by ministers and used within their campaign for "Social Christianity." I find this description accurate but its emphasis a bit misleading. While the rise of Social Christianity surely accomodated some aspects of working class dissent, it also solidly rejected a much larger--and much louder--element of working class dissent. Moreover, where Carter sees conservative trade unionists inspiring their ministers, I see ministers and their upwardly mobile flock of Anglo Protestants together building nativist and white supremacist ideologies of labor in order to stand apart from the radical labor movement. We might describe this as a "moderate accomodation." But, the Marxist in me can't help but point out that appears to be a classic example of bourgeois ideology fragmenting and suppressing the working classes. I will always support historians' efforts to acknowledge workers' agency, but I wonder to what extent craftsmen in this instance exercised their agency more through supporting bourgeois ideas than coming up with any of their own.

Carter's research is impeccable beyond question. My questions here are not regarding what he finds but whether we might read more into the conclusions that he reaches. Surely, ministers and Anglo-Protestant craftsmen collaborated a good deal in the Gilded Age. Yet, what happens when we read these relationships from the other end, and emphasize the fact that Protestant miniters in the Gilded Age were bathed in Josiah Strong, Teddy Roosevelt, and other white supremacist boosters? 

I'll take two illustrative examples. 

First, what should we take from Carter's observation that a pro-labor gospel arose at Chicago Methodist church amidst a rise in worker radicalism and fears that this might overtake the city. Carter writes, "The applause at Ada Street Methodist betokened hope that the city's Anglo-Protestant peoples might hang together, even as mounting class conflict threatened to pull them apart" (71). Carter emphasizes the ways that craftsmen and ministers come together through this experience, and that relationships like this one fostered the "moderate accomodation of working class dissent" which he describes. However, why doesn't Carter read this hardening of Anglo-Protestant alliances in the face of increased racial and ethnic diversity as evidence of working class nativism? Why doesn't he read this hardening of conservative, Anglo-Protestant theologies in the midst of radical socialists, including Christian Socialists, as evidence of working class conservatism? Why don't we conclude from this story that the Social Gospel was born of racism, nativism, and an effort of skilled, white craftsmen to distance themselves theologically from the Christianities of the poor? 

Second, how ought we interpret widespread Gilded Age denunciations of churches as havens of mammon, alongside commentary on how Jesus would hardly recognize them as legitimate houses of worship? Carter sees these critiques as the earliest evidence of a working class movement for Social Christianity. For, he sees the real possiblity of a "rapprochement" between Protestant elites and the Central Labor Union within Chicago (101-102). However, Dave Burns reads very similar evidence of church critique as part and parcel of a widespread rebellion of skilled as well as unskilled workers against all the denominational Protestant and Catholic churches in the United States. As Burns illustrates, radicals, agnostics, atheists, and many others with heterodox religious beliefs defected Protestant churches in large numbers during the Gilded Age. As others have emphasized, the Gilded Age was an era of great religious invention, especially by poor and working classes. By virtue of this massive rebellion, the Protestant craftsmen that were left in Chicago denominational churches during the Gilded Age were a select few of relatively conservative Anglo-Protestants. We are probably right to still identify these folks like Andrew Cameron as working class. After all, many of them (excepting perhaps Cameron himself) worked primarily with their hands. But, are these craftsmen representative of the Chicago working classes? I'm not sure that they are. Surely, many were union members. But, they also distanced themselves from members of other types of (radical) unions. They worked closely with the same Protestant minsters who, as Carter shows, were not very popular with the public because of their nativism. Should we really conclude that the Social Gospel was "union made"? 

In my last essay, and again here, I simply seek to underscore Carter's observations of whom the Social Gospel marginalizes. Historians of white Protestantism don't usually emphasize the Social Gospel as an effort to marginalize major portions of the working classes. But---why don't we? Why do we try so hard to salvage the Social Gospel as a highlight in the history of American Protestantism? Was it really a highlight?

After reading Carter's book, it is hard not to conclude that while the Social Gospel was a "distinctly moderate accomodation of working class dissent," it was also an effort to solidify white Protestant power over the masses of unskilled laborers. Trade union aristocrats may have identified themselves as working classes in order to distinguish themselves from the doctors, lawyers, engineers, clerks, and businessmen that populated Protestant denominational churches of the Gilded Age. But, their political and theological agenda clearly sought to crush radical Christianities within the Knights of Labor and the Socialist Party  (and later, the Industrial Workers of the World). While these highly skilled, white laborers probably did see themselves as moderate, they were moderate only on a spectrum of Gilded Age, Anglo Protestant churchgoers. Some Anglo Protestant churchgoers were socialist radicals. Some believed in the Gospel of Wealth. Carter's working class authors of Social Christianity saw themselves purveyors of nineteenth century producerist ideology--the same ideology that was used to defend farmers against farm hands and sharecroppers. These artistans may have been trade unionists, but they seem to me much better described as Anglo-Protestant conservatives. 

CFP: Religions Texas: Mapping Diversity A Consultation



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Call for Proposals:
Religions Texas: Mapping Diversity
A Consultation


Maps are useful tools for giving meaning and coherence to space. They identify patterns that illuminate the relationship between space and place and create a picture of a landscape. They can illustrate proximity and introduce a reader to her or his neighbors. They play a role in imagining communities. Yet, a map is not territory. And far from neutral, the process of map-making, or representation, reflects the interests and biases of the mapmaker, the scholar. In mapping religions, this often means that points on the map may reflect dominant, majority groups deemed significant and privilege groups that can be easily identified and counted. However, in the field of religious studies, current scholarship is moving away from simplistic definitions and representations of religion and towards more nuanced approaches to religion. Approaching mapping digitally offers resources for confronting these challenges. Digital maps allow for far more layers than the traditional print map, such as representations of change over time and the inclusion of narratives and multimedia data.

The University of Texas Department of Religious Studies and the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life are planning an extensible public humanities project to digitally map and document the religious diversity of Texas, a fast-growing, new immigrant destination with evolving dynamics of diversity. To kick off this initiative, we are convening a consultation on January 26-27, 2017 to bring together scholars of religion and culture to generate a broad conversation about documenting and mapping religions and develop the conceptual foundation for a publicly accessible, engaging, and sustainable digital resource on religious diversity in Texas.

We invite proposals for one of four roundtables that address the following or related questions:
  1. Mapping and Delineating Religious Diversity
    What are some best approaches for documenting and mapping religions and diversity? What are the theoretical challenges? What normative assumptions are implied in our methodological choices? How do we draw boundaries and define traditions, communities or groups?
  2. Documenting Religion and Digital Humanities
    What are resources and models for best practices in digitally documenting religion or culture? How can digital tools facilitate gathering cultural information? What is the relationship between the data and the digital tools? How does this affect the collection and interpretation of data?
  3.  Taking a Regional Approach to the Study of Religions in Texas and Beyond
    What new insights come to light when studying religion regionally? What can the study of religion in Texas tell us about this geographic, social, and cultural place? How do religious and cultural identities shape the place that is Texas and the subsequent civic identities associated with it?
  4. Public Humanities and Religious Literacy
    What are the civic benefits and pedagogical outcomes of mapping religious diversity in terms of public education and professional development? What role can digital humanities play in the public understanding of religion in the United States? What are best practices for creating engaging and accessible public humanities projects?
Each presenter will give a ten-minute or less presentation and then engage in a dynamic, productive moderator-led conversation. Proposals should be 250-500 hundred words. Send submissions to both Tiffany Puett: tiffany@diversityandciviclife.org and Chad E. Seales: seales@austin.utexas.edu by November 15, 2016. Please identify your topic and include a brief biographical statement.

Editor's Note: RiAH readers are encouraged to send CFPs and other professional announcements directly to Blogmeister Cara Burnidge, cara.burnidge@uni.edu. 

Finding Religion in the American Revolution



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Jonathan Den Hartog

With the new semester starting, I get to return to my "American Revolution and Early Republic Class." Apart from the drama of the era, it's a great class for integrating religious topics.

I was really impressed with Kate Carte Engel's guest post in May on her Digital History project on religion in the Revolution. In response, let me report on some ways we'll be "Finding" religion in the American Revolution.

We have already started by demonstrating the religious situation before the Revolution, laying the groundwork with an understanding of colonial religion. We brought up the Great Awakening and tossed around the question of whether and how it was important for the Revolution.

We'll definitely be revisiting those great questions about Christianity's role in the Revolution. Here, though, it's important to me to demonstrate the religious debates of the period. Although there was a patriot religious argument, it wasn't the only one. There was a strong Loyalist one, as well. Further, the conflict looked very different to equally-evangelical believers on either side of the Atlantic. So, this story has to be a transatlantic story.

I look forward to seeing what students do with the primary sources we'll be reading. I wonder what they'll make of Edmund Burke's claim that American religion demonstrated "the dissidence of [religious] dissent," which suggested conciliatory measures. I'm looking forward to the day we simultaneously read John Witherspoon's "Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men" and John Wesley's "Calm Address". These two voices by themselves mark contrasting evangelical opinion. I'm also confident Romans 13 will come up.

We'll also have a lot of secondary material to work through. One of my knowing students has already mentioned John Fea's arguments. Without a doubt, Mark Noll's scholarship--both older and more recent will make a strong appearance. We'll work through Thomas Kidd's claims about links between evangelical Protestants and the liberty desired by the revolutionaries. It will also be important to bring in Loyalist voices. I look forward to introducing Glenn Moots's take on covenantalism.

Then, we'll dig into how religious faith played out during the war. We'll consider soldiers on both sides of the conflict, both officers and foot soldiers. We'll consider where someone like Joseph Plumb Martin is coming from, as well as the devout and not-so-devout in the Continental army. I have no doubt Alexander Hamilton's religion--and Hamilton's musical--will be open for discussion.

It's also important for me to place he Revolution as itself a transforming event for American religion. It caused its own "restructuring of American religion" (with apologies to Bob Wuthnow). States had to consider the structural place of religion, and many (eventually all) opted for disestablishment. Religious liberty, the freedom of conscience, and the right to private judgment drove many Protestant dissenters to favor disestablishment over even the opportunity to participate in an establishment. This development moved religious expression in a decidedly voluntarist direction. Over time, Americans found themselves energetically devoting energy both to their denominations and to newly formed voluntary societies.

Our religious story will have to cross color lines. We'll consider Sylvia Frey's discussion of religion and African-American impulses for liberty. I'm extremely eager to introduce figures like Richard Allen for his role in American Methodism and Lemuel Haynes for his role in Congregationalism.

And yes, there's a gendered dynamic here, as well. We'll have to connect classic studies by Linda Kerber and Rosemarie Zagarri with women like Sarah Osborn, Phillis Wheatley, and others.

Restructured American religion also continued to have political implications in the new nation. One version energized Democratic-Republicans, while other visions motivated Federalists. Concerns about doubt and infidelity percolated through the political culture, as debates over religious nationalism roiled the frontier. At the same time, faith helped motivate a nascent anti-slavery movement and a pro-slavery argument.

In short, religious themes can be run throughout the course. This story thus integrates into the broader narrative of the upheaval of the Revolution and points to significant structural questions about the American republic that grew out of it.

If readers have found sources from the revolutionary period that teach particularly well or ways of posing issues to students, please share them in the comments section!

Is Religious Freedom Just Not That Into You?



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This is the first of three responses to Finbarr Curtis's  The Production of American Religious Freedom (NYU, 2016). Hot off the presses, this book has much to say to scholars of American religion. Look for responses from Sarah Dees and Andy McKee later this month.


Michael Graziano

In The Production of American Religious Freedom, Finbarr Curtis gathers a collection of case studies—as varied as Louisa May Alcott, Malcolm X, and Hobby Lobby—to see how “an economy of religious freedom addresses institutional forces that define, produce, and distribute contested social resources in American life” (3). In other words, Curtis wants to see how religious freedom gets assembled and understood in ways that have come to affect ministers, authors, politicians, corporations, and embryos.

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