Race, Religion, and American Polltics from Nat Turner to George W. Bush
October 17, 18, 19, 2006 – 8:00 p.m. Stafford Little Lecture
Part 1: “The Bible, Slavery, and the Irrepressible Conflict.” This lecture sketches the thesis for the whole series, outlines the course of American political history as I am construing it, and states my argument for the period 1831 to 1865. It extends implications of material that I have published in America’s God, from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Oxford University Press, 2002) and The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). Part 2: “The Churches, ‘Redemption’, and Jim Crow.” This lecture highlights the action (or inaction) of black and white churches in relation to political Reconstruction and intellectual secularization. It also tries to show the continuity in religious and racial realities from the end of the Civil War, through Reconstruction and the New Deal (the nation’s one major political transformation in which race and religion played only a minor part), to the period of the civil rights movement. Part 3: “Civil Rights, the Republican-Evangelical Alliance, and the Endurance of Evil in the Land of the Free.” This lecture traces connections between the religious shape of the civil rights movement (beginning with African-American thinkers of the 1930s and 1940s) and white evangelical responses to the expansion of federal power (from the 1950s onwards) and then argues for the importance of both currents in modern political history. It ends by suggesting the need for a theological interpretation of the nation’s racial-political history and attempting to provide such an interpretation.