Syllabus 2009

Submitted by Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler on Friday, 1/30/2009, at 9:37 AM


Religion, Democracy, and American Culture

 Spring 2009


The United States has inscribed the separation of church and state into its constitutional order, and yet Americans have for two centuries been more deeply committed to religious faith and practice than any other people in the Western world. This course endeavors to explore that paradox. Topics addressed include the changing meanings of “the city on a hill”; the varieties of millennial belief and utopian community; the relationship between religion and ethnicity; religious political activism from abolition to prohibition to anti-abortion; and the limits of religious tolerance from movements against Catholics and Mormons to recent warnings of a “clash of civilizations” with Muslim cultures.




Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity (Princeton University Press, 2005)


Garry Wills, Head and Heart: American Christianities (Penguin, 2007)


Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Basic Books, 2006)


James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (Dial Press, 2000)


Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem (YaleUniversity Press, 2002)


Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America (Oxford University Press, 1995)


Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt, 2007)


These books are available at Amherst Books and are starred (*) in the syllabus, all other readings are included in the Course Reader which are available in the American Studies Office, 102 Morgan Hall.


Prof. Frank Couvares                                                  Section classroom Chapin 101

Office Hours: Mon. and Tues. 1:30-3:00 in Chapin Hall 17; phone 2417


Prof. Allen Guttmann                                                   Section classroom Chapin 205

Office Hours: Mon. and Wed. 12:00-1:00 and Tues. 2:00-3:00 in Johnson Chapel 4; phone 2134;  


Prof. Karen Sánchez-Eppler                                        Section classroom Chapin 103

Office Hours: Wed. 3:30-5:00 and Tues. 2:30-4:00 in Morgan Hall 112; phone 2186





There will be four short papers assigned in this course:


First Paper: Church and State due February 25, invites you to think about the relation between religion and civic life in the U.S. based on an analysis of course readings. (5 pages)


Second Paper: Religious Biography due March 30, asks you to explore either your own religious biography or your family’s religious history in light of patterns of religious life described by course readings. (5 pages)


Third Paper: Ethnography Project due April 15, is a small field work project that asks you to look attentively at a religious community outside your own traditions and to analyze what you find in relation to the problems and possibilities of religious pluralism at stake in this course. We will provide you with a list of contact information for religious organizations within a reasonable distance of Amherst. (5 pages)


Final Paper: Research Project due May 11, invites independent research on any contemporary question about religion and democracy that interests you. We would be particularly pleased to see projects that looked comparatively beyond U.S. borders. (7 pages)





I           CITY ON A HILL


1/26     Introductory Lecture in Fayerweather 115, Pruyne Lecture Hall


1/28     Stephen Prothero “Introduction” and James Davidson Hunter and David Franz, “Religious Pluralism and Civil Society” both in Prothero A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Mutireligious America, 1-19 and 256-273


1/30     Ramón Gutiérrez, “The Spanish Conquest of New Mexico,” in When Jesus Came the Corn Mother’s Went Away (Stanford, 1991), 39-94




2/2       *Robert Wuthnow “A Special People in a Diverse World,” in America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, 8-36;  John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”; Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address”; Julia Ward Howe, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”; William McKinley “Address at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition at Omaha Nebraska, October 12, 1898”  Speeches and Addresses of William McKinley 100-106; Mark Twain “The War Prayer”; George W. Bush, “Second Inaugural Address”; Senator Barack Obama, “Call to Renewal Keynote Address,” June 2006


2/4       *Gary Wills, “Emersonians” in Head and Heart, 271-284; Ralph Waldo Emerson, introduction to “Nature” (1836) 7-11 and “The Divinity School Address” (1838)    73-92


2/6       Lecture Prof. Carol Clark: Spiritual Landscapes

            Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” first published in the Atlantic Monthly June 1862.





2/9       *Gary Wills, “Mary Dyer must Die,” and “The Puritan Psyche” in Head and Heart, 15-53; “Mayflower and Maypole”  from Allen Guttmann Freedom and Authority in Puritan New England, 1-13; Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Maypole of Merry Mount,” 67-82


2/11     Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom”; First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America; *Gary Wills, “Beyond Tolerance”175-188 and “The First Amendment” 223-235; Kevin Schultz, “‘Favoritism Cannot be Tolerated’: Challenging Protestantism in America’s Public Schools and Promoting the Neutral State,” American Quarterly (2007) 59:565-592; News clippings on Ben Gamla and Kahil Gibran Charter Schools.



2/13     Lecture Prof. Frank Couvares: Mormons and the Limits of Religious Liberty

US v Reynolds; Josiah Strong, Our Country, 107-116; Mary Zeiss Stang “The White Man’s Wounded Knee, or, Whose Holy War is this Anyway? A Cautionary Tale” in David Odell Scott Democracy and Religion: Free Exercise and Diverse Visions” 156-174.




View streamed film “Inherit the Wind” before Feb. 16th class


2/16     *Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing debate over Science and Religion pp. 3-86.

Film: “Inherit the Wind”


2/18     *Edward Larson, Summer for the Gods pp. 87-196.


View streamed film “Intelligent Design on Trial” before Feb. 20th class


2/20     finish *Summer for the Gods

            Edward Taylor “Preface to God’s Determinations”

Film: “Intelligent Design on Trial”







2/23     *Gary Wills, “introduction” and “The Second Great Awakening”” in Head and Heart, 1-9 and 287-302; Jonathan Edwards, from Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England; Charles Chauncy, from Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England; Charles Grandison Finney from Memoirs all in American Religions a Documentary History 90-109 and 189-196; Jarena Lee, The Life and Religious Experiences of Jarena Lee, 25-34 and 42-48


View streamed film “Say Amen, Somebody” before Feb 25th class


2/25     Lecture Prof. Sánchez-Eppler: on Go Tell It on the Mountain

            *James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Part 1

Film “Say Amen, Somebody”

First Paper on Religion and Civic Life Due in class


2/27     *James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Parts 2 and 3




3/2       Ryan K. Smith, “The Cross: Church Symbol and Contest in Nineteenth Century America” Church History (2001); 705-734; William James, “Conclusion” from Varieties of Religious Experience, 382-391 and 406-408

Visit 2d Congregational Church



3/4       *Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem

            Introduce Ethnography Project


3/6       Lecture: Joint Meeting with Profs. Couvares, Guttmann and Sánchez-Eppler *Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street finish




3/9       *Robert Wuthnow, “Introduction” and the “The Significance of Religious Diversity” in America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, 1-8 and 75-105. The section “The New Diversity” summarizes Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim religious practices, while not assigned reading you may find it a helpful resource.


3/11     *Robert Wuthnow “Embracing Diversity: Shopping in the Spiritual Marketplace” and “Many Mansions: Accepting Diversity,” America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity, 106-158;  Aisha Abdul Kareem, Hamid Dana, Yuseph Sleem, and Amira Al-Sarrah in Voices of American Muslims 57-67, 83-91, 145-50, and 235-45


View streamed film “Sangam” before March 13th class


3/13     Discussion with film-maker Prashant Bhargava about his film “Sangam”







3/23     Alejandro Portes and Rubén Rumbaut, “Religion: The Enduring Presence,”  A Portrait of Immigrant America, 299-342;  Mansha Parven Mirza, “Infinite and Everywhere! My Kaleidoscopic Identity” in Voices of Resistence: Muslim Women on War faith and Sexuality, 206-213


3/25     Philip Roth, “Eli the Fanatic”; Bernard Malamud, “The German Refugee”


3/27     Sharon A. Suh, “‘To Be Buddhist is to be Korean’: The Rhetorical Use of Authenticity and the Homeland in the Construction of Post Immigrant Identities” in Jane Iwamura and Paul Spickard, Revealing the Sacred in Asian Pacific America, 177-191; Selections from Sumi Loudon, Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists, 89-98, 133-143.





3/30     Lecture Prof. Karen Sánchez-Eppler:  Faith and Gender in the Early Republic

            Elizabeth Hanson, God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty

Religious Family History / Biography Due


4/1       Rebecca Reed, Six Months in a Convent, 3-14, 35-65, 90-115, 184- 186


4/3       *The Kingdom of Matthias, start




4/6       *The Kingdom of Matthias, finish


4/8       Lecture Prof. Frank Couvares: Blasphemy, Obscenity, & Christian Campaigns for Censorship in the Early 20th Century

Amanda Frisken, “The Politics of Exposure,” from Victoria Woodhull’s Sexual Revolution, 85-116


View streamed film “Jesus Camp” before April 10th class


4/10     John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, 326-360;

Film “Jesus Camp”







            View streamed film “Amazing Grace” before April 13th class


4/13     German Town Friends Protest against Slavery, 1688; Journal of John Woolman, for 1757, 208-213; Sarah M. Grimkés, “An Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States,” 90-109; David Walker, Preamble and Article III of Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, 1-8 and 37-45; Thorton Stringfellow, “A Scriptural View of Slavery” 86-98


4/15     Lecture Prof. Frank Couvares: From Prohibition to Civil Rights: Religion & Politics in the 20th Century. Show King and Malcolm X clips as part of lecture

            Gaines Foster, Moral Reconstruction, 1-7, 219-234

Religious Ethnography Project Due


4/17     Taylor Branch, “First Trombone,” in Parting the Waters,105-142; Martin Luther King Jr., “Our God is Marching On!” and Letter from Birmingham City Jail



4/20     Malcom X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 162-176, 367-70 and 382-85, and “America’s Greatest Crises Since the Civil War” in Malcolm X: The Last Speeches, 59-79


4/22     *Robert Wuthnow, “One Way: Resisting Diversity” in America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity 159-187; Rudy Busto, “Gospel According to the Model Minority: Hazarding an Interpretation of Asian American Evangelical College Students,” Amerasia Journal (1996) 133-147


4/24     Lecture by Hadley Arkes

*Gary Wills, “Evangelicals Counter Attack” and “The Karl Rove Era,” in Head and Heart, 480-546




4/27     Leon Feuer, “The Birth of the Jewish Lobby: A Reminiscence” American Jewish Archives (1976) 28: 107-118; Stuart E. Eizenstat, “Loving Israel Warts and All,” Foreign Policy (1990-1991): 87-105; John Judis, “The New Anti-Anti-Semites,” The New Republic On-line (Feb, 8 2007)


4/29     *Robert Wuthnow, “The Public’s Beliefs and Practices” and “How Pluralistic Should We Be?” in America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity 188-229 and 286-314; *Gary Wills, “Epilogue: Separation not Suppression” ” in Head and Heart, 547-552 Data from Pew Religious Landscape Survey at



5/1       Lecture by Mohammed M. Abdelaal

 *Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist




5/4       *Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist



            David A. Hollinger “Religious Ideas: Should they be Critically Engaged or Given a Pass?” 144-154; Anthony Gottleib, “Atheists with Attitude: Why do they Hate Him?”; David Aikman, “The Atheist Onslaught”


5/8       Wrap up


Final Paper Due Monday May 11th at 5pm