At Home and Abroad

A Canopy Forum Thematic Series
June – July 2021

“At Home and Among ‘Heathens'”

Matthew J. Cressler
June 7th, 2021

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan open their edited volume At Home and Abroad: The Politics of American Religion (Columbia University Press, 2020) with an epigraph: Is it, perhaps, possible that there are two kinds of Civilization—one for home consumption and one for the heathen market? – Mark Twain, “To the Person Sitting in Darkness” This quote haunted the whole book, for me. Though the authors do not unpack the epigraph directly, the next two sentences seem to serve as Hurd and Sullivan’s gloss…” 

“American Jesus, At Home and Abroad”

Méadhbh McIvor
June 14th, 2021

“Every now and then, social media resurfaces a meme I’ve come to think of as the “American Jesus” post. A screenshot from a conversation on Facebook, the post reads: “The Bible was written entirely by the greatest American who ever lived: JESUS,” followed by an apparently nonplussed observer asking, “This a joke or [what]? Although the original intentions of the author are unclear (is it a joke?), their words tend to be taken at face value, circulated by those looking to demonstrate that U.S.-American Christians aren’t particularly bright…” 

“Border Work: Review of At Home and Abroad: The Politics of American Religion'”

Brent Nongbri
June 16th, 2021

“It’s no secret that tensions exist in the ways that the government of the United States treats “religion” in different contexts. In the domestic sphere, private corporations can, as of 2014, essentially opt out of obeying the laws they deem incompatible with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Yet in terms of foreign policy, the same U.S. government spent twenty years and an estimated two trillion dollars in a failed attempt to topple the Taliban, which was seeking to enact its own “sincerely held religious beliefs” in Afghanistan…”

“U.S. Empire and the Politics of American Religion”

Candace Lukasik
June 23rd, 2021

“In the American Examples project at the University of Alabama, the idea of American religion itself has been up for debate. During a recent discussion, Michael J. Altman, a principal investigator on the project, recounted a question from the previous year’s cohort, to which Altman had answered, “something someone calls religion, somewhere someone calls America.” In thinking about Winnifred Sullivan and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd’s path-breaking volume, At Home and Abroad: The Politics of American Religion, the imperial politics of scale and perspective are central keys…”

“Moving Beyond Hypocrisy: Review of ‘At Home and Abroad’”

Jennifer Graber
July 29th, 2021

In this volume about the politics of American religion, Shakman Hurd and Sullivan ask readers to consider the differences between “domestic versions of religion and religious freedom” as opposed to “those offered for export” (1). The emphasis on disestablishment and free exercise at home, they write, stands in stark contrast to American projects abroad, where the U.S. often promotes religion with an eye toward democratization (ie. civilization) and suppresses groups like the Taliban, even if these political actors display what stateside might be called “sincere” religious belief…” 

Interested in learning more about the essay collection? Then check out the season of the Interactions podcast in which hosts Ira Bedzow and Matthew Cavedon interview authors from the volume At Home and Abroad. The two scholars speak with authors from this volume and ask not only about the text and their inspiration behind the chapter, but also its timeliness today. Click here to listen to the first episode, where Matt and Ira speak with Sarah Imhoff about the life of poet and Zionist Jessie Sampter.