Welcome to our 5-week online course! This American Civic Religion course will introduce you to the elements, history, and piety patterns in American Religion so that you can engage in public discourse with discernment about your own faith and public piety.
You will learn new historical elements of American Civic Religion each week, and you will be given tools to apply to contemporary media so that you better “read” the religious elements around you.
The course will be delivered primarily online, through a combination of video lectures and readings. In short assignments and discussions each week, you will become familiar with understanding how Civic Religion functions in different contexts in the United States. In the last two class sessions, you will also compare and contrast American Civic Religious worldviews and pieties with Orthodox Christian worldviews and pieties.
Students are required to keep bullet point journals (equivalent to at least a paragraph of text/piece of media) each week wherein they list the elements of Civic Religion and pieties in three different pieces of public media (political speeches, book descriptions, articles), one of which should be from the current year, one from the 20th Century-2022, and one from before 1914.
Each week students will bring an example of a contemporary public conversation from any media platform (including social media if it’s in public) that they have analyzed to note the component pieties on display. If students use videos, they should provide a transcript and timestamps of the relevant passages.
The final 6-8 page paper will be an expansion of one of the weekly assignments into a compare/contrast essay wherein the student will identify contributing pieties and religious language in a speech, article, or public media conversation, will assess the vision(s) of human nature, God, and life together implied in the chosen text, and will compare/contrast these with their own faith vision. This paper will be due on the Friday after our last Tuesday class.
There are no prerequisites for this course.
After successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
- recognize the elements of American civic religion
- trace the component pieties of contemporary and historical American civic religious speech and media
- navigate conversations with an awareness of the plurality of civic religious expression in the United States
- engage in fruitful conversations around civic religion due to your awareness of how it works and its makeup
- discern the difference between Evangelical media movement talking points that shape American civic religious discourse and Orthodox faith
- practice your faith with discernment about how the Orthodox Christian faith differs from American civic religion
- competently share your faith with Americans whose religion is primarily civic
Primary Texts (required)
St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word. Free version: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2802.htm (or Recommended: St. Vladimir Seminary Press translation)
St. Augustine, The City of God (books 18 & 19; excerpts) free version: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1201.htm
Additional articles will be distributed or linked in the weekly descriptions. (First week articles are linked below!)
Recommended Texts (not required)
Religion in American Life: A Short History by Jon Butler, Grant Wacker & Randall Balmer
Civil Religion Today: Religion and the American Nation in the Twenty-First Century Edited by Rhys H. Williams, Raymond Haberski Jr., and Philip Goff
American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon by Stephen Prothero
The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch
Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits Are Hurting the Church by Katelyn Beaty
Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America by Patricia Bonomi
The Thing About Religion: An Introduction to the Material Study of Religions by David Morgan
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
All course materials comply with copyright/fair use policies.
I’m looking forward to engaging this profoundly impactful aspect of our common life with you. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions. Let’s begin!
Articles for First Class: