Religion has profoundly influenced the sweeping American narrative, perhaps more than any other force in our history, from the time of the Indigenous Peoples to the present day. The National Museum of American Religion tells the surprising and compelling story of what religion has done to America and what America has done to religion, including the establishment of the revolutionary and indispensable idea of religious freedom as defined by U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The museum invites all people to explore the role of religion in shaping the social, political, economic, and cultural lives of Americans and thus America itself.
Join us as we follow scholars and others deep into America’s religious history and learn how it can inform and animate us as citizens grappling with complex questions of governance and American purpose in the 21st century.
Episodes will be released monthly on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The Making of US: Lived Religion in America with Kristy Nabhan-Warren
Iowa is lodged firmly in the American psyche as a place of traditional American values – hard work, family, and religion. Iowa is an important player in the United States’ vaunted agricultural industry, having been ranked first in the country in soybean production, corn production, and pork production. America has also slowly learned over the past decade, with ICE raids and COVID, is that a significant number of immigrants and refugees do the difficult and hazardous work of slaughtering and processing the meat products we purchase at our local grocery store. What is of interest to us at the National Museum of American Religion is whether religion plays critical roles in the lives of these workers, and if so, how.
To help us understand this, we have with us today Kristy Nabhan-Warren, Professor and the inaugural V.O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair in Catholic Studies at the University of Iowa, and author of Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland. Kristy received her PhD from the University of Indiana; her research interests include American Religions; Ethnographic approaches to the study of religion; Catholic Studies; Latinx Studies. She is committed to making scholarship meaningful to non-academics as well as academics, and prides herself on writing for a wide audience. She works hard to stay true to her working class and Midwestern roots. She embraces a Humanities for the Public Good approach to her research, writing, and dissemination of information.
Martin Luther King and His Religion
Martin Luther King is a larger-than-life character in the American narrative, playing a pivotal role in the nation’s mid-twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement. His “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC in August of 1963 as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is an integral part of Americans’ understanding of him and the Civil Rights Movement. However, talking about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 he said, “I am a minister of the gospel, not a political leader”, suggesting there is more, much more, to him than “I have a dream.” This podcast episode is going to explore the religion of Martin Luther King, what it was, how it formed him, inspired him, burdened him, and animated him.
Today’s guest who will help us do this, is Paul Harvey, Distinguished Professor History and Presidential Teaching Scholar at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He researches, writes, and teaches in the field of American history from the 16th century to the present. Paul is the author of Martin Luther King: A Religious Life, Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography, Christianity and Race in the American South: A History, and Bounds of Their Habitation: Religion and Race in American History. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Religion and the Life and Work of Charles Schulz
We are at that time of year when the Charlie Brown Christmas Special arrives in the public square and perhaps more pervasively in the psyche of millions of Americans. In this unique and quite secular television program, first aired at 7:30pm on December 9, 1965, viewers hear Linus recite from the Bible - Luke chapter two verses eight through fourteen – the Christmas story. As this story might suggest, it turns out that religion played a significant role in the life and work of Charles Schulz, creator of Linus, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang, a comic strip that is fully entrenched in the American narrative. Dr. Stephen J. Lind is here to share the story.
Special Edition: The War in Gaza
Join Dr. Colleen Prior for a special episode of Religion in the American Experience where we explore the effect of the war in Gaza on Jews and Muslims in the United States. In this episode we look at the history of both groups in North America and examine both historic trends and current survey data to try and understand why violent actions against both groups are on the rise, and we discuss what can be done to combat anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence.
The History of Christian Nationalism
Christian Nationalism: This is a term that many of our listeners have likely come across, as its use has become much more common in the news over the past couple of years, particularly as some politicians have begun to embrace the term as a core part of their personal and political identity. Christian Nationalism isn’t a new concept though, of course.
To understand its history, we’re very fortunate today to have with us two outstanding scholars of religion and religious history: Dr. Catherine Brekus and Dr. Mark Edwards. Dr. Brekus is the Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America at Harvard University and a prolific author, whose books include Strangers and Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845 and Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelicalism in Early America. She is currently working on a book about the relationship between American nationalism and Christianity.
Dr. Edwards is professor of US history and politics at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. He too is a prolific author. His books include The Right of the Protestant Left: God’s Totalitarianism, which offers a new view of Reinhold Niebuhr and Christian Realism, and Walter Lippmann: American Skeptic, American Pastor.
Religion’s Voice During Three American Wars
A historian wrote once that “[w]e cannot understand American history unless we reckon with the ways religion and war have reinforced and challenged each other.” We are going to dip our toes into that water today, and while we are at it, will run into the idea of “Christian nationalism” – a topic currently bouncing around in our public square. This hour has the potential of helping our listeners be more effective in their efforts to push the American experiment in self-government along.
Dr. Benjamin Wetzel is an Assistant Professor of History at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. Previously he was a postdoctoral research associate at the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. Dr. Wetzel received his PhD in History in 2016 from the University of Notre Dame and is the author of two books: American Crusade: Christianity, Warfare, and National Identity, 1860-1920 (the topic of today’s interview) and Theodore Roosevelt: Preaching from the Bully Pulpit.
Religion in the American Experience
What an extraordinary podcast… It takes such a difficult and challenging topic, and then finds ways to communicate its content that are easier to understand. The guests as well as hosts show how to apply religious themes to the contemporary moment as well. I am an expert in American religion…and I continue to learn with these podcasts. I especially recommend the podcast on the war in Gaza, which distills a complex situation into ways that can be better understood..something sorely missing in today’s polarizing political climate.
A phenomenal podcast
The pod covers an extremely vital topic to Americans, the historical role religion has played - for good and for bad - in forming the identity of this great nation. Every episode is filled with surprising insights about American history.
NAMR is doing great things
These podcasts are very in-depth and help anyone from an expert to a curious beginner understand the role of religion on our country.