What: Modern America's Mysterious Religious Anomalies
When: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Where: Lincoln Hall Auditorium, room 75, 1620 SW Park Ave.
The PSU Friends of History present Professor Jon Butler, this year's Friends of History Endowed Lecturer. Professor Butler is the incoming president of the Organization of American Historians, the Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus of American Studies, History and Religious Studies at Yale University, and Adjunct Research Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Professor Butler will speak on what he calls "Modern America's Mysterious Religious Anomalies." America's twenty-first century religious peculiarities are "puzzling and mysterious," he says. "By so many accounts," he notes, "the United States largely 'secularized' in the early and mid-twentieth century." If this is the case, Butler asks, "how do we explain the influence of ministers such as Jerry Falwell and Martin Luther King, the popularity of Tim LaHaye's 'Left Behind' books, the success of the American anti-abortion movement, and the Hobby Lobby decision?"
Butler points out that recent evidence from Pew Foundation polling suggests that people without religious commitment–the "nones"—constitute the nation's fastest growing "religious" group, especially among Americans under 35, a worrisome sign for traditional American understandings of religious belief and commitment.
In his lecture, Professor Butler will explain how these seemingly contradictory trends go to the heart of one of the nation's most misunderstood features — the twentieth-century rise, not fall, of organized religion in America — and the challenge that twenty-first century cultural changes pose to American religious groups that have otherwise seemed so close to achieving new religious sway in the United States.
Professor Butler grew up in rural Minnesota and earned his B.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1972) from the University of Minnesota. He served as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2004-2010), Chair of the Department of History (1999-2004), and Chair of the American Studies Program (1988-1993) at Yale. In 2010 Professor Butler received the Byrnes-Sewall Prize for Teaching Excellence in Yale College and the Edward Bouchet Leadership Award for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. His books include Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Order (American Philosophical Society, 1978; new edition, University of Alabama Press, 2009); Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 (Harvard University Press, 2000); and Religion in American Life: A Short History, co-authored with Grant Wacker and Randall Balmer (Oxford University Press, 2003). His work, The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society (Harvard University Press, 1983) won the Soloutos and Chinard Prizes, while his Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Harvard University Press, 1990) received the Outler Prize and the American Historical Association's Beveridge Award for Best Book in American History.
In 2006 Professor Butler was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causis, from his alma mater. He is currently writing a book, God in Gotham, about religion in Manhattan from the Gilded Age to the Kennedy election. He returned to the University of Minnesota after his retirement from Yale to serve as an adjunct research professor in the Department of History.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Contact: Tim Garrison, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-725-3978