Religion, Resistance, and Competing Stories of America in 2016 and Beyond
Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump followed in the footsteps of other self-fashioned (religious and political) saviors, who have dramatized decline in order to justify revival. Despite Democrats’ efforts to discredit him, his account of America’s history and destiny was ultimately left unanswered. This talk seeks to deepen our understanding of why this was the case and why it mattered, by calling for greater attention to the role these kinds of narratives play in American political life; to their religious roots and resonances; and to religious actors’ roles as “carriers” of these stories. It then suggests that progressive religious leaders today are the most adept carriers of a story of America that offers a morally compelling alternative to Trump’s decline narrative. Although progressive religious groups tend to be overlooked and underrated by scholars, journalists, and observers of national politics, the Trump resistance movement could benefit from taking these leaders and the moral narratives they carry more seriously.
Ruth Braunstein is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. A cultural sociologist interested in the role of religion in American political life, her research explores the practices, discourses, narratives and ideals of activists across the political spectrum. Her first book, Pophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide a comparative ethnographic study of progressive faith-based community organizing and Tea Party activism, was recently published by the University of California Press. She is also the co-editor of a volume exploring the role of religion in progressive politics, entitled Religion and Progressive Activism: New Stories About Faith and Politics, published by NYU Press. Her current research explores ongoing contests between defenders of Christian nationalism and religious pluralism; the ways in which accusations of incivility structure American politics and protest; and the roles of taxpaying and tax resisting in constructions of good citizenship and morality in the United States.