Season 1, Episode 4

Religion & Memorializing the State

The United States is an idea, one that, for better and for worse, has been contested and affirmed for generations through the practice of voting. And while democracy is far more than a presidential election, that contest captures both the popular imagination of what the nation is while also quite directly designating who will run the country. Therefore, Presidents inherit a popular faith as well as an office; they assume a role that is often seen as much sacred as it is political; and they perform duties not unfamiliar to leaders of religious communities throughout the country. Thus the presidential inauguration every four years serves as perhaps the key ceremony in the memorialization of the state—offering Americans a singular opportunity to reflect upon the purpose of their country and their quasi-mystical relationship to it. Join social science and humanities scholars for a conversation about the relationship between religion and memorializing the state.

Co-Host: Raymond Haberski, Jr.

Raymond Haberski, Jr. is Professor of History and Director of American Studies at IUPUI. He also directs the Institute for American Thought and is part of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. Dr. Haberski is trained in twentieth century U.S. history with a focus on intellectual history. As editor, along with Philip Goff and Rhys Williams, his forthcoming book is titled Civil Religion Today: Religion and the American Nation in the 21st Century (2021).

Ray's full bio

Co-Host: Kristina Horn Sheeler

Kristina Horn Sheeler is Professor of Communications Studies and Honors College Executive Associate Dean at IUPUI. Her academic interests include political communication, gender, and public identity, studying the ways in which political identity is rhetorically constructed and contested in popular media.

Kristina's full bio

Panelist: Elaine Peña

Elaine Peña is Professor of American Studies at The George Washington University. Her areas of expertise include border studies, anthropology of religion, built environment, performance theory, transnationalism, and Latinx and Latin American studies. Her most recent book ¡Viva George! Celebrating Washington’s Birthday at the U.S.-Mexico Border considers the tradition of commemorating George Washington’s Birthday on the Texas-Tamaulipas border.

Elaine's full bio

Panelist: Nichole R. Phillips

Nichole R. Phillips is Associate Professor in the Practice of Religion and Society and Director of the Black Church Studies Program at Emory University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of religion and American public life with a focus on community and congregational studies where she investigates the moral commitments and vision of community and congregational members. Her scholarship treats religion, critical race theory, gender, and cultural memory studies. She is also developing new research interests in the sociology of science and religion. Her most recent book is titled Patriotism Black and White: The Color of American Exceptionalism.


Nichole's full bio

This event took place on January 21st, 2021.

Additional Resources

“Religion &”: Center Conversations on the State of Religion and the Current Moment

“Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center to continue these critically important interventions.  Every Third Thursday at 3p ET we discuss a topic that looks at the relationship between religion, the pressing issues of our day, and their impact on the fields we study.

Previous episodes of “Religion &” can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

A JOURNAL OF INTERPRETATION: This semiannual publication explores the interplay between religion and other spheres of American culture.

More About the Journal Submit to the Journal Subscribe to the Journal
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