Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue…

Posted on 13 May 2014

Professor Axel Schafer, American Studies at Keele University, will give the next lecture in University's programme of Inaugural Professorial Lectures 2013-14, on Tuesday, 27th May, 2014, in the Westminster Theatre, Chancellor's Building, on the Keele campus. The lecture is titled "Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue…": Conservative Protestantism in Modern US Culture and Politics.

Professor Schafer says that in the eyes of many foreign observers of the US, the resurgence of conservative Protestantism, together with the country's consistently high level of religiosity, is among the strangest and most disturbing phenomena of the post-World War II period.  It apparently defies all assumptions about the rise of secularism in modern industrial societies and the much-vaunted separation of church and state in the US.  In contrast, this lecture suggests that the resurgence of conservative Protestantism does not primarily run counter to the rise of liberalism, secularism, and modernity.  Instead, it maintains that the countercultural politics, reactionary modernism, and symbolical anti-statism at the heart of the New Christian Right exemplify the accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment that has been characteristic of American culture and society all along. The presentation reviews post-war evangelicalism's cultural resonance, socioeconomic repositioning, and political ideology. It shows how religious transformations, socioeconomic modernization, and bureaucratic state-building came together to mold the diffuse evangelical movement into the political force of the New Christian Right. Along the way the lecture suggests, for example, that for all their strict Biblicism and uncompromising morality, evangelicals absorbed and extended key aspects of the countercultural worldview. Likewise, it argues that the welfare state, forged during the New Deal and renewed by the Great Society, hastened—not hindered—the ascendancy of a conservative political movement that turned against the very system that helped create it. 

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett.

This lecture is free and open to all.