Religion & Politics

In collaboration with the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, Hold That Thought delves into two topics considered "not fit for polite conversation." Discover current and historical cases in which these two emotional subjects overlap, including debates over birth control, the economics of oil, and more.


January 14, 2015

Faith and Protest in Ferguson

Religion & Politics: Episode #8
Five months after the death of Michael Brown, the community of Ferguson, Missouri, continues to work toward healing and define common goals - in many cases, with the help of religious leaders and institutions. Laurie Maffly-Kipp, professor of religion and politics, reflects on the role of faith and church leadership in social and political movements, both in Ferguson and throughout American history.
December 11, 2014

Anarchism and Dissent in Medieval Islam

Religion & Politics: Episode #7

Hayrettin Yücesoy, professor of Islamic and Arabic studies, takes us back to the political and theological debates of 9th-century Baghdad. Scholars later claimed that in the medieval Islamic world, religion and politics fit neatly together. However, as Yücesoy explains, the historical reality was much more complicated. Religious scholars, political leaders, and even elite anarchists all had competing ideas about the relationship between Muslim faith and politics.


December 4, 2014

Does Religion Always Cause Political Intolerance?

Religion and Politics: Episode #6

Should fringe groups, even offensive groups like the Ku Klux Klan, be allowed to have a voice in American politics? Since the 1950s, social scientists have recognized that very religious people are more likely to answer "no" to this type of question. In other words, religion and political intolerance often go hand-in-hand. But why is this the case? Political scientist James Gibson discusses the intersections between faith and intolerance and explains why, though these ideas can often connect, having faith does not make a person less tolerant.


November 6, 2014

Being "Post-Protestant"

Religion & Politics: Episode #5

The results from the 2014 midterm elections are in, and Republicans stole the show. On the national scene, the GOP gained 15 seats in the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate for the first time since 2006. As predicted, conservative Christian voters played a significant role in these outcomes. Yet despite the recent focus on the political power of Evangelicals, the influence of liberal Protestantism may be more present in American culture and politics than you think. Historian David Hollinger, professor emeritus at the University of California - Berkeley, discusses what it means to be "Post-Protestant." His most recent book is After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History. 

October 23, 2014

Evangelical vs. Ecumenical: The Protestant Two-Party System

Religion & Politics: Episode #4

Going back to colonial times, liberal and conservative Protestants in the US have had conflicting views over both theology and politics. Yet according to intellectual historian David Hollingerthe role of liberalized, ecumenical Protestantism in American history has too often been overshadowed by more conservative versions of the faith. How did evangelicals come to dominate the cultural capital of Christianity? Hollinger, whose most recent book is After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American Historydescribes the history of Protestantism's two-party system.

October 16, 2014

The Mormon Citizen

Religion & Politics: Episode #3

Throughout much of the 19th century, Mormons were in direct conflict with the US government. Less than a century later, Mormons were often viewed as ideal citizens. Laurie Maffly-Kipp, who is currently writing a book about the history and current status of Mormonism, gives us a glimpse into this unique example of the how religion and politics have intertwined throughout American history.

October 9, 2014

God, Oil, and Pipeline Politics

Religion & Politics: Episode #2

In the mid-1960s, construction began on the Great Canadian Oil Sands project in Fort McMurray, Alberta. In part, this massive undertaking was the result of a friendship – that of J. Howard Pew, president of what is now Sunoco, and Ernest Manning, a Canadian politician. Pew and Manning’s relationship grew out of their shared evangelical faith, and as Darren Dochuk reveals, this type of religious ‘soft diplomacy’ is a fascinating, and often overlooked, facet of both politics and economics. Dochuk’s next book will chart evangelical Protestantism’s longstanding  - and politically significant - relationship with the petroleum industry. He is an associate professor at Washington University’s Danforth Center on Religion and Politics.

October 1, 2014

In Birth Control We Trust

Religion & Politics: Episode #1

Long before Hobby Lobby's stance on birth control filled the news, beliefs about sex and religion have intertwined with American politics. R. Marie Griffith, a feminist historian of American religion and director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, takes us back to the 1920s, when a dramatic episode involving Margaret Sanger and the Catholic Church brought the morality of birth control into the public eye. As Griffith reveals, these historical debates are surprisingly relevant to today's political context. In particular, Griffith believes that Sanger's strong convictions about women's rights and sexuality are just as vitally important in 2014 as they were in the 1920s. The author of many articles and books, she is currently writing Christians, Sex, and Politics: An American History.