On Paying Attention to Politicians Signing Bibles

Geoff Davidson graduated from the University of Alabama Religious Studies Department in 2009 before earning his M.Div. at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He is now a minister, writer, and library information specialist at Baylor.

Late last week President Trump was seen autographing Bibles while surveying the effects of a devastating tornado in eastern Alabama, leading to skirmishing in both news media and religious communities. There were those who dismissed this incident immediately, and why shouldn’t they? Why should a signed Bible merit discussion in the face of any other pressing political or religious topic de jour?

For the scholar of religion, such easy dismissiveness is a good way to miss important data. Christians, not a monolithic lot by any stretch, have been hotly divided on the topic with some leveling serious religious charges against both the president and those who asked that their Bibles be signed. This disagreement warrants accurate reflection in its own right, but it also points to critical underlying issues: how Christians see their holy texts and how this affects their actions. Continue reading

“A confidential informant is not a spy…”

The title of this post is a quotation from US Senator Lindsey Graham, during a recent radio interview — find more details here, in a recent Washington Post report, along with a transcript of that portion of his interview. It concerns the President characterizing someone who is now much in the news as being a “spy” planted in his campaign by the FBI. That others understand this person as an informant — someone who, of their own volition, apparently decided authorities needed to know something he himself knew — is one among many current examples in US politics where it ought to be profoundly obvious that, yes, classification matters. Continue reading

Understanding Our Present Moment

My colleague tweeted the following the other day:

It was a bit tongue-in-cheek to be sure, but it made a good point, I think, as he elaborated in a few tweets that followed, such as his claim that “religious studies has theorized myth since its foundation & has a set of theoretical tools useful in the case of confederate monuments.” Continue reading

A Strategic Political Tool

townhallDid you watch the town hall meeting the other night, the second of this season’s Presidential debates?

Because scholars of religion are trained in the study of how rhetorics of privacy are used by social actors, I think we might have more to say about what’s going on than we at first realize. Continue reading

Religious Studies in the Time of Trumpism

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When I heard Donald Trump’s speech on Monday I realized that Trump’s rhetoric presents the scholar of religion with a crossroads. Scholars of religion have to make a decision about how to engage Trumpism.

Continue reading

“But as a businessman, there are things you do for business…”

Picture 5If you’re interested in how people use rhetoric or how they divide and classify social space in order to make a more persuasive image of the world that’s conducive to their interests, then give a listen to this interview that aired yesterday morning. (Or click here if the player doesn’t load properly.) Continue reading

Making Identity by Expelling the Other in Their Midst

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A Facebook friend just posted the above — while it’s a good idea (think about it: those so-called walks of shame [or walks of resistance and triumph?] that protestors are forced to do at his rallies…, they serve a purpose, no?), I think he’s already done enough analysis to explain it.

And if you don’t know what he’s talking about, then here’s something that took place at a rally in Kentucky from just a couple days ago.

“They’re Not All That Evangelical”

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Maybe you saw my post the other day on how the way we define and use the category religion can create the very thing that we then set about to examine — failing to see that it wasn’t a naturally occurring item in the world, and thus in need of study, but was our creation to begin with. The example was the way we define so-called evangelicals, understanding them as doing something that involves “faith” as opposed to “politics” and the quandary that then results when we see them voting in large numbers for Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.

How do we explain this? Continue reading

Making the Familiar a Little Stranger

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Have you seen the reactions online to the release of a video of kids performing a warm-up number at a Trump rally held at Pensacola, FL, a couple days ago?

If not, then I’ve seen a lot of social media jabs that insinuate that this bizarre routine is more akin to what we’d expect from modern-day North Korea or Nazi Germany in the late 1930s — after all, using kids in that way… Sheesh. And the lyrics…?!

Freedom’s on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom face the music, c’mon boys, take them down
President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time

Continue reading

Are you American American?

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By Mary Read-Wahidi

 Dr. Read-Wahidi has been an instructor for REL 100 online course since 2013. She received her PhD in Biocultural Medical Anthropology from the University of Alabama in December 2014, and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Social Science Research Center, Mississippi State University. She works extensively with Mexican immigrants in rural Mississippi on projects related to devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and health-related disparities. Currently, she is involved in a USAID-funded research project aimed at empowering women smallholder farmers and improving household nutrition through improved soybean production in rural Ghana.

This blog is such a perfect forum for analyzing the “realness” of things. So, I pose my own question about realness. As the entire world seems to know by now, Republican Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, recently declared that all Muslims should be barred from entering the US. Among many other things, he seems to take for granted that all Muslims are others. He assumes Muslims are not already your neighbors, friends, or family members, but that they are all foreigners, outsiders who have to gain permission to enter the U.S.

Is it only Trump who assumes Muslims are not “real” Americans?

I spent last year living in Kuwait, a predominately Muslim country. While I was there, I wore the hijab, the headscarf worn by Muslim women that covers their hair. In Kuwait, plenty of women wear the hijab and plenty of women don’t. It’s really up to you.

When I was out and about, store clerks or other people I met in public would often ask me where I was from. I would say, “I’m American”. On at least three occasions, my response triggered the exact same question… “American American?”

Wow! As a cultural anthropologist and an Instructor of REL 100, this response really got the analytical wheels turning in my mind. What do they mean, “American American?” As far as I knew you either were an American or you were not. But what they were telling me is that this was not the case.

They were sort of telling me the same thing Donald Trump is telling me. They were telling me that someone who identifies as a Muslim can’t be a “Real” American.

And, by “Real” American, I’m going to take a wild guess that they meant I couldn’t possibly be a sixth-generation American of English descent who also happens to be Muslim. In their minds, I must have been a foreigner who had “gotten” the American citizenship (my blue eyes, light olive skin tone, and hijab often led people to guess I was Lebanese). And if I were a foreigner who had gotten the U.S. citizenship, then that would also mean that I was not a “Real” American.

Photo credit: “real” from Flickr user wallsdontlie CC BY-NC-ND 2.0