Juvenile Instructor readers will be interested in the recently-launched group blog, Religion in the American West. Featuring a stellar lineup of well-known and accomplished academics and graduate students, including Brandi Denison, James Bennett, Roberto Lint-Sagarena, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Quincy Newell, Sara Patterson, and Tisa Wenger, the blog is operated in as part of the Religion in the American West Seminar at the American Academy of Religion.
Tisa Wenger put up a post last week reflecting on the difficulties she confronts in teaching a course on Religion in the American West, and more generally how the West complicates her current research on “the topic of religious freedom in American history.” The questions she poses are important:
My project is not limited to the West, but my concern with the West significantly transforms the shape of this work. As the United States expanded westward, how did concepts of liberty and the ideal of the free conscience shape Protestant visions of their own role in what seemed to them a divinely ordained drama? When and where did Anglo-Protestant conceptions of “freedom” tend to exclude and/or discipline other modes of religiosity? How did the peoples they encountered—Indians, Catholics, Mormons, Hispanos, Asian immigrants, and others—understand and make use of the religious freedom ideal, and how did it transform them? Were the dynamics of religious freedom different in the West, where in most areas the “mainline” Protestant denominations never established any controlling presence and competed with multiple forms of religious commitment?
More thought-provoking posts by Wenger and others are sure to follow, so if you’re interested, head on over there and participate in the discussion.