Religious Studies 131: Religion in America (Spring 2019)

Professor John Schmalzbauer

Office: Strong Hall 263

Office Hours: M, F 3-4:30 p.m.; and TR 11:00 a.m.-1 p.m.


Phone: 836-5918



"You can’t understand America without understanding religion.”

-Historian David Stowe


“There is no grand narrative of religion in America, no founding myth, no single common story of ‘us,’ which might ground American religious identity.  There are, however, many little stories, often circling around the same people and events but taking very different, even conflicting perspectives on them.”

-Timothy Beal, Religion in America: A Very Short Introduction


“American religion is incredibly diverse.”

-Charles Lippy, Introducing American Religion.


 REL 131 is a General Education course that fulfills General Learning Goal 8 in the Social and Behavioral Sciences area, which states, “Students will be able to understand various institutions (e.g., cultural, political, economic, religious, and educational) and their historical backgrounds, as well as principles of human behavior and social interaction.” This course will focus on the following specific learning outcomes under Goal 8:

 *   SLO8.1 - Explain and compare social institutions, structures, and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures around the globe.

 *   SLO8.2 - Understand the past and how it influences present world societies and contemporary problems.

 *   SLO8.4 - Articulate interdependence of people and places around the globe.


Course Objectives:

1) Explore the diversity of America’s religious people and institutions past and present, from the many different Protestant denominations, to Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, and other groups, comparing their beliefs and practices and the ways they have responded and adapted to each other (SLO 8.1, SLO 8.2, SLO 8.4)


2) Investigate the historical and contemporary influence of diverse religious attitudes and values on American culture, politics, and society, including the close relationship of religion to class, race, ethnicity, and gender (SLO 8.1, SLO 8.2)


3) Demonstrate the impact of globalization, immigration, and transnationalism in American religious history. (SLO 8.1, SLO 8.2, SLO 8.4)


Required Texts

Charles H. Lippy, Introducing American Religion (New York: Routledge, 2009).


Patrick Allitt, Major Problems in American Religious History, Second Edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2013).


Expectations for Reading: Students must complete the reading for each day before coming to class, including the Readings.


Attendance Policy: Attendance is required at all class meetings.  The only acceptable excuses for absences are emergencies, official university activities (with a written excuse) or illness.


Participation (25 points): Students will be evaluated on their participation in class discussions.  Students will be assessed on their familiarity with the readings.


Quiz Paragraphs (150 points):  Periodically, students will be asked to write a paragraph (or multiple paragraphs) responding to the reading(s) for the day.  These paragraphs will be graded on how well they draw on the reading(s), as well as their quality of analysis. Some paragraphs will be written at home. Others will be written in class.


Religious Congregation Visit Paper (200 points): Students will visit a congregation (church, synagogue, temple, etc.) affiliated with a religious tradition other than their own.  After this visit, students will write a paper describing the religious practices, beliefs, social composition, and material culture of the congregation.  Papers should relate observations of local religious life to what we have been covering in the course.  See separate handout.  This paper is due on Wednesday May 1 in class.


Reflective Assessment Essay (25 points): Courses that are part of the General Education Requirements for graduation have specific goals and learning outcomes. REL 131 focuses on General Learning Goal 8 and Specific Learning Outcomes 8.1, 8.2, and 8.4, as well as three major course objectives (see above). This assessment assignment is required by the University and will be used to determine whether this course is meeting these objectives. At the end of the semester you will write an essay about your academic progress in these areas. This essay is due by Thursday May 9th.  Email essays to Using specific examples from class lectures, discussions, readings, and assignments, the essay will include one paragraph about each of the following:

-the diversity of America’s religious institutions, including the beliefs and practices of different groups

-the historical and contemporary influence of religion on American culture, politics, and society

-the role of class, race, ethnicity, and gender in American religion

-the impact of globalization and immigration on American religious life

Although the purpose of this exercise is to assess the course, you will be graded on your thoughtfulness.


Assessment Survey (Not Graded): Students will also complete an in-class survey on General Education goals and learning outcomes at a date chosen by the instructor. Unlike the reflective assessment essay, this survey will not be graded.


Examinations (600 points total; 200 points each): There will be three examinations in this course.  They will test students only on the units leading up to the examination.  The final will not be cumulative.  Exams will be a mixture of matching, short answer and essay questions.


Extra Credit Points (Possible 40 Points): Students may earn up to 30 extra credit points for attending campus lectures and cultural events approved by the instructor.  Students will receive 5 points for each event they attend.   To receive the points, students must write a two paragraph summary.


Total Number of Points: 1,000

The following grading scale will be used:


4.0 A: Outstanding Work (93-100)

3.7 A- : Excellent Work (90-92)

3.3 B+: Near Excellent Work (87-89)

3.0 B: Very Good Work (83-86)

2.7 B-: Good Work (80-82)

2.3 C+: Slightly Above Satisfactory Work (77-79)

2.0 C: Satisfactory Work (73-76)

1.7 C-: Slightly Below Satisfactory Work (70-72)

1.3 D+: Passing Work (67-69)

1.0 D: Minimum Passing Work (63-66)

0.0 F: Failed—No Credit (0-62)

0.0 I: Incomplete

Your performance in this class will be graded using the plus/minus system.

Academic Honesty Policy: Missouri State University is a community of scholars committed to developing educated persons who accept the responsibility to practice personal and academic integrity. You are responsible for knowing and following the University’s academic integrity policy plus additional more-specific policies for each class. The University policy, formally known as the “Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures” is available online at and also at the Reserves Desk in Meyer Library. Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in this policy.

Non-Discrimination Policy: Missouri State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution, and maintains a grievance procedure available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries or concerns about possible discrimination to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Park Central Office Building, 117 Park Central Square, Suite 111, 417-836-4252. Other types of concerns (i.e., concerns of an academic nature) should be discussed directly with your instructor and can also be brought to the attention of your instructor’s Department Head.   Please visit the OED website at

Policy on Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a disability and anticipate barriers related to this course, it is important to request accommodations and establish an accommodation plan with the University. Please contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) (, Meyer Library, Suite 111, 417-836-4192, to initiate the process to establish your accommodation plan. The DRC will work with you to establish your accommodation plan, or it may refer you to other appropriate resources based on the nature of your disability. In order to prepare an accommodation plan, the University usually requires that students provide documentation relating to their disability.  Please be prepared to provide such documentation if requested. Once a University accommodation plan is established, you may notify the class instructor of approved accommodations.  If you wish to utilize your accommodation plan, it is suggested that you do so in a timely manner, preferably within the first two weeks of class. Early notification to the instructor allows for full benefit of the accommodations identified in the plan. Instructors will not receive the accommodation plan until you provide that plan, and are not required to apply accommodations retroactively.

Dropping this Class: It is your responsibility to understand the University’s procedure for dropping a class. If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping the class, you will receive a failing grade and will also be financially obligated to pay for the class. For information about dropping a class or withdrawing from the university, contact the Office of the Registrar at 836-5520.

Cell Phone Policy: As a member of the learning community, each student has a responsibility to other students who are members of the community.  When cell phones or pagers ring and students respond in class or leave class to respond, it disrupts the class. Therefore, the Office of the Provost prohibits the use by students of cell phones, pagers, PDAs, or similar communication devices during scheduled classes. All such devices must be turned off or put in a silent (vibrate) mode and ordinarily should not be taken out during class. Given the fact that these same communication devices are an integral part of the University’s emergency notification system, an exception to this policy would occur when numerous devices activate simultaneously. When this occurs, students may consult their devices to determine if a university emergency exists. If that is not the case, the devices should be immediately returned to silent mode and put away. Other exceptions to this policy may be granted at the discretion of the instructor.

Emergency Response Statement: At the first class meeting, students should become familiar with a basic emergency response plan through a dialogue with the instructor that includes a review and awareness of exits specific to the classroom and the location of evacuation centers for the building. All instructors are provided this information specific to their classroom and/or lab assignments in an e-mail prior to the beginning of the fall semester from the Office of the Provost and Safety and Transportation. Students with disabilities impacting mobility should discuss the approved accommodations for emergency situations and additional options when applicable with the instructor. For more information go to and

Mental Health and Stress Management: As a student you may experience a range of personal issues that can impede learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance and may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. You can learn more about free and confidential Missouri State University Counseling Center services available to assist you at

Title IX Policy: Missouri State University has a Title IX policy that guides our response to instances of sexual violence. Sexual Violence includes: Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Discrimination, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy issues. The Title IX policy can be located on the MSU Title IX website at This website is also a good resource for any questions or issues involving Title IX and contains contact information for the MSU Title IX Office and staff.  Read an overview of the Title IX office. If an MSU student discloses a Title IX related issue to a MSU faculty or staff member who is deemed to be a “Responsible Employee” under the policy, that faculty or staff member is required to report such disclosure to the Title IX Coordinator. A responsible employee includes any employee who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has the authority or duty to take action.

Chosen Name Policy: A student may choose a name other than their legal name to identify themselves at Missouri State University. A chosen name is different than the student’s legal name. Refer to the Chosen Name policy for more information. Students can provide their chosen first and middle names in the Profile tab of My Missouri State.

Statement on Religious Accommodations: The University may provide a reasonable accommodation based on a person’s sincerely held religious belief.  In making this determination, the University reviews a variety of factors, including whether the accommodation would create an undue hardship. The accommodation request imposes responsibilities and obligations on both the individual requesting the accommodation and the University. Students who expect to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments as a consequence of their sincerely held religious belief shall be provided with a reasonable alternative opportunity to complete such academic responsibilities. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the dates of religious observances on which they will be absent by submitting a Request for Religious Accommodation Form to the instructor by the end of the third week of a full semester course or the end of the second week of a half semester course.

Religion at a State University: Consistent with Supreme Court decisions regarding the teaching of religion at public institutions (Abington v. Schempp 1963), this course approaches the study of religion from a non-confessional standpoint.  We will focus on describing and analyzing the place of religion in American culture, rather than arguing for one religious tradition or another.  Students are free to express or not to express their own beliefs in class. 


Introduction: Setting the Stage

Monday January 14: Introducing the Course


Part I: Religious Diversity in Colonial America—Native Americans, Africans, & Europeans

Wednesday January 16: The Aztecs and Spanish Catholicism

Reading: Bernal Diaz del Castillo in Allitt, 23-26.


Reading: Victor Valle, “In Search of the Aztecs.” Available at


Bring a paragraph to class that explains what happened to the Aztec sacred sites and why.


Friday January 18: Native American Religions

Reading: Lippy, 1-5.


Reading: Denise and John Carmody, “Traditions of the Eastern Woodlands,” in Allitt, 47-55.


Monday January 21: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (No Classes)


Wednesday January 23: African Religions in the New World

Reading: Lippy, 6-8.


Reading: “Religion in Africa: Common Themes,” “Religion in Africa: Unity in Diversity,” and “Religious Transitions: From the Mother Land to the New World.” Available at


Friday January 25: Comparing Creation Stories in Colonial America

Reading: “How the World Was Made,” from James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee. Available at


Reading: “The Golden Chain: A Creation Story Told by the Yoruba of West Africa,” Available at


Reading: “The Creation and Fall of Man from Genesis,” King James Bible. Available at


Bring paragraph to class comparing creation stories from Cherokee, Yoruba, and the Bible.


Monday January 28: European Religions in the New World

Reading: Lippy, 8-21.


In-Class Video: Mission San Xavier del Bac from America’s Houses of Worship documentary.


Wednesday January 30: Puritan New England

Reading: Lippy, 21-29.


Reading: Edwin S. Gaustad, “Quest for Pure Christianity.” Available at


Friday February 1: Gender and Dissent in Puritan New England—Anne Hutchinson

Reading: Peter Gomes, “Anne Hutchinson: Brief Life of Harvard’s ‘Midwife’: 1595-1643.”


Reading: Trial and Interrogation of Anne Hutchinson (1637).


In-Class Quiz and Discussion: Come ready to talk about Hutchinson’s trial


Monday February 4: Religious Diversity in the Thirteen Colonies

Reading: Catherine Albanese, “Religious Diversity in Early America.” Available at


Reading: Peter Manseau, “Why Thomas Jefferson Owned a Qur’an.”


Reading: Kenneth T. Jackson, “A Colony with a Conscience.” Available at


Wednesday February 6: The First Great Awakening and American Evangelicalism

Reading: Lippy, 30-43.


Reading: Nathan Cole in Allitt, 68-72.


Reading: The Four Spiritual Laws,


Write a paragraph comparing Nathan Cole’s conversion story to The Four Spiritual Laws


Friday February 8: Religion and the American Revolution

Reading: George Marsden in Allitt, 113-118. 


Reading: Thomas Kidd in Allitt, 118-123.


Monday February 11: The Founding Fathers and Religion

Reading: Brittanica Blog “Founders & Faith Forum.” Read all of the essays.


Reading: Rick Shenkman, “An Interview with Jon Butler.”


Quiz and Discussion: Come to class ready to take a position in the Founding Fathers debate



Part II: Dominant and Dissenting Voices in the Early Nineteenth Century

Wednesday February 13: The Second Great Awakening and the Market Model of Religion

Reading: Lippy, 55-58; 75-90.


Reading: Roger Finke and Rodney Stark in Allitt, 15-21.


Reading: Peter Cartwright in Allitt, 130-133.

Friday February 15: African American Religion as Resistance

Reading: Lippy, 61-74.


Reading: Albert Raboteau in Allitt, 155-164.


Reading: Megan Sullivan, “African-American Music as Rebellion: From Slavesong to Hiphop.”


Write a paragraph discussing how African Americans used religion and music to resist oppression.


Monday February 18: President’s Day (No Classes)


Wednesday February 20: Homegrown American Religion—Latter Day Saints

Reading: Lippy, 91-95.


Reading: Joseph Smith in Allitt, 135-138.


Friday February 22: Native Americans Exiled

Reading: Kathryn Eutsler, “Trail of Tears Markers in Greene County Offer A Place to Learn, Never Forget.”


Reading: John Ross, “Our Hearts are Sickened.” Available at  This is the direct testimony of a Cherokee leader.


Monday February 25: Catholic Immigrants in America

Reading: Lippy, 108-117.


Reading: Maria Monk document in Allitt, 169-172.


Wednesday February 27: The Slavery Debate and American Religion

Reading: Angelina Grimke in Allitt, 178-181.


Reading: Frederick Douglass in Allitt, 182-183.


Reading: Thornton Stringfellow in Allitt, 183-185.


Bring a paragraph to class comparing the views of Grimke, Douglass, and  Stringfellow.


Friday March 1: Examination #1



Part III: Religious Insiders and Outsiders from the Civil War to the Great Depression

Monday March 4: Religion and the Civil War—Julia Ward Howe and the Battle Hymn

Reading: Lippy, 123-136.


Reading: Benjamin Soskis, “A Fiery Gospel.”


Wednesday March 6: Christianity and Class Warfare—Rockefellers and Socialists

Reading: Russell Conwell, “Acres of Diamonds.”


Reading: Janine Giordano Drake, “Wealth, Socialism, and Jesus” (find out about Bouck White)


Reading: “Bouck White’s Letter to the Fifth Avenue Church,” 24-27. Available at


Write a paragraph comparing Russell Conwell and Bouck White.


Friday March 8: The Social Gospel and Christian Feminism

Reading: Lippy, 145-153; 159-164; 167-170.


Reading: Deborah Yaffe, “Rereading the Social Gospel.”


Reading: Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Allitt, 279-281.


March 9, 2019 - March 17, 2019: Spring Break


Monday March 18: Freethinkers in America

Reading: Susan Jacoby, “A New Birth of Reason.” Available at


Reading: Thomas Gounley, “Looking Back on Liberal, the Midwest's Failed Atheist Utopia.”


Wednesday March 20: German Immigrants in the Midwest

Reading: Russel Gerlach, “The German Presence in the Ozarks.”


Reading: Joseph Leahy, “Century-Old War Leaves Lasting Impact on St. Louis German Identity.”


Friday March 22: New Religious Movements—Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science

Reading: Lippy, 95-106.


Reading: Jerry Bergman, “President Eisenhower and the Influence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”


Reading: Jesse Bogan, “Guarding Tradition.”

Monday March 25: Metaphysical Religion and Chiropractic Medicine

Reading: “D.D. Palmer’s Religion of Chiropractic.”'s_Religion-of-Chiro.pdf


Wednesday March 27: The Globalization of Basketball and Yoga

Reading: Lippy, 154-159.


Reading: John Murray, “The Spiritual Pathway to March Madness.”


Reading: Ann Louise Bardach, “How Yoga Won the West.” Available at


Reading: Andrea Jain, “No, I Don’t Owe My Yoga Mat to Vivekananda.” Available at


Write a paragraph comparing the impact of globalization on yoga and basketball


Friday March 29: Jewish Immigrants in America

Reading: Lippy, 117-121; 143-144.


Reading: Abraham Cahan in Allitt, 244-246.


Monday April 1: Protestant Modernism

Reading: Lippy, 172-176; 179-182.


Reading: Shailer Mathews, “Modernism/Fundamentalism.”


Reading: Nicene Creed, available at  


Bring a paragraph to class comparing the statement from Shailer Mathews to the Nicene Creed.


Wednesday April 3: Protestant Fundamentalism

Reading: Lippy, 176-179.


Reading: Joel Carpenter, “How Fundamentalists Adapted Their Message to Modern Conditions,” in Allitt, 321-326.


Friday April 5: Pentecostalism in Black and White

Reading: Kevin Sack, “How Race is Lived in America: The Pentecostal Church in America.”


Reading: Banks, “Assemblies Of God Highlights Value Of Diversity For 100-Year Anniversary.”


Reading: “Black, White Pentecostals Mark Historic Lynching With Unity Services.”


Write a paragraph discussing the role of race in Pentecostal history


Monday April 8: Examination #2



Part IV: Religion in Post-World War II America

Wednesday April 10: “What Story Are We In?”  Six Sociological Narratives

Web Reading: Spickard, “What is Happening to Religion? Six Sociological Narratives.”


Write a paragraph applying one of Spickard’s six stories to the role of religion in your community (either at home or at MSU). Which story makes the most sense of what you observe?


Friday April 12: Jewish Contributions to American Popular Culture

Reading: Arie Kaplan, “How the Jews Created the Comic Book Industry.”


Reading: Arie Kaplan, Arie Kaplan, “How the Jews Transformed the Comic Book Industry.”


Monday April 15: Postwar American Religion—Comparing Graham, Peale, and Niebuhr

Reading: Lippy, 201-211.


Reading: Laurie Goodstein, “Billy Graham, 99; Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents.”


Reading: George Vecsey, “Norman Vincent Peale, Preacher of Gospel Optimism, Dies at 95.”


Reading: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “Reinhold Niebuhr’s Long Shadow.”


Bring a paragraph to class comparing Graham, Peale, and Niebuhr.


Wednesday April 17: Changes in American Catholicism

Reading: Mark Massa, “Catholics Enter the Mainstream of American Life,” in Allitt, 326-332.


Reading: Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, “Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church,” in Allitt, 507-513


Reading: Michael J. O’Loughlin, “The U.S. Catholic experience is increasingly Hispanic and Southwestern.”


April 18, 2019 - April 21, 2019: Spring Holiday


Monday April 22: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement

Reading: “Alabama Clergymen’s Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”


Reading: Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”


Write a paragraph comparing the Alabama Clergymen's letter with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”


Wednesday April 24:  Religion and Gay Rights in America

Reading: Jaweed Kaleem, “Unearthing the Surprising Religious History of American Gay Rights Activism.” Available at


Reading: Robert Koehler, “‘Normal Heart’ Stirs Up the Heartland.” Available at


Reading: Alex Vandermaas-Peeler, Daniel Cox, Molly Fisch-Friedman, Rob Griffin, Robert P. Jones, “Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues.”


Friday April 26: Varieties of Religious Feminism

Reading: Carol Christ in Allitt, 390-392.


Reading: Julie Ingersoll, “Nany Hardesty, Founding Mother of Biblical Feminist Movement.”


Reading: Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “Judith Plaskow is Still Standing, Twenty Years On.”


Bring a paragraph to class comparing Carol Christ, Nancy Hardesty, and Judith Plaskow.


Monday April 29: Evangelicals, Mormons, and American Politics

Reading: Mark Silk, “How Mormons and Evangelicals Became Republicans.”


Reading: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “How Nostalgia for White Christian America Drove So Many Americans to Vote for Trump.”


Reading: Melani McAlister,” A Kind of Homelessness: Evangelicals of Color in the Trump Era.”

Wednesday May 1: New Immigrants and the Changing Religious Landscape

Reading: Reading: Lippy, 217-231.


Reading: “Kansas City.” Read the essay and explore the database/map.


Reading: American Values Atlas data on Kansas City and St. Louis. Click on other cities to compare.


**Congregation Paper Due Today**


Friday May 3: Japanese Buddhists in America

Reading: Taitetsu Unno, “The Pure Land in the New World.”


Reading: Rick Fields, “Contrasting Immigrants Buddhists and ‘White Buddhists,” in Allitt, 438-445.


In-Class Film: Streams of Light: Shin Buddhism in America


Monday May 6: Islam in America

Reading: Evelyn Asultany, “Selling American Diversity and Muslim American Identity.” (on campus)


Reading: Pew Research Center, “U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream.”


Reading: Daniel Burke, “25 Influential American Muslims.”


Wednesday May 8: The Future of Religion in America

Reading: Tobin Grant, “5 Signs of the ‘Great Decline’ of Religion in America.” Available at


Reading: Robert P. Jones, “The Eclipse of White Christian America.”


Reading: Elesha Coffman (on Tobin Grant’s blog), “Religious decline in America?”


Reading: Rodney Stark, “3 Myths about ‘Irreligious’ America, Busted.”


Write one paragraph answer to this question: Is American religion declining or just changing?

**Final Examination: Monday, May 13, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm**