Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions

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The Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions speaker series brings nationally and internationally recognized experts to campus to address the sources and dynamics of conflict and strategies for its resolution.


Targeting the Sacred: When Houses of Worship Come Under Attack

In the last year alone, numerous highprofile attacks against houses of worship have grabbed the world’s attention. Why are churches, mosques, temples, and other places of worship so often singled out for attack? Who carries out this violence, and what are their goals and motives? How do terms like “terrorism” or “religious conflict” clarify or impede our understanding of these attacks? Are there positive stories or signs of hope that come out of these events?

A panel of diverse panel of experts explored these and other questions, featuring Anand Gopal (journalist), Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce (Howard University School of Divinity), Brette Steele (McCain Institute), Mark Woodward (ASU), and John Carlson (moderator).

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Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict Alternative Visions Targeting the Sacred Mark Woodward Anand Gopal Brette Steele John Carlson Yolanda PierceCenter for the Study of Religion and Conflict Alternative Visions Targeting the Sacred Mark Woodward Anand Gopal Brette Steele John Carlson Yolanda PierceCenter for the Study of Religion and Conflict Alternative Visions Targeting the Sacred Mark Woodward Anand Gopal Brette Steele John Carlson Yolanda Pierce

About the panelists:

Anand Gopal (Ph.D., Columbia University) is an award-winning journalist and assistant research professor with ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and Center on the Future of War. Gopal’s reporting on Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq has earned him the highest accolades in journalism, including the National Magazine Award, the George Polk Award, the Hillman Prize, and three-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award. He is the author of No Good Men Among the Living, which won the Ridenhour Book Prize, and his most recent piece, “Syria’s Last Bastion of Freedom,” appeared in The New Yorker in December 2018. Gopal co-directed, with John Carlson and Kristin Gilger, “Religion, Journalism and Democracy: Strengthening Vital Institutions of Civil Society,” a project that helped train journalists and scholars in more nuanced approaches to public engagement around issues of religion, politics and war. Reflecting his expertise in complex network analysis, ethnographically-based data journalism, and issues of objectivity in journalism, Gopal is currently co-principal investigator for two quite different projects, one on proxy warfare and the other on “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era.”

Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce (Ph.D., Cornell University) is professor and dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. She is the first woman to hold this position in the school’s 150-year history. Prior to joining Howard, Pierce served as the Founding Director of the Center for African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She also served as the director of the Center for Black Church Studies and associate professor of religion and literature at Princeton Theological Seminary. Pierce’s research specialties include African American religious history; womanist theology; African American Literature; and race and religion. She is the author of Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity and the African American Spiritual Narrative and the forthcoming Religious Ecstasy and African American Cultural Expression, as well as numerous scholarly articles and essays. She has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Pew Foundation, and her commentary appears in a wide variety of publications, including: Time Magazine; Christian Century; Sojourners; Theology Today; and Christianity & Literature.

Brette Steele (J.D., UCLA School of Law) serves as the Director of Prevention and National Security at the McCain Institute for International Leadership. Prior to joining the McCain Institute, Steele served as the Regional Director of Strategic Engagement for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships. In that role she advised the State of California in the development of a statewide Preventing Violent Extremism Strategy and partnered with counties, cities, and nonprofit organizations to develop and implement Preventing Violent Extremism programs. Steele established and served as Deputy Director of the U.S. Countering Violent Extremism Task Force, which coordinated all federal efforts to prevent violent extremism in the United States. Prior to establishing the Countering Violent Extremist Task Force, she served as Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General and coordinated the U.S. Department of Justice’s terrorism prevention and forensic science reform initiatives. Steele also chaired the U.S. Department of Justice Arab- and Muslim-American Engagement Advisory Committee and vice chaired the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities.

John Carlson (Ph.D. University of Chicago) will serve as moderator for the event. Carlson is interim director of the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and an associate professor of religious studies. A scholar of religious ethics, his research explores how religious and moral inquiry informs and invigorates our understanding of political life. He has written on issues of war and peace, religion and violence, justice and human rights, democracy and civic life, and a variety of social and political issues, both domestic and international. Carlson is coeditor of, and contributor to, three books--From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America; Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning; The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics—and is the author of over twenty-five book chapters and articles. He is principal investigator (with Tracy Fessenden) for a project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation on “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” which will be launching in Spring 2020, and is also co-directing a project on “Religion and Global Citizenship” with Linell Cady.


Religion, Nationalism, and the Future of Democracy

Religious and ethnic nationalisms are resurgent in democracies around the world. How does the media cover these movements? Does its focus on conflict and violence further fuel and intensify civic strife? Are there other stories about religion and democratic culture that should be told?

Peter Beinart, contributing editor at The Atlantic and professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, will join moderators John Carlson (Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict) and Kristin Gilger (Cronkite School) for a discussion of these issues, speaking to how he addresses them through a comparative approach.

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Peter BeinartPeter BeinartPeter Beinart

Peter Beinart is professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York and contributing editor to The Atlantic. He is also a senior columnist at The Forward, political commentator at CNN, and a non-resident fellow at The Foundation for Middle East Peace.

Beinart is the author of two books on the history of American foreign policy, The Good Fight (2006) and The Icarus Syndrome (2010) that have been lauded by critics and foreign policy experts including Fareed Zakaria, Jon Meacham, and Steven Coll. His third book, The Crisis of Zionism (2012), was called “brave and important” by Anne Marie Slaughter, president of the New America Foundation.

In addition to The Atlantic, Beinart has also written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Boston GlobeNewsweekSlateReader’s DigestDie Zeit, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He lectures frequently around the country and has appeared on a variety of news and commentary shows, including “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and “Meet the Press.”

Co-sponsored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
This event is supported in part by a grant from the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism, and International Affairs for a project "Religion, Journalism, and Democracy: Strengthening Vital Institutions of Civil Society"


Religion and Politics in the Era of Trump: Two Views from the White House

On the first anniversary of Trump’s presidency, join us as Peter Wehner & Melissa Rogers, two former White House officials, reflect on the changing patterns of religious influence on U.S. culture & politics.

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Religion and Politics in the Era of TrumpReligion and Politics in the Era of TrumpReligion and Politics in the Era of Trump

The presidency of Donald Trump has altered the American political landscape and the religious contours that shape it. While the nation’s “culture wars” have long divided Americans over abortion, gay marriage, and other hot button issues, the country now faces even deeper divides that are fracturing a cultural consensus once taken for granted. Some religious minorities have become targets of recent attack, while other religious groups have used their majority status to reinforce tribalism, nativism, and “identitarian” politics. Such trends challenge other roles that religious actors and ideas have played holding the nation and its leaders accountable, including a long history of civic engagement by many religious groups who have contributed vitally to the pursuit of freedom, justice, and democracy.

 Reflecting on the first year of the Trump presidency, this event will feature Peter Wehner and Melissa Rogers, two former White House officials, who will explore how past administrations have understood the role religion plays in American society and how government officials have interpreted and facilitated that role in the executive branch. On the first anniversary of the Trump presidency, they will also discuss recent religious dynamics in the nation’s political life and consider what constructive role religion might yet play to bridge the deep divisions within the country.


Peter Wehner is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the director of EPPC’s Faith Angle Forum. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues. In 2015 he was named a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Christianity Today, Time magazine as well as appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.  Mr. Wehner served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations prior to becoming deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush. He was also a senior adviser to the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign. Mr. Wehner is author of City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (co-authored with Michael J. Gerson) and Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism (co-authored with Arthur C. Brooks).

Melissa Rogers is a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. During the Obama administration, Rogers served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. Rogers has also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her area of expertise includes the First Amendment's religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy, and politics. She has co-authored a case book on religion and law entitled Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court (Baylor University Press, 2008). She holds a J.D. from University of Pennsylvania Law School and a B.A. from Baylor University.


MAR 2019Religion, Nationalism, and the Future of DemocracyPeter BeinartVideo
SEP 2018Religion, Journalism, and DemocracyDaniel BurkeVideo
MAR 2018Sex and American Christianity: The Religious Divides that Fractured a NationMarie GriffithVideo
JAN 2018Religion and Politics in the Era of Trump: Two Views from the White HouseMelissa RogersPeter WehnerVideo
OCT 2017500: The Protestant Reformation and the Modern WorldSusan Schreiner, Daniel PhilpottTracy FessendenVideo
FEB 2017Religion and Democracy in a New Global EraShadi HamidVideo
OCT 2016Presidential Politics and the Making of American IdentityLaura Olson, Edward CurtisRobert P. Jones,Podcast
FEB 2016What Citizens Owe Strangers: Human Rights, Migrants and RefugeesMichael IgnatieffPodcast
JAN 2016The Future of FaithHarvey CoxPodcast
OCT 2015Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of ViolenceKaren Armstrong
FEB 2015Neuroscience and the Religious ImaginationDavid Eagleman
OCT 2014The Limits of Power: The End of American ExceptionalismAndrew J. Bacevich
FEB 2014Sectarianism, Secularism and Statehood: Challenges and Change that Shape the Middle EastRami KhouriPodcast
OCT 2013God is Not One: Religious Tolerance in an Age of ExtremismStephen Prothero
JAN 2013The Longest War: America, Al Qaeda, and the Middle EastPeter BergenPodcast
OCT 2012Saints, Sinners and Power: The Role of Religion in a Secular GovernmentJames MoronePodcast
FEB 2012Beyond BeliefElaine PagelsPodcast
OCT 2011Beyond FundamentalismReza Aslan
MAR 2011Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle EastIsobel ColemanPodcast
OCT 2010From Tea Parties to Textbooks: Religion, Politics, and the Struggle for American IdentityJames Davison HunterAlan WolfePodcast
APR 2010India After Gandhi: Nonviolence and Violence in the World's Largest DemocracyRamachandra GuhaPodcast
MAR 2010The Evolution of GodRobert WrightPodcast
OCT 2009Real Conflicts and Imagined Threats: Religion, Politics, and the Future of the Middle EastRami KhouriPodcast
MAR 2009The Clash Within: Religion, Pluralism, and the Future of DemocracyMartha NussbaumPodcast
OCT 2008Run for the White House: Religion, Race, Gender, and the MediaDiane WinstonEddie GlaudePodcast
MAR 2008The Battle for Baghdad: What the Outcome will mean for America, Iraq, and the WorldJohn F. Burns
OCT 2007Two Steps Toward Hell: The Scare-Mongers, the Caliphate, and IslamofascismMichael F. ScheuerPodcast
MAR 2007Islamic Ethics and Gender: Towards an Ethics of CompassionAmina WadudPodcast
OCT 2006Religion and American Foreign PolicyJack MilesPodcast
SEP 2006American GospelJon MeachamPodcast
APR 2006Are We Losing Our Humanity?: C.S. Lewis on Moral ConflictJean Bethke Elshtain
MAR 2006Interpreting Islam: Politics, the Media and the AcademyCarl ErnstPodcast
OCT 2005Terrorism and the Future of PeacemakingMarc Gopin
MAR 2005Religion, Terrorism & Human RightsSidney Jones
FEB 2005Arab-Israeli Peace: Is it Possible? How Do We Get There?Aaron David Miller
OCT 2004Islamic Democracy and the Future of IraqNoah Feldman
OCT 2004The Global Rise of Religious Violence: The Case of South and Southeast AsiaMark Juergensmeyer
OCT 2004The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East PeaceDennis Ross
SEP 2004Religion and the 2004 Presidential ElectionE.J. Dionne
MAR 2004When Religion Becomes EvilCharles Kimball
FEB 2004Reading Lolita in Tehran: Women, Religion and Global PoliticsAzar Nafisi
OCT 2003Abraham: A Journey to the Hearts of Three FaithsBruce Feiler
MAR 2003The Rise of Religious TerrorismPeter BergenPodcast