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Wednesday, February 3, 2021 • 3:00pm MST • Online, via Zoom
For years, commentators have talked about the culture wars, but increasingly, scholars and others are beginning to refer to a “truth divide,” suggesting that beliefs held by Americans are now so different that we are essentially living in two separate realities.
The disagreement about what constitutes American values and goals has now gotten so deep, one commentator suggested that it wasn’t so much about polarization related to political or cultural issues anymore, but rather democracy itself that we seemed to disagree about.
Reflecting on the attacks on the Capitol, the presidential inauguration, and other recent events, this event will feature David Blight, one of the country’s leading Civil War historians, in conversation with the Center’s directors, John Carlson and Tracy Fessenden.Blight will draw on his knowledge of another moment in American history when the country was so divided it went to war, to explore what it means to live in and think about a divided nation. Is polarization necessarily bad? Or are there lessons can we learn from history that might help us understand and bridge the divide? Is it still possible for events of civic celebration, public history, and collective memory—such as a presidential inauguration—to advance a vision of national unity, and for whom? Does history offer us any guidelines for how to heal a nation? In short, is reconciliation possible?
About the Speaker:
John Carlson (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is interim director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and co-director of the project “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” an initiative funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. A scholar of religious ethics, Carlson writes on issues of war and peace, religion and violence, justice and human rights, and democracy and civic life, including pieces that reflect on concepts of civil religion and American purpose as expressed through Presidential inaugural speeches.
Tracy Fessenden (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is the Steve and Margaret Forster Professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, director of strategic initiatives in the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, and co-director of “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” an initiative funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. Her work focuses on religion and American literature and the arts; gender, race, and sexuality in American religious history; and the relationship between religion and the secular in American law, culture, and public life, including Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature.
Selected bibliography for David Blight: