Public Expressions of Religion in America

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Fri, 02/01/1991
End Date: 
Sat, 12/31/1994

Conrad Cherry and associates mapped four areas representative of public expressions of religion in America, namely (1) public religious discourse, (2) communal and organizational sources for the public expressions of religion, (3) portrayals of religion in the mass media, and, (4) public expression of religion in the American Arts.

Based on an earlier planning grant, Cherry directed this study under the auspices of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture of Indiana University-Purdue University. With a twin focus on multi-form public expressions of religion in American culture and on the relationship between the public and private in those expressions, a number of scholars were commissioned to explore and write a book on each of the aforementioned areas.

With reference to public religious discourse, Robert Wuthnow wrote “Producing the Sacred” (University of Illinois Press, 1994). Mark Silk addressed the issue of religion in the mass media in his book “Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America” (University of Illinois Press, 1995). Robert Detweiler explored the issues of literature, religion and public space in “Uncivil Rites: American Fiction, Religion, and the Public Sphere” (University of Illinois Press, 1996). John Roth studied the distinct features of religious discourse in America in his “Private Needs, Public Selves” (University of Illinois Press, 1997), and argued that the public self in public religious discourse is closely entangled with the private needs of the individual self. Stephen A. Marini analyzed several representative traditions of religious music in “Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture” (University of Illinois Press, 2003). Peter Williams described American religious architecture with reference to its religious setting in “Houses of God: Region, Religion, and Architecture in the United States” (University of Illinois Press, 2000).

Besides these scholarly publications, the study also organized commissioned art exhibits and a public consultation on religion in American life at Indianapolis.