Live blog from Indy

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What’s in Indy? Why, the Second Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion in American Culture at IUPUI. I’m not going to live blog the whole thing, but the session on Religion’s role in political identity seemed relevant here.

1:30. Paul Djupe of Dennison College is talking about political activity in the Emergent Church, with some data from the Cooperative Clergy Research Study having to do with creating “deliberative” settings for groups within a congregation. Among the lessons is that inclusive procedural efforts (bringing different people together to come up with policy positions) will result in more inclusive, i.e. liberal, policy conclusions, such as on immigration.

1:50. Sylvester Johnson of IU-Bloomington is worrying about the “American Empire” vis-a-vis the Islamic world, with the former carrying the values of Christian civilization. He postulates that the controversy over the Islamic Center in lower Manhattan may have inaugurated the next chapter in U.S.-Islamic relations.

2:00. Georgetown’s Clyde Wilcox is thinking about the fluidity of religious identity in American. He recalls the early days of the Moral Majority when it involved a lot of hostility to Catholics and, indeed, all non-fundamental Baptists. But they had to learn how to work with them, and did, and thereby the theological dividing lines began to fade. Meanwhile, younger evangelicals are floating away from churches that are “too partisan.” And in their Republicanism, there has been a loss of prophetic voice.

2:15. Discussion. Some push-back on Johnson’s monochromatic portrayal of American Christian views of Islam. On the issue of electoral politics, there’s an interesting discussion of how to relate the fluidity of religious identities with the stability of religious voting patterns. A suggestion from Putnam and Campbell’s new book American Grace, is that people change churches because their politics rather than vice versa. More work to be done…