21G.221 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Communicating in American Culture(s)

Topics to Guide Reading and Discussion

The Role of Religion in American Communication Patterns

Read the materials and prepare to contribute in an informed discussion of the following topics and questions:

  1. Wuthnow explores the role that religion plays in Americans’ conception of their country as “exceptional.” What is the history and meaning of the image of America as “a city on a hill”?
    • Is the US officially a Christian nation?
    • In what ways is religion in the US “diverse”?
    • What are some of the reasons for the right-left religious divide?
    • How do religious beliefs affect US public policy and global activities?
    • Compare the history and role of religion in the US to the situation in your other country/ies.
  2. Why did Thomas Jefferson consider himself a “primitive Christian,” and what did he mean by this term?
    • What was his vision of an American civil religion and why were many of his compatriots wary of his perspective?
  3. Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse argues that “corporate America created Christian America.” How does he support this view and what does his argument have in common with Wuthnow’s position on the role of religion in the US?
    • How has the perception of the US as a Christian nation changed over the country’s history?
    • Why is the language of Christianity and the bible central to the national dialogue? What are some of the phrases that form American religious discourse or “code”?

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019