Dec 15, 2011

American Religion midterm take-home exam

Choose TWO of the following questions, and write a short essay answering each:

1. How does the religious experimentation, as seen in such diverse movements as the “new measures” of Charles G. Finney and the “complex marriage” of the Oneida Community, relate to the political ideas of the new American republic?

2. What does the Ghost Dance tell us about Native American relationships to Christianity in the late 19th century?

3. How did the Puritan conception of corporate identity and the idea that God judges people as groups shape response to (a) Roger Williams or (b) Anne Hutchinson?


4. Frederick Douglass says there are two kinds of Christianity. What are they, and how does he argue for the one type and against the other?

5. Frances Willard, a temperance activist, said “there is no place too good for a woman to occupy.” How did women’s roles in religious organizations affect the reform movements of the post-Civil War period, and how did those roles change during that period?

The essay should be succinct and answer the question, but also thorough, sounding out (if not entirely dealing with) the depth of the issue. Don’t be afraid of complication. The purpose of this exam is not to get you to simply regurgitate correct, factual information, but to give you a chance and the space to think about American religious history and the interpretations of that correct, factual information. Good and thorough thinking is hard to do, and so the purpose of these questions is to provoke you to examine and reflect, giving you the space to explore the sometimes tangled relationships in history, as well as the cultural contexts and consequences of religious ideas. I strongly believe that the value of assignments such as this is exactly the extent to which you engage with the difficult work of thinking. This is an opportunity with a grade attached.

Roughly 500 to 700 words per essay should be adequate. You must use Charles Lippy’s Introducing American Religion as a source, as well as at least one original document. Two would be better. Not using the texts in your short essay will result in a failing grade. You may also consult any of your class notes, consult with your fellow students, ask me questions, or refer to the many, many good sources listed on the bibliography at the class website. The encyclopedias, dictionaries and atlas listed there offer a great starting point.

For questions about late assignments, the penalties for plagiarism, and the percentage of the final grade based on this mid-term, please consult the class syllabus.

Due: December 22, at 4 p.m., via e-mail: dsilliman@hca.uni-heidelberg.