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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Lingua Sacra: Negotiating God-Talk in America


A panel discussion sponsored by the Boston College Office of Marketing and Communications and co-sponsored by the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life.

Date: Thursday, April 28, 2011
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Cushing 001, Boston College

Abstract: This panel discussion, which includes experts on the social development of Christianity and Judaism in the United States as well as filmmakers from the PBS series God in America, will examine the question of how Americans understand and talk about God.

The United States is among the most religiously diverse nations on earth and yet has comparatively little history of religious violence, in large part because of a widespread view of religion as a matter of private, not public, concern. As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in 1781, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Granted strong legal protections by the First Amendment, free speech and religious freedom have come to be cherished social conventions, too, even (perhaps especially) among those who see religion as more of a public matter. Indeed, talking about God is something of a national pastime, one that in recent decades has broadened to include conversations among and about multiple religious traditions. What we say about God—and how we say it, through words and deeds—reveals much about our national character, principles, and beliefs.

Panel Participants:

David Belton, series director of the Frontline and American Experience series "God in America”

Sarah Colt, writer, director and producer of the Frontline and American Experience series "God in America”

Cynthia L. Lyerly, associate professor of history, Boston College

Mark S. Massa, S.J., dean, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

Rachel Gordan, doctoral candidate in American religious history, Harvard University

The panel will be moderated by Erik Owens, Associate Director of the Boisi Center, and adjunct assistant professor of theology and international studies, Boston College.

Watch the entire series online here.