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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

For God and Country: Religion and the U.S. Military

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life


Fr. Richard Erikson, U.S. Air Force
Jonathan Ebel, University of Illinois
Moderator: Erik Owens, Boston College

Date: Thursday, February 9, 2012
Time: 5:30-7:00PM
Location: Devlin 101, Boston College


Abstract: What does it mean to fight for God and country? For at least the past hundred years, Americans have invested the American soldier with a deep religious significance connected to heroism, purity of sacrifice and devotion to the nation. But soldiers themselves have not always seen things the same way. From Charles Whittlesey in the Great War to Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, military servicemen and women have frequently reconfigured or contested the religious perspectives cast upon them by civilians, even as they struggled to make sense of their own experience in religious terms. The Boisi Center is pleased to bring together two people with unique scholarly, military and religious experiences to wrestle with these broad and important themes.


Rev. Richard Erikson Fr. Richard Erikson is a chaplain and colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF) Reserve, and mobilization assistant to the Deputy Chief of Chaplains in the USAF. From 2006-2011 he served as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. He has served in the USAF Reserve for 29 years, including seven years as an active duty chaplain, with a tour in Iraq in 2004. From 1992-1999 Fr. Erikson was Chair of the Social Science Department at St. John's Seminary in Brighton. He holds an M.A. in Theology from St. John's Seminary, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Southern California.


Jonathan Ebel is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve. His research focuses on religion and war, religion and violence, and lay theologies of economic hardship. Professor Ebel is author of Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War (Princeton, 2010). He received an A.B. from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.


In the News

stone crossstone cross

The House of Representatives recently passed two bills defending the use of religious symbols at military memorials. On Feb. 9, Fr. Richard Erikson and Jonathan Ebel discussed this and other issues at the crossroads of religion and the military as they asked what it means to fight for both God and country.