I teach in the Department of Religious Studies and the Program in American Studies at the University of Virginia. As a historian I specialize in religion and culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. My central questions probe the intersections of American modernity and Protestant and post-Protestant religious modernity in the United States. I also have longstanding and ongoing interests in the history of the book, especially as it applies to American religious history. Race, religion and psychology, the history of spirituality, mass culture, religious liberalism, cosmopolitanism and internationalism all figure into my research and teaching.
My first book, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century, employs novel sources in book history to tell the surprising story of religious liberalism’s cultural ascendancy in the twentieth century. The religious middlebrow culture of mid-century, I argue, brought psychological, mystical, and cosmopolitan forms of spirituality to broad swaths of the American middle class.
I am now researching and writing a book called The Religion of Humanity: Faith, Politics, and the United Nations. This book explores the deep religious history of the United Nations—the religion of the UN as much as religion in and about the UN. The project reaches back into the nineteenth century and forward to the late twentieth, but is centrally concerned with the UN and its American religious contexts and constituencies in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
I have written on other topics, including religion and politics, photography, and the intellectual history of evangelicalism, and have lectured at Princeton, Yale, Duke, Stanford and other universities in the US, as well as at universities in Canada, the UK, Denmark, and Germany.
Currently I serve as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Religious Studies at UVA.
I am co-editor, with Leigh Eric Schmidt, of the American Spirituality book series at the University of Virgina Press.
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University
Lilly Fellow and Lecturer in Humanities and American Studies, Valparaiso University
PhD, American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin
MA, American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin
BA, History, Haverford College