Sep. 27, UK Workshop, Protestantism and the Superpowers

September 27, 2014

A one day workshop on ‘Protestantism and the Superpowers’, will be held on Saturday 27 September 2014 at The University of Leicester. The workshop will address the following questions: How was religion and spirituality connected with ideological conflict on both sides of the Cold War divide? In what ways did the escalating climate of fear and patriotism shape individual, national, and confessional identities? How did the atomic bomb – with its unprecedented potential for destruction – transform visions of the future, particularly amongst Protestant groups which used the Bible as a guide to predicting what lay ahead for humanity? To what extent was the Cold War a ‘holy war’?

For some time, historians of the USA have recognized that the Cold War was instrumental in orchestrating a religious revival from the late forties on. This work explored how anti-communism was redefined as a Christian duty, how patriotic and religious practices blended in the 1950s, and how prominent evangelical preachers turned into ambassadors of the Free World. It showed how Protestant theology recovered and popularized the concept of original sin under the conditions of the Cold War and how evangelical apocalyptic thinking blossomed in the shadow of the bomb. In contrast, studies of the Soviet Union have tended to focus on church-state relations, and on the effect of Soviet anti-religious policy on religious life, with, until very recently, little attention paid to the Cold War context.

This workshop aims to draw together historians working on religious identity, ideology and politics in the superpower states. The organizers aim to take a comparative approach to thinking about how the Cold War shaped religious life in these two very different nations, as well as exploring transnational contacts and exchanges between religious groups and individuals. Issues to be explored include:
•    the spiritual dimensions of space exploration
•    evangelical preachers on the world circuit
•    prayer groups and the practice of prayer
•    missionary movements and Bible smugglers
•    evangelical children’s literature
•    Cold War concerns in Protestant theology
•    patriotism and spiritual practices
•    Protestantism and the culture of fear

The workshop is jointly organised by Dr Uta Balbier (King’s College, London), Dr Miriam Dobson (University of Sheffield), and Dr Zoe Knox (University of Leicester) and is partly funded by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) and the Institute of North American Studies, King’s College, London. Zoe Knox (zk15ATle.ac.uk) may be contacted for more information

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