Journalist, professor of history to lecture on complicated relationship between religion, politics

Part of URI Honors Colloquium

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |
Molly Worthen
Molly Worthen. Photo by Jafar Fallahi.

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 18, 2019 — Molly Worthen, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has extensively researched North American religious and intellectual history.

She will bring her extensive knowledge to the University of Rhode Island as part of her lecture, “Evangelicals and Trump: An Alliance with a Long History,” Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, on the Kingston Campus. The lecture, part of the URI Honors Colloquium, “Religion in America,” is free and open to the public. It will be livestreamed and archived.

Her lecture will center on evangelical Christians who are vocal supporters of President Donald Trump. She notes that since Trump’s election, many people have debated why evangelical Christians support Trump’s decisions, given his colorful history and demonstration of ideals she says are not in line with the Christian faith.

Worthen points out that evangelicals and outsiders alike have offered dozens of explanations, ranging from the claim that white evangelicals are single-issue voters who care about banning abortion more than anything else, to the suggestion that a white vote for Trump was a vote for racism, pure and simple. For Worthen, it’s history, not present-day politics or prejudice, that holds the most satisfying answer. A careful look at the whole sweep of white evangelical history since colonial times helps us understand that their alliance with Trump should not have surprised anyone—because it has been centuries in the making.

She delves into why many see this correlation as an oxymoron, but then will dissect why it’s not present-day politics or prejudice that inform Trump’s loyal evangelical supporters. Rather it’s the history behind white evangelical politics that best explains this alliance.

Worthen is an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a freelance journalist. She earned her bachelor’s degree and her doctorate from Yale University. Her research focuses on North American religious and intellectual history. Her most recent book, Apostles of Reason, examines American evangelical intellectual life since 1945, especially the internal conflicts among different evangelical subcultures.

Worthen lectures widely on religion and politics and teaches courses on North American religious and intellectual culture, global Christianity, and the history of ideas. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and has written about religion and politics for The New Yorker, Slate, the American Prospect, and Foreign Policy, among other publications.

Lauren Poirier, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and public relations and English major, wrote this press release.