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Charged with enforcing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plays an overlooked but profoundly important role in shaping American religious life. While scholars of religion, law, and American culture have devoted a great deal of energy to analyzing the ways that federal courts define religion for the purposes of protecting it, they have paid less attention to the role of administrative agencies, like the EEOC. In this article, I argue that the private workplace offers a critical site for understanding how the state regulates and manages American religious life. I look to the EEOC's regulatory guidelines and compliance manuals as important sources for understanding the shifting relationship between religion, law, and work in the United States. I identify three modes of religiosity—or three types of religious actors—existing in tension in the EEOC archive, each bearing a distinct genealogy: the Sabbath Observer, the Idiosyncratist, and the Organization. While gesturing to very different notions of what religion is, the figures of the Idiosyncratist and the Organization both assume that demands of religion and work can be neatly reconciled. They presume that religion can be seamlessly integrated into the workplace without disrupting the functioning of capitalism. However, for those concerned about economic inequality, corporate power, and neoliberal working conditions, I suggest that it may be useful to revisit the EEOC's Sabbath Observer, who insists on the right to collective forms of life and value outside of work and the market.
In the 1920s, Princeton Seminary professor J. Gresham Machen was the leading fundamentalist intellectual of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. His Calvinist theology, commitment to biblical inerrancy, and opposition to liberalism were passed on to and spread by his influential students including Carl McIntire, Harold Ockenga, and Francis Schaeffer. But in the early days of 1906, the young man who would go on to indelibly shape evangelical theology wrote home from Germany where he was a graduate student that he could never go into Christian ministry because of his “moral fault” that no “ordinary man” could understand. This article analyzes the coded language of J. Gresham Machen's letters during his pivotal personal crisis in the context of changing German understandings of “homosexuality” and Machen's lifelong homosocial tendencies. Moreover, it connects Machen's confrontation with his sexuality with his simultaneous confrontation with German liberal theology. In the fall of 1905, Machen found himself drawn to the more experiential and pluralistic Christianity of Wilhelm Herrmann. However, in facing his own perceived immorality, Machen found “Calvinism a very comforting doctrine indeed.” He rejected modernism and spent his life defending a rigid orthodoxy against the theologies that would come to accommodate and embrace queerness. The results of his personal crisis echoed through the history of twentieth-century American evangelicalism. This article analyzes the historical process of “un-queering” theology that emanated from that crisis and demonstrates that resistance to queerness was woven into the ideological fabric of evangelicalism far earlier than scholars have yet recognized.
This paper examines the writings of Black Shaker visionary Rebecca Jackson, who was active in the middle of the nineteenth century. Jackson's accounts of her dreams, visions, and theology repeatedly demonstrate her deep commitment to celibacy and to obedience to God. Recent work on Jackson reads her celibacy as an example of defiance of white heteropatriarchy; this article suggests that reading her celibacy as disruptive flattens the most animating question in her life: How might I best serve God? Using Jackson's writings, including substantial descriptions of visions and dreams, I argue that her celibacy is a piece of her larger obedience to God, obedience that provides protection and fulfillment. Further, Jackson uses explicitly antiflesh theology to first re-center women in the Biblical story of redemption, and second, serve as the basis for her critique of gendered and racialized violence. Finally, Jackson's celibacy undergirds an understanding of pleasure that blurs the lines between the physical and spiritual, and that, for Jackson, makes possible earthly freedom and spiritual joy.
Why has Lucy Harris been blamed for the loss of 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript? Analysis of storytelling about Lucy Harris, Mormonism's first “bad girl,” allows us to see the creation of one element of the Latter-day Saint chain of memory. Through the accretion of stories about Lucy Harris, church members came to code doubt as feminine in Mormon memory while viewing the concept of witness as masculine. These understandings of the relationship between gender and religious faith are embedded understandings in the Latter-day Saint chain of memory. Preserving the memory and reputation of Martin Harris, Lucy's husband, scribe for the Book of Mormon, and one of its three witnesses, allowed Latter-day Saints to cement the intersections of masculinity, priesthood, and witness. Church members used stories about Lucy Harris to teach, discipline, and perform gender norms for future generations of Mormons.