Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Religion, Sex, and Politics in America

What happens when you offer a public lecture by one of America's leading religious scholars entitled "Religion, Sex and Politics: An American History"? Answer: Over 200 people show up to a venue that holds 150.

After eating dinner at St. John's Restaurant with our speaker, colleagues, and friends, we all made our way to the Camp House to find that the place was absolutely packed with people. Before 7pm, the Camp House had given away its 100 free drink vouchers. One person I talked with had driven from Pigeon Forge, which is over two hours from Chattanooga. After introducing Marie Griffith, I made my way to the very back of the room where I found a wedge of space to hear her talk.

In her lecture, Marie Griffith focused on three case studies involving the birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, the zoologist turned sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and the conservative Protestant Billy James Hargis. Griffith did not make any explicit statements about one person's view being correct versus another. Instead, she presented these case studies as a way of showing how Americans in the past have reacted to issues relating to religion and sexuality. Overall, it was a wonderful and intellectually stimulating talk, and a great way to close out this year's LeRoy Martin Distinguished Lecturer Series.

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