CFH 2014: Heritage Religion and Social Media

Part two of my recap of the 2014 Conference on Faith and History meetings, held last week at Pepperdine University. Part one covered sessions from Friday morning on teaching and public memory.

Friday afternoon plenary: “Heritage Religion and the Mormons”

Having arrived too late on Thursday night to attend Allen Guelzo’s conference-opening address in the same venue, Colleen McDannell‘s talk was my first plenary of CFH 2014. A pioneering scholar in her work on the relationship between religion and material culture, McDannell (Univ. of Utah) is currently studying the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her talk opened with the Mormon Battalion historical site in San Diego’s Old Town neighborhood:

As I tweeted, it was especially interesting to hear McDannell’s talk — on a relatively new American religion that seemed obsessed with its own history… having just heard Peggy Bendroth’s paper — on relatively old American religions that came to view their histories as obstacles to progress. But McDannell made clear that the Mormon interaction with the past — on display at sites like the one in San Diego or the famous LDS festival in Palmyra, NY — was not “history” so much as “heritage.”

Describing field trips by San Diego public school children, McDannell observed that “Heritage religion reinforces contemporary educational values,” with a significant change in meaning for the closing act of one’s visit to the Battalion site:

I left wondering if any other American religious group engages with its history/heritage to anything remotely like this degree. Or if any other churches treat something like public history as an evangelistic enterprise.

It didn’t come up in Q&A, but I wonder what McDannell would make of the Mormon practice of baptism of the dead: does it suggest a different relationship between past and present, and between history/heritage and mission?

Friday afternoon panel: “Christian Historians and Social Media”

As the crowd went in search of refreshments after McDannell’s talk, I moved from my back row seat to the stage, where our panel on social media soon experienced a slight technical issue with the projector. See if you can spot it:

I’ll keep this section short. First, we’re taking turns posting remarks on our blogs: panel organizer and chair Jonathan Den Hartog (Univ. of Northwestern – St. Paul) kicks things off today; John Fea (Messiah College) will post tomorrow; I’m on Thursday; Paul Putz (Baylor Univ.) will take his turn on Friday; then there will be a recap on Monday at the Religion in American History blog.

Second, tickled as I was by the idea of live-tweeting a session on social media as I participated in it, I limited myself to sharing three pictures:

Indeed, John kept busy, praising us behind our backs:

And my fellow Pietist Schoolman got in a couple of thoughts:

You can also find a summary of that panel at Warren Throckmorton’s Patheos blog.

<<Read the first recap in this series               Read the next post>>

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