Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture offers conference on how Bible is used

391697_w296INDIANAPOLIS — Registration is now underway for a national conference that will culminate a three-year Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study of how — outside of religious services – - Americans use the Bible in their daily lives.

The Conference on the Bible in American Life will take place Wednesday Aug. 6, to Friday, Aug. 8, at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre, 31 W. Ohio St., in downtown Indianapolis.

The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI is sponsoring the three-day event as part of the first large-scale investigation of the Bible in American life.

Noted historian Mark Noll of the University of Notre Dame will deliver a conference plenary address. Noll will present “The Bible: Then and Now” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at Christ Church Cathedral, 125 Monument Circle. Conference registration is not required for the plenary address, which is open to the public.

“While the Bible has been central to Christian practice throughout American history, many important questions remain unanswered in scholarship,” said Philip Goff, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, which is part of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Those unanswered questions include how people read the Bible for themselves, how denominational and parachurch publications have influenced interpretation and application, and how clergy and congregations have influenced individual understandings of scripture, the director said.

“These questions are even more pressing today, as denominations are losing much of their traditional authority, technology is changing people’s reading and cognitive habits, and subjective experience is continuing to eclipse textual authority as the mark of true religion,” Goff said. “Understanding both the past and the future of Christian communities in the United States depends, even if only in part, on a serious analysis of how these cultural shifts are affecting Americans’ relationship to the Bible.”

Earlier this year, the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture released a report about the Bible’s use based on a national survey of American Bible reading. During the upcoming conference, historians, sociologists, political scientists, seminary professors and religious leaders will offer analyses of the Bible in daily life that complement the report’s findings and will put those findings about the Bible’s use in a broader context.

Among the report’s many findings:

  • There is a 50/50 split among Americans who read any form of scripture (the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, etc.) in the past year and those who did not.
  • Among those who read any form of scripture in the past year, 95 percent named the Bible as the scripture they read.
  •  Despite the proliferation of Bible translations, the King James Version is the top choice — and by a wide margin — of Bible readers.
  •  The strongest correlation with Bible reading is race, with African Americans reading the Bible at considerably higher rates than others.

Seating for the three-day conference is limited, and advance registration is required. Registration before July 15 is $50; after July 15 it is $70.

Call for submissions: The Journal of Civic Literacy

America’s low levels of civic knowledge have been repeatedly documented. The Journal of Civic Literacy is a project of the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI. It is a new open-access, online interdisciplinary journal focused upon publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed articles on issues of American civic literacy, defined as that level of public knowledge necessary for informed civic participation.

Civic literacy for our purposes encompasses an acquaintance with:

  • American history, both episodic and intellectual;
  • An understanding of the nation’s constituent documents, their roots and their subsequent amendment and interpretation, and;
  • Sufficient familiarity with and comprehension of basic economic, scientific and policy terminology to permit the formation of reasonably informed opinions on matters of policy disputation.

We are interested in articles addressing:

  • The causes and consequences of low levels of literacy,
  • The role of public education, the comparative efficacy of available curricula and programs (what is working? why and how?),
  • Connections between the current media environment and deficient civic understandings,
  • The role of civic literacy in holding public servants accountable for ethical and trustworthy public service, and
  • Theoretical submissions that consider the role of civic knowledge in the multiple arenas of our common American life.

The Journal’s editorial staff recognizes that practitioners, community members, engaged citizens and others add much value to the ongoing conversation around these issues. Accordingly, in addition to the research articles that will form the basis of each issue, we will welcome contributions to a separate section, the Citizenship Conversation, in which we hope to highlight contributions from government figures, lawyers, political actors, nonprofit administrators and board members, schoolteachers and others concerned about the effects of our civic deficit. Those contributions can take the form of opinion pieces, “best practices” reports, reviews of pertinent books, descriptions of programs and other essays consistent with the Journal’s focus.

The journal will initially be published twice a year by the Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI. Its editorial board includes scholars representing a wide range of disciplines: political science, public administration, education, science, religious studies and business.

Additional information about the Journal and the submission process can be accessed at on the journal’s website. Questions about this Call for Papers or the Journal of Civic Literacy should be directed to Sheila Kennedy (shekenne@iupui.edu) or jcivlit@iupui.edu.