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2023 ICJS Faculty Seminar

America’s Unexceptional Christian Nationalism: Democratic Lessons from Other Contexts

Sun. July 23 – Thurs. July 27, 2023
Baltimore, Maryland

American democracy is in crisis: rickety democratic structures built haphazardly over two centuries are swaying in the face of authoritarian, racist, and anti-pluralistic threats. One need look no further than January 6, 2021 and the near-upheaval of the 2020 presidential election to see the profound dilemma we face. And threaded through America’s present-day crisis is a layer of “Christian nationalism” that some have chosen to treat as a sui generis phenomenon.

This seminar will bring together scholars and practitioners to look outside the U.S. context—or at least the usual and established locations of “best practice” in the U.S.—to consider possible new approaches, including through interracial and interreligious coalitions, to address religious nationalism and to strengthen democratic institutions and systems. Instead of perpetuating claims of American exceptionalism, this seminar (and eventual book) aims to look squarely at the American crisis through other lenses and other models, inviting scholars and activists working together on the front line of democratic crises globally to offer important insights.

In addition to a set of shared readings which will be discussed during the seminar, participants are invited to contribute an original essay answering the question below, which will be discussed by the whole seminar. Those essays will be revised and edited after the seminar to become part of an edited volume.

Seminar Approach

Prospective participants should submit a proposal for eventual publication that addresses the question:

Drawing lessons from other global contexts, what are constructive ways that Christians and non-Christians based in the U.S. (scholars, religious actors, activists, etc.) can address the growing threat of American Christian nationalism and white supremacy?

Approaches to this question might include (but are not limited to):

    • Challenging American Christian nationalism from non-Christian, but still U.S.-based perspectives.

    • Non-academic (i.e., activist, community organizing, etc.) models of positive engagement between religious communities and democratic systems both in and outside of the U.S.

    • Successful examples of partnerships between scholars/academic research and democratic activists/organizing, where scholarship has positively and pragmatically contributed to organizing efforts.

    • Addressing the dilemma of American Christian nationalism using national and regional experiences and perspectives from outside of the U.S., including: 
        • Examples of constructive interracial and interreligious pro-democracy coalitions, their constituent elements, and successful strategies.

        • Paradigms for equipping religious actors with tools for addressing religious nationalism and extremism within their own communities.

        • Proven contextual models for defanging religious radicalism and religious ethno-nationalism.

        • Case studies in collaborations between religious and secular-defined actors for strengthening democracy.

Program Details

When: Sunday, July 23—Thursday, July 27th, 2023

Location: ICJS Library, 956 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204

Travel and lodging will be reimbursed by ICJS. Spending limits will apply.

Arrival dinner and lunch during the seminar provided by ICJS. Dinner Monday to Thursday on your own.

Sunday (7/23)

    • Participant Arrival and Check In (Towson Sheraton)
    • 7:00 pm: Arrival Dinner Together

Monday (7/24)

    • 9:00 am–4:30 pm: Foundational Readings Discussion

Tuesday (7/25)

    • 9:00 am–12:00 pm: Foundational Readings Discussion (cont.)
    • 1:00–4:30 pm: Participant Essay Presentations

Wednesday (7/26)

    • 9:00 am–4:30 pm: Participant Essay Presentations

Thursday (7/27)

    • 9:00 am–12:00 pm: Wrap Up Participant Presentations
    • 1:00–4:30 pm: Takeaways and Applications


Susan Hayward

Associate Director, Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative, Harvard Divinity School

As the Associate Director for the Religious Literacy and the Professions Initiative (RLPI), Susan Hayward coordinates an ambitious agenda of curricular and programmatic activity to advance religious literacy across a wide range of professional fields of public engagement. Prior to joining HDS, Hayward spent 14 years with the Religion and Inclusive Societies program at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Hayward holds graduate degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Harvard Divinity School and is currently pursuing her doctorate in theology and religious studies at Georgetown University, focusing on Buddhist and Christian responses to authoritarianism and conflict in Myanmar. She has taught at Georgetown and George Washington Universities, and serves as a regular guest lecturer, trainer, or advisor at the Foreign Service Institute and with universities and organizations worldwide on topics related to religion and international affairs. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Religion.

Matthew D. Taylor

Protestant Scholar, Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies

Matthew D. Taylor, Ph.D., is the Protestant Scholar at ICJS, where he specializes in Muslim-Christian dialogue, Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, religious politics in the U.S., and American Islam. Prior to coming to ICJS, Taylor served on the faculty of Georgetown University and The George Washington University, and he is currently a faculty member in the Theology Department at Loyola University Maryland. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies, and the Company of Teachers of the Reformed Institute of Metropolitan Washington. Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations from Georgetown University and an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book, Scripture People: Salafi Muslims in Evangelical Christians’ America (Cambridge University Press—2023), offers an introduction to the oft-misunderstood Salafi movement in the U.S. by way of comparison with American Evangelicalism.

Application Process

Proposals Due: March 15, 2023 (12:00pm ET)

Notification of Acceptance: April 3, 2023

Proposals should include a CV, and be in the form of an abstract (250 words) that outlines the research / paper that the participant will offer during the seminar, as well as a paragraph (100 words) describing how participating in the faculty seminar will be helpful to the participant’s teaching/activism.