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Title: "That's What Makes Me a Jew and Him a Baptist": Jews, Southern Baptists, and the American Public Square in the Era of Reagan
Authors: Armstrong, April Charity
Advisors: Schmidt, Leigh E.
Contributors: Religion Department
Keywords: Anti-Defamation League
Bailey Smith
Christian-Jewish Relations
Cold War America
Nathan Perlmutter
Southern Baptist Convention
Subjects: Religious history
American history
Judaic studies
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines interfaith dialogue between the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the late twentieth century, which was a direct result of a controversy surrounding SBC president Bailey Smith's appearance at a political rally in 1980, where he had notoriously said, "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew." It examines the forging, sustaining, and collapsing of the alliance the ADL and SBC had named a "joint working group," revealing the diverse views of a broad swath of Americans who responded to Smith and the motivations of the ADL and SBC partners for seeking the other as an ally. Putting the partnership into the historical context of Cold War American religion, it builds upon recent scholarship on the "Judeo-Christianity" of the 1950s to show how the ADL-SBC dialogue, despite a conscious rejection of the Judeo-Christian model, nonetheless was based upon the same underlying assumptions about American ideals and morality. It addresses the significance of the (initially harmonious) dialogue itself taking place primarily in the American Southwest and internal conflicts within each organization that threatened collaboration, and shows how responses to an arsonist attack on a Baptist church in Jerusalem revealed that all along the two groups had been working with differing definitions of "separation of church and state" and "religious liberty," forcing an end to official relations. Ultimately, it argues, disagreement over American identity and separation of church and state, not theology, led them to part ways. This project is emblematic of the interdisciplinary approach typical of religious studies. Using a blend of historical approaches, employing archival, interview, and oral history sources, it also draws upon ethnography, sociology, and political science. It contributes to a range of disciplines within the academic study of religion, including American studies, Jewish studies, and history of Christianity. Previous scholarship has suggested that Americans can unite around their common national identity, but this research provides a case study offering another interpretation. Since religious views shape understandings of American identity itself, increasing religious diversity forces continual reimagining of what it means to be an American.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Religion

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