Inaugural Workshop: Hindsight is 2020

Racial Justice Protest

December 2021

A mismanaged response to a global pandemic; a nationwide uprising against racist police brutality; and an electoral referendum on Donald Trump and his style of partisan politics. Events of 2020 are prompting Americans to tell new stories about who we are in relation to each other and the rest of the world. Yet in American popular imagination, religion continues to play similar roles: “Bad religion” destroys individual freedoms and blocks social progress while “good religion” repairs damage to the social fabric or sustains the struggle. Are we continuing to tell the same old story about religion in American life? If so, whose stories are we ignoring and which stories are we forgetting?

For this workshop, we will solicit commentary and reflection on the tumultuous events that reshaped American religious life in 2020. We will study in order three events during this workshop to see how they build on one another:

  1. Public Health: When COVID-19 came to the US and engulfed the planet, how did religion respond?
  2. Racial Justice: When nationwide protests erupted in response to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, what was the role of religion?
  3. Political Polarization: As Republicans and Democrats contended for power during an election year, and as populism surged across the globe, how and when did faith emerge as a force?

We invite to the same table faith leaders who participated in and lived through these events, journalists who told their stories, and academics who can situate these happenings in clarifying contexts. In each case we will seek to answer: What happened? How was it talked about? How can we improve the conversation?

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What to Bring and What to Expect

We encourage participants in the trialogue to bring the best of the traditions and disciplines they represent toward the challenge of enhancing religious literacy across America.

Selected participants will be invited to present on problems and solutions identified in their applications that will further mutual understanding among the trialogue’s three parties.

Ultimately, the shape of our program will depend on the unique voices of the specific participants we select. Participants are asked to bring the courage of their convictions, as well as a willingness to critique powerful institutions or preconceived narratives in the spirit of constructive engagement, an openness to share challenges faced on a daily basis, and a desire to make new things happen with colleagues and friends.

About the Series

This inaugural workshop is part of a larger series supported thanks to a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and presented in partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. 

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