Institute for Studies of Religion Hosts Symposium on Religion’s Role in World War I

April 3, 2017

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Media contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 3, 2017) – The Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) will host “For God and Country: The United States and the Great War 1917-18” from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, in Cox Lecture Hall in Armstrong Browning Library, 710 Speight Ave.

In this symposium, three lecturers will speak about the United States’ involvement in World War I to honor the centennial of when the United States entered the war on April 4, 1917. The lectures will focus on debates over the justice of the war effort and the concept of Christian warfare.

“People at the time were debating whether, if Jesus were around in 1917, he would actually fight,” said Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History and co-director of the Program of Historical Studies of Religion in the ISR. “Would he use grenades and bayonets? And they’re pretty sure, yes, he would. It’s quite shocking.”

Jenkins will lecture on “Merchants of Death and Dreams of Peace: How Americans Came to Condemn the Great War” at 10:30 a.m.

Barry Hankins, Ph.D., professor of history and interim chair, will present the lecture “From Westminster to Versailles: Woodrow Wilson in the Aftermath of WWI” at 2 p.m.

Jonathan Ebel, Ph.D., associate professor of religion at the University of Illinois, will present the lecture “Thou Shalt Kill: American Christians, European Weapons, and the Sanctification of Killing in the Great War” at 3:30 p.m. Ebel is the author of Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Solider in the Great War and G.I. Messiahs: Soldiering, War, and American Civil Religion.

“I think people will be really surprised when they look at the war and see just how open and overt a lot of the religious language was,” Jenkins said. “America at the time used language of holy war, crusade, getting involved in this Great War for God against the satanic forces of Germany. It’s a very surprising sort of language.”

Although World War I was fought 100 years ago, Jenkins said the war is still impacting modern issues.

“The First World War really made our modern world in lots of ways,” Jenkins said. “It’s out of the First World War that we get the Russian Revolution and we get communism. All the debates and disputes in the Middle East today stem back to the First World War. All the maps were drawn then.”

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information and to register for this event, click here.

by Kalli Damschen, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute’s mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve. For more information, visit