2017 Theme

“Religion, Technology, and the State: Reformations & Transformations.”

At this annual gathering, we will explore the impact of invention and innovation on religion and state policy through the lenses of religious studies, ethics, theology, and history. In 2017, the year of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and the year of the inauguration of Donald Trump, this theme provides an opportunity for creative, scholarly reflection on both the historic and present interactions between politics and theology, technology and spirituality, and God and national security.

Joining us as this year’s Distinguished Scholar will be the esteemed American religious historian, Dr. Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. He will present on the topics of “Spirit, Matter, and Machines: Religion and Humanity in a Technological Age” and “Religion and National Security."




Please join us Thursday, October 19-Saturday, October 21, 2017 for our annual meeting at the Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center in Chicago. From formal papers and panels to informal conversations over meals, we will gather to learn from one another, support each other in our scholarship, and serve Unitarian Universalism. 

Download Call for Papers

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2017 Call for Papers

2017 Distinguished Scholar

Joining us as this year’s Distinguished Scholar will be the esteemed American religious historian,Dr. Sylvester Johnson, founding director of Virginia Tech's Center for Humanities.

Dr. Johnson researches the intersection of religion, race, and colonialism in the Americas and throughout Atlantic geographies (Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas) over the past five centuries. His analysis of this material foregrounds the architecture of racial states and settler colonialism; the colonial formation of what scholars tend to name “modernity,” and the increasing role that the national security paradigm has played in shaping the relationship between religion and the state.

Dr. Johnson is author of three books. Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity (2004), African American Religions, 1500–2000 (2015), and most recently, The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security before and after 9/11 (2017). Dr. Johnson also co-edits the Journal of Africana Religions, which is devoted to publishing transnational, interdisciplinary research on religion within Africa and throughout the global Black diaspora.

Distinguished Scholar Papers

Dr. Johnson's first talk is entitled “Spirit, Matter, and Machines: Religion and Humanity in a Technological Age.” This talk will examine the role of Christian theology in shaping views of human ontology and the challenge that current technology is posing for ethics, religious experience, and human identity.

Dr. Johnson's second talk is entitled “Religion and National Security” and will examine the relationship between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and American Muslims and Christians. This talk will draw from his recent book The FBI and Religion: Faith and National security Before and After 9/11 (2017).