Authentically Black and Truly Catholic

IMG_3406I am excited to say that my first book, Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations (NYU Press, 2017), is officially out in the world. It’s a real book!!! You can purchase it at nyupress.com and preorder it on Amazon.com (ships November 14). This is the culmination of the better part of a decade’s worth of reading, research, writing, and revising. But it started in conversations with Black Catholic Chicagoans themselves. And so, it is dedicated to all the Black people who made and continue to make Catholic Chicago. If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it, I hope you learn something, and please, let me know what you think. You can reach me, as always, on Twitter @mjcressler or by email at cresslermj@cofc.edu.

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How should we respond to Charlottesville?

First things first, to quote the mighty Mos Def: “Stop with the nonsense!” I’ve written a lot in the week or so since the white supremacist rally and consequent violence in Charlottesville. Some of that writing now appears on NYU Press’s blog From the Square. Check it out and thanks for reading.

Crossing Faith & Color Lines in the South

This May I had the opportunity to teach a course unlike any I’ve taught before: Interfaith Atlanta Across the Color Line (RELS 298). 1) It was a Maymester course (a semester condensed into a little over two weeks), making each day effectively a week of class. 2) It was a study away course, so we spent one week in a traditional classroom setting (albeit one that met 3.5 hours-a-day Monday-Friday) and one week learning through a variety of activities outside the classroom. 3) It was a course with an explicitly Southern emphasis, designed to explore the intersection of religion and race in and around Atlanta, GA.

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Me with Julia, Mona, Tanner, Kristen, and Iman at the Center for Civil and Human Rights

And for all those reasons, plus (read: most importantly) an incredible group of com/passionate and hilarious students, this class was and undoubtedly will remain one of the best teaching experiences of my life.  Continue reading

In the beginning, there were no Indians, Africans, or Europeans…

Or, What African American Studies Teaches Me About Religion in America

(Re-posted from Religion in American History)

Where to begin, where to begin… This semester I am teaching Religion in America (RELS 250 here at CofC) for the first time, if you can believe it. Up to this point it was the class I’d thought most about how to teach but had never actually taught. No longer! Now I’m wrestling in realtime with the dilemmas many of us share on the daily. What must I include? What can I cut? Where (oh, where!) do I begin?

Unsurprising to most (who read this blog), I began with requisite hand-wringing. What is the “religion” in American religion? What, where, and who is the “America” in religion in America? These questions are crucial for me. In a sense, these questions are what my course is about. I like opening all my classes on this meta-level, challenging students to challenge themselves (and the world around them) about what they assume they already know. Whether its a 101 intro or a 200-level African American religions survey, one of my universal objectives is for us to wrestle with the fraught history of words that might appear, at first glance, to be neutral, even innocuous: “religion,” “nation,” “race,” “America.”

The trick is how to get this to stick. Continue reading