Purdue University, B.A., Philosophy and Religious Studies, 1994; Union Theological Seminary, M. Div., Ethics, 2002.
American religious history, history of the book/material texts, Native American history
"Holy Waters: Religious Conflicts and Commitments in the Mississippi River Valley, 1780-1830"
The Mississippi River Valley at the turn of the nineteenth century was a site of intense religious competition. Far from Christian institutional centers, and inhabited by an eclectic mix of races, nationalities, religious confessions, and language groups, the region posed a threat to eastern America's self-understanding as a Protestant nation. To claim and control the Mississippi Valley, Protestant evangelicals sent missionaries to institute their doctrines and practices among the European, African, Native American, and Euro-American populace. But their opponents had a head start. Catholic missionaries had been proselytizing the Mississippi Valley for a century, and at the sign of a Protestant invasion, Catholic leaders injected more material, financial, and human resources into the region. “Holy Waters” recovers the neglected story of this dynamic religious contest. Drawing on missionary reports, diaries, letters, emigrant guides, and institutional records, “Holy Waters” examines the religious proclivities and choices of the inhabitants who navigated contending efforts to corral them into faithfulness. By highlighting Catholic and animist vitality and exposing the intense and complicated contest for religious dominance in the region, my dissertation challenges the narrative of inevitable Protestant evangelical victory and expands the story of American religious history.