“Putting an American God into Public Schools around the World: The Transnational 1990s History of a U.S. Culture War,” Diplomatic History (Forthcoming)
In the 1990s, a coalition of U.S. evangelical organizations launched a campaign to save souls in the former Soviet Union by proselytizing in public schools. This project, called the CoMission, retrofitted foreign public institutions for American evangelism and expanded U.S. evangelicals’ fight for prayer in schools into a global crusade. In only seven years, the campaign raised 70 million dollars, trained 42,000 public school teachers in 150 cities across 10 countries, and distributed 10 million pieces of evangelistic literature and films to over seven million schoolchildren in Russia and Eastern Europe. By internationalizing an American culture war, the campaign imposed abroad the framing that U.S. evangelicals were using at home while also reinforcing the idea that the U.S. culture war over schools was not complex, but simple – there were those who wanted God in schools, and there were those who opposed God. Inspiring widespread support and fierce opposition, the CoMission flattened multifaceted dynamics in the United States and the former USSR in the 1990s into a dualistic battle of good versus evil that combined the discourses of the Cold War with those of the U.S. culture wars. Assessing the methods and messages of the CoMission reveals how transnational religious activism linked American international influence and U.S. domestic activism in the late twentieth century.
“Missionary Positions: How American Evangelicals Learned to Love Global AIDS Relief,” article under review
In the 1980s-2000s, American missionaries launched a campaign to convince US evangelicals that the AIDS epidemic was an opportunity to extend their influence around the world. Missionaries taught American evangelicals that doing AIDS work would allow them to convert millions of souls, elevate themselves into positions of power over foreign suffering others, and impose heteropatriarchy around the world. Reframing AIDS work as a tool of empire made it appealing to US evangelicals. Missionaries coached US evangelicals to cut off AIDS from feelings of disgust (domestic context) and stick AIDS to feelings of possessive love and hierarchical compassion (global context). Once evangelicals learned to love global AIDS work, they funded abstinence-only education courses packaged as AIDS prevention programs across the Global South and used their domestic political networks to shape US global AIDS policy more broadly. Through these decades, American evangelicals transformed from the most implacable foes of AIDS victims domestically to the face of AIDS relief internationally. Tracing US evangelicals’ changing involvement with the AIDS epidemic reveals how religion functioned as an imperial force and how American pandemic politics connected “home” and “abroad” in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.