In the wake of 2014’s Hobby Lobby decision, observers of American society have objected to the contemporary entanglement of religious and corporate activity. And yet religion has animated business structures and decisions for over a century. Drawing especially upon histories of American evangelicalism and its media industry, this talk illustrates how evangelicalism not only has shaped corporate activity but also has developed through it. Beyond suggesting why a relationship between business and religion has made sense to Supreme Court justices, this history of evangelicalism helps explain why corporations find the religious mode useful when telling stories about themselves.
Daniel Vaca is a historian of religion in North America and specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of the United States. Focusing much of his writing and teaching on the relationship between religious life, economic activity, and media, Daniel currently is revising a book manuscript entitled Book People: Commercial Media and the Spirit of Evangelicalism, which traces the history of the evangelical book industry and its audience from the end of the nineteenth century to the present. Before coming to Brown, Daniel received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and held a postdoctoral appointment at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion. He received previous degrees from Cambridge University and the College of William and Mary.
This event is part of the Religion and Politics in American Public Life lecture series. Now in its third year, the series is co-coordinated by Professors Courtney Bender, Jean Cohen, and Josef Sorett. It is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the Department of Political Science at Columbia University; and the Department of Religion at Columbia University. For more information on the series, including future speakers, go to ircpl.org/americanpubliclife.