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[Editor’s Note: A downloadable, high-resolution photograph of Bivins is available at news.owu.edu/images.html.]

Religion Expert to Discuss Evangelical Pop Culture During Visit to Ohio Wesleyan University

March 5, 2008

Jason C. Bivins, Ph.D.
DELAWARE, OHIO – Jason C. Bivins, Ph.D., associate professor of religion at North Carolina State University, will present “ ‘Like Beating the Dog’: Religion, Fear, and American Democracy” at 7:30 p.m. March 26 in Benes Room B of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

Bivins specializes in U.S. religions and how they have intersected with the nation’s politics since 1900. He will discuss the simultaneous rise of fearfulness and political apathy in America by examining conservative evangelical pop culture and its effect on the political landscape. His presentation, Ohio Wesleyan’s 119th Merrick Lecture, will be based on his upcoming book, “The Religion of Fear: The Politics of Fright in Conservative Evangelicalism,” scheduled for publication this fall by Oxford University Press.

In his book, Bivins discusses popular methods used by conservative evangelical groups to communicate and shape religious and social identity in the political arena. Instead of analyzing high-profile leaders or their speeches, he examines more mass-produced and/or local forms of communication, including the “Left Behind” book series and “Hell House” productions in local churches. The “Left Behind” books explore the end-of-days concept from the Book of Revelation, while church “Hell Houses” resemble Halloween haunted houses, but with graphic depictions of the consequences for not following biblically derived teachings.

Bivins earned his bachelor of arts degree at Oberlin College and his doctorate at Indiana University. He also is the author of “The Fracture of Good Order: Christian Antiliberalism and the Challenge to American Politics,” published in 2003 by University of North Carolina Press.

Ohio Wesleyan’s Merrick Lecture was founded by Frederick Merrick, a professor and former president of the university. Each year’s lecture discusses an aspect of “experimental and practical religion” and, over the course of the past century, has reflected the dynamic growth and change of the academic study of religion. Past lecturers have included Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Hazel Barnes, and Martin Marty. The Merrick Lecture is the university’s oldest running lecture series.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.