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God and Sex in America

Lecture Crosley Lecture Series

R. Marie Griffith

R. Marie Griffith

Ever since the emergence of the religious right as a political force in the late 1970s, scholars and commentators have sought to explain its origins, often by depicting it as a reaction to the sexual rebellion and social movements of the preceding decade. But the true origins of our political and religious divides lie in sharp disagreements that emerged among American Christians a century ago. In the 1920s, after women gained the right to vote nationwide, a longstanding religious consensus about sexual morality began to fray irreparably. The slow but steady unraveling of that consensus in the decades that followed—over such issues as birth control, obscenity, interracial relationships, female chastity, sex education, abortion, sexual harassment, and LGBTQ rights—has transformed America's broader culture and public life, dividing our politics and pushing sex to the center of our public debate. This lecture describes how all of this unfolded and analyzes the pervasive fears driving our sex-obsessed politics.


R. Marie Griffith is the John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and the editor of the Center's journal, Religion & Politics. Professor Griffith obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia in Political and Social Thought and her Ph.D. in the study of religion from Harvard University.

Before moving to Washington University in 2011, she served as professor of religion and director of the women and gender studies program at Princeton University and later as the John A. Bartlett Professor of New England Church History at Harvard. While at Princeton, she was awarded both the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Cotsen Fellowship for Distinguished Teaching. She is the author or editor of six books, including God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (1997), Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (2004), and the newly released Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics (2017). In 2015 she was appointed a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. Griffith is a frequent media commentator and public speaker on current issues pertaining to religion and politics, including the changing profile of American evangelicals and ongoing conflicts over gender, sexuality, and marriage.


WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion
716 Stevens Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Assigned Reading

R. Marie Griffith, Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics (Basic Books, 2017)


5 p.m. in the UNE Art Gallery (Portland Campus)


(207) 221-4435

God and Sex in America Lecture Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public