Cole Lectures explore relationship between religion and violence

R. Scott Appleby (Photo credit: Matt Cashore)

R. Scott Appleby, a historian who studies modern religions and their capacity for both violence and peace building, will deliver the 2011 Cole Lectures at Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s Benton Chapel.

Appleby, a professor of history and the John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, on “The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion as a Source of Violent and Nonviolent Militance.”

He will speak again at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21, on “Strong Religion, Weak Religion: Religious Extremism and Its Violent Accomplices.”

During the first lecture, Appleby will explore whether religion is a unique or even distinctive source of violence in the world. Also, if “militance” is a religious norm, why do some militant religions kill and others heal?

The next morning Appleby will look at two kinds of religious extremism prevalent in the world today. He will discuss the patterns by which religious beliefs, practices, rituals and institutions play a role in ethnic, political and cultural violence.

Appleby is the author or editor of several books, including Strong Religion (2003, with Gabriel Almond and Emmanuel Sivan), The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation (2000), Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East (1997); Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America (1995) and Church and Age Unite! The Modernist Impulse in American Catholicism (1992).  He is the general editor of the Cornell University Press series Catholicism in Twentieth Century America.

Appleby is the lead editor of the Oxford University Press book series Studies in Strategic Peacebuilding and co-editor of the forthcoming OUP Handbook on Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding. As director of the Kroc Institute, he established the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, an international association of Roman Catholic peace and justice scholars and practitioners. He is also director of the multidisciplinary project “Contending Modernities: Catholic, Muslim, Secular.”

Among the publications in which Appleby’s articles and essays have appeared are Foreign Policy, Harvard Theological Review, The New York Review of Books, Journal of American History, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, American Journal of Education, The Review of Politics, Church History, The Christian Century, America, Commonwealth, U.S. Catholic and U.S. Catholic Historian.

The Cole Lectures were established in 1892 by Col. E.W. Cole for “the defense and advocacy of the Christian religion.” Previous speakers have included Paul Tillich, George Buttrick, Don Beisswenger, James Lawson and Jim Wallis.

The lectures, which are free and open to the public, will be videotaped and posted afterwards at