“I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.”– Joseph Smith, May 12, 1844, a month before his murder.
The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith established the quintessentially “American religion” according to religious critics from Leo Tolstoy to Harold Bloom, perhaps the last major religion to emerge in the Western world. Founded during the rise of Jacksonian Democracy, early Mormonism contained many populist and egalitarian tenets, yet behind Smith’s theology of an ever more exalted path to individual godhood lay an extraordinary politics demanding a new, theocratic hierarchy. This presentation will discuss how Smith’s apocalypticism and exceptional politics of continual revelation confronted a pluralistic Protestant society with the superseding aim of creating a uniquely American theocracy. Smith’s apocalyptic political theology challenges liberal pluralism both in its inception – by emerging out of pluralism itself from a seemingly integrated populace – and in the isolating peculiarity of its reactionary theocratic tenets. The intensity of both challenges illustrates that some theocratic encounters cannot be answered only through the traditional liberal solutions of negotiation, rational discussion, and the privatization of religion.
Prof Alan Koenig, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Political Science at Baruch College, CUNY, will speak to the Columbia community on “American Theocracy and the Apocalyptic Political Theology of Joseph Smith” this April 10th, from 4:30-630pm.
Prof Koenig’s lecture is part of the IRCPL’s Religion and Politics in American Public Life lecture series, coordinated by Professors Karen Barkey, Jean Cohen, and John Torpey. Seeking to further understand the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, the series continues to explore a number of timely topics that intersect with religion, such as civil religion, public discourses of morality, and reproductive and sexual rights.
Sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the Department of Political Science at Columbia University; and the PhD Program in Sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY.