CURA: Crucifying the Candidates: Presidential Elections and the Portrayal of Religion in America

  • Starts: 12:45 pm on Friday, December 11, 2020
  • Ends: 2:15 pm on Friday, December 11, 2020
CURA Colloquium with Gabriel Paxton, PhD candidate, Religion The editorial cartoon, also known as the “political cartoon,” has been a mainstay in American journalism since the mid-nineteenth century. These cartoons have famously parodied political leaders, questioned structures of authority, and have satirized political or social norms. Yet, despite comical roots, a cartoon’s capacity for political communication rests in its ability to reduce what is politically absurd, objectionable, and strange into generalizations and symbolic caricatures. A prominent target of this political satire is religion and presidential religiosity. In American popular culture religion has widely factored into political cartoons, highlighting theological and ideological differences within the nation, and in some cases reinforcing the “primordial” status of Protestantism in the United States. Given the ongoing presidential election, this paper asks: how do cartoons portray the religious views of political candidates? What topics, symbols, and generalizations are addressed within religious content? Finally, how do these cartoons demarcate the boundaries of American civic and political culture? To answer these questions, I look at the coverage of two contemporary presidential candidates who were “religious outsiders” to American Protestantism: Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a member of the Mormon church, and the Independent, Jewish Senator Bernard Sanders. Applying a semiotic approach to the cartoon portrayals of Romney and Sanders, I contend that the symbolic characterization of each candidate’s religion is significant to understanding a process of “othering” that places them outside of the political and religious mainstream. Conversely, I hypothesize that some cartoons—those without a polemical aim—illustrated a process of intra-political negotiation that allowed Romney to gain acceptance with Evangelical Republicans, and Sanders to bring socialism to the forefront of American discourse. Email for a copy of this paper. Reading the paper in advance is required for attendance. Co-sponsored with School of Theology
Zoom Meeting ID: 978 5810 4239 Passcode: 599536

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