Kathryn Lofton

Kathryn Lofton is Professor of American Studies, Religious Studies, History and Divinity at Yale University, and serves as the chair of the Religious Studies department and as deputy dean for Diversity and Faculty Development. Previously, she was editor-at-large of The Immanent Frame and co-curator (with John Lardas Modern) of Frequencies. A specialist in nineteenth and twentieth-century U.S. religions, she has written on the histories of evangelicalism, consumerism, African American religion, and the academic study of religion. Her first book, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, was published by the University of California Press in 2011. She is currently researching several subjects, including the culture concept of the Goldman Sachs Group and the religious contexts of Bob Dylan. Read Kathryn Lofton's interview with Nathan Schneider.

Posts by Kathryn Lofton:

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Trumping reality

The Unblinking Eye | Image via Flickr user Darron BirgenheierWhy those who support Trump do so can be captured by perspectives on income, not income itself; by perspectives on race and immigration, not by racial identity; by a sense that everybody else is wrong for the job, even if he is not quite right for it. Consider: 63 percent of Trump voters favor revoking birthright citizenship (compared to the 51 percent in the overall Republican National Committee (GOP) electorate). Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters claim that President Barack Obama is a Muslim—twelve points higher than the overall GOP figure.

These perspectival shards press us to think about what organizes groups to adhere to ideas that seem senseless to those outside the group; to observe, as well, the fear of those groups. They press us to think, among other things, about religion.

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Sunday, February 22nd, 2015


Some readers may have recently returned to Frequencies only to find that its spiritual focus had radically shifted. Due to hijinks (perhaps predictable) relating to transitory labor, scholarly ignorance, and the virtualization of just about everything, the original site has experienced foreclosure. Its contents will soon be reconstituted in new http territory. Which is to say […]

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Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Corporation as sect

We stand unitedIt is easy to forget that religious freedom wasn’t an only child: she was a part of a family of counter-measures listed in the First Amendment. The naming of religion in the Constitution was, and is, a defensive move: whatever government does, it should not get in the way of its citizens trying to articulate their opinions—opinions articulated through speech, through the press, through assemblage, and through petition. Religion appears in the Establishment Clause as a reminder that religion has been one of the things that has kept people from being able to reply freely to their governments. Free from influences within government, and free from religions that compete with government in their authority.

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Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

The digital is a place to hide

In the digital age, is anything a secret? What comprises the unknown when a search engine is at hand? These questions have technical answers; they also have existential replies. Perhaps there is no greater artifact of what hides in this information age than the office workplace.

In 1975 BusinessWeek predicted a future we now occupy. “In almost a matter of months,” the article began, “office automation has emerged as a full-blown systems approach that will revolutionize how offices work.” It includes a quotation from George E. Pake, who then headed Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center. “There is absolutely no question that there will be a revolution in the office over the next twenty years. What we are doing will change the office like the jet plane revolutionized travel and the way that TV has altered family life.”

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Friday, July 6th, 2012

Sex abuse and the study of religion

Physicians, psychologists, and criminal codes (i.e., Texas state law) largely agree on what constitutes the sexual abuse of children by an adult. It includes, but is not limited to, the sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed; penetrative sex, including penetration of the mouth; encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including masturbation; intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child; showing children pornography, or using children to create pornography; and encouraging a child to engage in prostitution.

What I want to tackle, immediately, is the fraught relationship between effect and affect in this subject for those of us who seek to interpret it. It is difficult to write or think about sex abuse without being affected by its circulating effects, without feeling that the very practices of academic analysis do something suffocating to its experience. To think about sex abuse in an academic context could suggest that we might wish to think away its awfulness; to write about sex abuse could suggest that we seek to argue away its visceral trauma.

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Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Frequencies 91/100 – 100/100

Today marks the hundredth entry in Frequencies.

Read the rest of Frequencies 91/100 – 100/100.
Monday, July 19th, 2010

Holding on to multiplicity

Scholars of religion (like, it seems, scholars of nearly everything animate and inanimate) have yet to decide if the world is full of repeated patterns awaiting discernment or replete with indiscriminate idiosyncrasy. Scholarship on this problem—the problem of comparison, of classification, of the role of the human sciences in their description—fills many an obscure treatise, treatises which rarely find their way to your local Barnes & Noble. And yet, there it is, and here it is, repeated in these posts about Courtney Bender’s new book, and repeated by her most incessantly idiosyncratic characters, her New Metaphysicals. Is the world as plural as every individual proposes (for themselves, to their observing scholar)? Or is the world as redundant as the survey answers format us to suggest? Which will it be: the sociology of well-considered wholes or the beloved humanity of our self-nominated smatterings?

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Monday, November 16th, 2009

So you want to be a new atheist

saved by atheismIf you want to be a New Atheist, first and foremost, you need to possess an unrelenting desire to help. The desire may seem at times cruel, but you have to start focusing on a higher good: the goal here is to get the cannibals to put down their wafer and wine glass. It’s not for your wellness, but for the good of mankind.

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Monday, January 19th, 2009

The Oprahfication of Obama

First, you need a name.  Not just any name.  A weird name: a Biblical misspelling, maybe, or an invocation of some distant land.  No matter what: the name needs an O.  The O will come in handy when you need to summon a common sphere, encourage chanting, or design a gentle logo.  Never deny the utility of its replication, never avoid its allusion, and never miss a moment for its branding.  An O is a space anyone can fill with anything.

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

How now, creationist?

I had a college teacher certain he had found the solution to the problem of creationists, and, at the time, the disturbing news that the Kansas Board of Education would consider a change to their science education standards to incorporate creation-science. “I wrote a letter to the director of admissions,” he proudly told our small seminar, “and I said we should refuse all Kansas applicants.” The school at which this professor reigned was the sort of place whose decisions regarding admissions would make no small ripple, and we sniggered with the imperious pleasure of the privileged. “What an idea!” we hummed after class as we lurked in an archway, circled by our smoke, “Ban the idiots! That will surely show them.” The commentary surrounding Governor Sarah Palin’s creationism smacks of the same sort of pubescent snort. […]

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