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Open Theology

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Striking at the Sacred: The Violence of Prayer, 1960-1969

Tobin Miller Shearer
Published Online: 2015-06-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0002


This essay explores the complex relationship between public prayer and violence during ten years of the Civil Rights Movement. During the 1960s and throughout the long civil rights era, activists who used the race-based, highly performative act of public prayer incited violence and drew the nation’s attention to the black freedom struggle. Study of the public prayers that led to violence further suggests that the introduction of prayer into public space acted as a conduit of moral judgment even when intended as a bridge of connection, a pattern that suggests the exercise of public prayer can be a catalyst for violence.

Keywords: civil rights movement; religion; race; Catherine Bell; black church; body; ritual; white people; black people; kneeling; prayer; African-American religion; violence


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About the article

Received: 2015-01-20

Accepted: 2015-03-18

Published Online: 2015-06-03

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 1, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0002.

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©2015 Tobin Miller Shearer. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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