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October 3, 2016

Scholar lectures on right-wing politics and religion

A scholar whose latest book explores the connection between right-wing politics and religion will present a lecture Oct. 21 at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Dr. James Aho, emeritus professor of sociology at Idaho State University, will discuss his research that culminated in “Far-Right Fantasy: A Sociology of American Religion and Politics,” published earlier this year. His appearance is part of the CAS Lecture Series, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and supported by a donation from the Seidler family.

The free lecture in Edwards Hall 112 is open to the public. Refreshments will be served at 6 p.m., followed by Aho’s lecture at 6:30. Register here.

In his new book, the 10th he has published, Aho explores movements — many fueled by religious beliefs — that call for rebellion against the U.S. government. He writes that ultra-rightists are “almost exclusively white, middle-aged Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and Mormons, animated by a doctrine known as Dominionism,” a belief based on scripture that God has commanded mankind to reconstruct America based on biblical and constitutional teachings.

Some examples of actions triggered by such ideology include the anti-Masonic movement in the 1830s, the Civil War, McCarthyism in the 1950s and the religious-right revolution of the 1980s led by influential Christians such as the Rev. Pat Robertson. The most recent example is the tea party movement that arose after the election of President Barack Obama.

Aho theorizes such movements to return to what believers feel were better times in America happen in 30-year cycles, or roughly once each generation. Social media and the Internet in general — places where people with like ideas can easily connect with one another — can fuel such revolutionary fires even more these days. Aho writes that the danger of “echo-chamber communications systems emblematic of the far right” is that they “nurture prejudice and prepare audiences psychologically to commit detestable deeds in good conscience.”

Aho taught for more than 40 years at Idaho State and has won several awards for his published works, most notably the Gustavus Myers Award in 1994 for the best study of human rights in North America. His appearance in the CAS Lecture Series is part of the college’s commitment to support scholarly activity that advances teaching and contributes to the broader intellectual, artistic, cultural and professional communities.

For more information, contact Linda Amos at (239) 590-7155 or [email protected].