March 16, 2005 Mark Noll to Discuss "The Bible in American Public Life, 1860-2005" on April 21

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Mark Noll, whom Time magazine recently named “one of the 25 most distinguished evangelicals in the United States,” will discuss “The Bible in American Public Life, 1860-2005: Dilemmas at the Center, Insights from the Margins,” at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, in Room 119 of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. This event is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

Noll, holder of the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in American History and Ethics at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center, is McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College and the current president of the American Society of Church History. At the Library of Congress, he has been studying the significance of the Bible in American public life, with special reference to the polemics of the Civil War era.

Referring to the use of specific biblical evocations at notable moments in American public life (such as Lincoln’s second inaugural address and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech), Noll asserts that it is the speakers’ personal “scriptural rootedness” that accounts for the moral power of these addresses.

In his talk, Noll will attempt to explain how using the Bible in a political context can present some interesting questions and dilemmas, such as: Does greater use of the Bible encourage religious integrity, or does it make the Bible seem more exclusionary in a religiously pluralistic nation?

Noll will also examine some American groups who were very much committed to the Bible—antebellum African Americans, German and Italian Catholics during the Civil War, Quebec religious leaders, ca. 1870-1914, American Jews, ca. 1900-20—and how they used the Bible despite the fact that they did not appear to capture the attention of the mainstream at the time. Finally, Noll will attempt to draw some conclusions about the use of the Bible in contemporary and future public life in the United States.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize scholarly discussion, distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and interact with policymakers in Washington. The Kluge Center houses senior Kluge Chairs, other senior-level chairs, senior distinguished scholars and nearly 25 postdoctoral fellows. For more information about any of the fellowships, grants and programs offered by the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at


PR 05-055
ISSN 0731-3527