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ReligionsMN brings together scholars specialized in a range of religious traditions with Minnesota’s communities and professional organizations to help Minnesotans navigate challenges, promote greater religious literacy, foster nuanced and informed public conversation about and across religious difference, and provide publicly accessible web-based local resources to support that effort. Rather than keep the rich knowledge and wealth of research within the confines of the academy, this project seeks to promote collaborations with community partners to help Minnesota communities access and leverage scholarly resources for public good.
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Minnesota is no outlier to the divisions in America. The divides are racial, ethnic, economic, generational, and geographical in nature, but they are increasingly and crucially religious. Talk of registering Muslim neighbors simply because of their religion has found disturbing traction in the mainstream of public discourse. By turns, evangelical Christians of a wide array of political, social, and theological positions are lumped together as though they think and act as a single entity. The particular circumstances, histories, and nuanced perspectives that shape Minnesota's diverse communities are often lost in a sea of generalization.
At the same time as Minnesota is not unlike other states, it has enjoyed a reputation for social capital and civic capacity to address these challenges. To be sure, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis Police and of Philando Castille in 2016 by a police officer from St. Anthony laid bare what the state's people of color have known all along: that what was once dubbed the "Minnesota Miracle" is belied by some of America's worst racial gaps in educational and economic achievement, social well being, and safety. And, at the same time, whether measured by electoral participation, volunteerism, charitable giving, or refugee resettlement Minnesota has a capacity for civic engagement and an ethos of neighborliness that—fragile and limited as it is—can be commended and drawn upon as a powerful resource for healing divisions in the current climate.
ReligionsMN aspires to address some of the challenges of religious difference by tapping into this ethos and nurturing it through accessible public scholarship that helps Minnesotans understand one another’s religious commitments in all their difference and commonality. We believe this endeavor to be all the more important as we continue to see profound changes in Minnesota’s religious landscape coupled with an increasingly charged political climate over religious, racial, and ethnic difference.
The visibility and pace of these changes have generated enormous tensions in civic life, as workplaces, public spaces, schoolrooms, hospitals, and courtrooms contend with new realities and unexamined assumptions. Minnesota’s religious, racial, and ethnic communities have found themselves in the position of having to educate others about their religious beliefs and practices. Navigating cultural and religious difference presents on-going and ever-shifting challenges and we hope this project helps, in some small way, to address them.