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Biever Lecture Series presents 'Apocalypse in the White House'

Loyola press release - October 12, 2009

Defining how American presidents have prevented apocalyptic transformation around the world will be the subject of a lecture at Loyola University New Orleans, featuring Ira R. Chernus, Ph.D., professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The Religious Studies Department in the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences, the Middle East Peace Studies program and the Biever Guest Lecture Series will sponsor the lecture, “Apocalypse in the White House: From FDR to Obama,” on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 5:15 p.m. in Miller Hall Room 114.

The lecture will focus on how presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt have used apocalyptic language, drawn from biblical scripture, to mobilize resistance to major changes that might threaten the position of the United States. Chernus will also address how President Barack Obama is currently dealing with this tension.

“Americans have always spoken of their nation as a force for apocalyptic change in the world,” said Chernus. “Since Franklin D. Roosevelt, though, presidents have been more likely to speak of America as a bulwark against apocalyptic change.”

Chernus began his academic career studying the history of religions, in particular the history of Judaism, with special emphasis on rabbinic Judaism and Jewish mysticism. During the 1980s, he became active in the anti-nuclear movement and applied his skills as an historian of religions to studying the cultural and symbolic meanings of nuclear weapons. This interest led Chernus in a whole new direction for his research and teaching, a focus on issues of war and peace in the United States, which led to a larger interest in U.S. foreign and national security policies, and in the peace movement as a counter-voice to the mainstream views on these issues.

He most recently completed a large project on President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This project gives special attention to Eisenhower’s policies toward nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament.

Chernus has published “Monsters to Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin,” a book about his views on the connections between conservative religion, moral values and national security policy in the Bush administration.

Chernus’ other books include “Dr. Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons,” “Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace,” “American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea,” and “Apocalypse Management: Eisenhower and the Discourse of National Insecurity.”

In addition to his academic writing, Chernus has written for print publications, including a regular column in the Colorado Daily and for the Boulder Daily Camera. His columns have also appeared around the county in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle and Denver Post.

For more information, contact Catherine Wessenger, Ph.D., professor of religious studies, at wessing@loyno.edu or 504-865-3182.