Earthly Objects: Agriculture and Nature Religion in the Antebellum North
Dougherty, Matthew W.
The category of “nature religion,” first proposed by Catherine Albanese, drew attention to the religious work that the concept of nature has done in North America. This paper argues for the importance of nature religion in evangelical writing about agriculture during the aggressive expansion of the early and mid-nineteenth century. It argues, first, that evangelicals portrayed agriculture as redemptive: exalting human beings from economic dependency and perhaps returning the earth to an Edenic state. Second, it argues that evangelicals portrayed the extension of European-style agriculture as a way to redeem the land from “waste” and fulfil its divinely appointed purpose. Third, it argues that evangelicals read the flourishing of agriculture as a sign that the dispossession of Indigenous peoples fulfilled God’s purposes, making landscapes into texts authorizing colonial expansion.
Rabbi Myer and Dorothy Kripke Center, Creighton University
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