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"Pulling Apart of America? Partisans, People and the Public"

The 2010 midterm elections have once again forced us to examine the relative levels of unity and discord among the American people. Four of our region's scholars at North Carolina Wesleyan College will examine several forces that divide the public into groups and threaten to turn these groups against one another. The several sessions will focus on historical, political, social and religious tension in the United States, how they have been manifested in society, and their consequences. Attendees should gain greater awareness of the causes of social conflict, differing and competing perspectives in society, and the impact that social division has on their lives.

Friday, February 11, 3:00 – 8:45 p.m. – dinner included & Saturday, February 12, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Mark Lilla, "The Tea Party Jacobins." New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010

Sean Wilentz, "Confounding Fathers: The Tea Party's Cold War Roots." The New Yorker, October 18, 2010

Wilken, Robert. "The Piety of the Persecutors." Pages 48-67 in The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Second Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003 [1984]

MacMullen, Ramsay. Christianizing the Roman Empire: A.D. 100-400. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984. Pages 10-24.

Dogan, Mattei. 2000. "Status Incongruence," from Edgar F. Borgatta and Rhonda J.V. Montgomery (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2nd edition, Volume 5. New York, Macmillan Reference, 2000: 3,049-3,055.

Evans, John H. 1996. 'Culture wars' or status group ideology as the basis of US moral politics. The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 16(1/2): 15-34.

McCarty, Nolan, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal. 2005. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Berkeley CA: Institute on Governmental Studies, University of California Berkeley. Retrieved January 21 2011 from

Seminar Leaders

Dr. Cameron Matthews, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Dr. Cameron Matthews is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and has been at North Carolina Wesleyan College since 2007. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Houston after completing his dissertation on factors that shape presidential success. His primary area of study is the American presidency and other American institutions. He is currently investigating the notion that because American institutions, especially Congress, are divided by partisanship, they seek to divide the public in a similar way in order better structure the vote and increase the odds of reelection.

Dr. Jonathan Sarris, Associate Professor of History

Dr. Jonathan Sarris was born and raised in Maryland. He has a B.A. in history from Washington College in Chestertown, MD, and a M.A. and Ph.D in history from the University of Georgia. He is the author of A Separate Civil War: Communities in Conflict in the Mountain South (Charlottesville, VA: 2006). He joined the faculty of North Carolina Wesleyan College in 2004, where he teaches all manner of American history courses, from Colonial and Revolutionary America to the Vietnam War. He lives in Greenville with his wife, historian and Rocky Mount native Karin L. Zipf, and their two children.

Dr. Molly Weise, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Dr. Molly Weise brings a diverse educational background to her study and analysis of American voting behavior. Inspired by historian and journalist Thomas Frank's 2004 New York Times best-seller What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Weise examined the intersection of political and religious ideologies in her doctoral dissertation, Presidential Vote Choice in 1984 and 2004: The Relative Effects of Voting Cleavages on the Re-Elections of Republican Incumbent Presidents in 2006. In her fifth year at North Carolina Wesleyan College, Dr. Weise teaches courses in Social Problems, Deviant Behavior and Social Control, Social Theory, and variety of special topics courses. She holds a bachelor's degree in Public Relations from Syracuse University, an M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of North Texas, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas Woman's University. Dr. Weise lives in Rocky Mount and is in her second term as the President of the local Business & Professional Women's organization.

Dr. Benjamin L. White, Instructor of Religious Studies

Dr. Benjamin L. White is Instructor of Religious Studies and Program Coordinator for the Religious Studies Program at North Carolina Wesleyan College. This is his first year at the college, having just completed the requirements for a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His field of expertise is Ancient Mediterranean Religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Greco-Roman paganism. He has Masters degrees from Duke University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as a bachelor's degree from Campbell University. He lives in Raleigh with his wife, Melissa. Though a scholar of ancient religion, Dr. White is impressed by the fact that modern religious tension, particularly in our North American context, has a number of continuities with the world in which Christianity first began to grow. He hopes that by placing the modern and ancient side by side, we will be able to see that our own moment in time can be addressed by the past.