Beth Shalom Hessel

Beth Shalom Hessel is executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society and director for church records and history for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), living in Philadelphia. Her dissertation was titled Let the Voice of Christian America Speak: Religion and Empire in the Japanese American Incarceration Camps, 1942–1945.

At his inauguration on January 20, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower took an unprecedented step: after taking the oath of office, he led the nation in prayer. During his prayer, which historian Kevin Kruse notes helped make Eisenhower’s inauguration as much a “religious consecration” as a “political ceremony,” the new president asked God to “make full and complete [the executive branch’s] dedication to the service of the people.” Eisenhower’s professed dedication to serve all the citizens of the United States and his willingness to rely upon God’s help were not entirely new. 
September 13, 2016

Conservative religious people decry what they see as a liberal media unsympathetic to their worldview. Liberal Protestants and Catholics wonder why the media deploys the umbrella term “Christians” but seems to mean mostly people who sound nothing like them. People of other faiths may wonder why they rarely appear in the news except to represent extremism of some form. It seems as if the media aids rather than ameliorates the growing polarization of the American populace. Eighty-nine years ago an interfaith group of activists and religious and political leaders aimed to use the nascent radio and movie industries to bring people of different faiths, races, and ethnicities together. 
June 7, 2016

It's a humanitarian crisis that has riveted the international community: refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere seeking asylum from civil war and violence. Images of the small, drowned body of Aylan Kurdi ignited our consciences and challenged world leaders to begin addressing the needs of these refugees. The surge of unaccompanied minors into countries like Sweden mirrors the marked increase of Central American children entering the United States in 2014, fleeing violence at home.
October 6, 2015