The dream is freedom : Pauli Murray's theology of American democracy

Azaransky, Sarah April, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Jones, Paul, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation introduces Pauli Murray (1910-1985) as a democratic theorist
who employs a theological idiom to make her most trenchant and persuasive critiques about the possibility of racial justice in America. As a leading activist in the civil rights and feminist movements, as well as being a trailblazing lawyer, professor and priest, Murray is a rare example of someone trained in the so-called language of rights and in the language of religion; this bilingualism equips Murray to speak in a new way about Christianity and American democracy.

The dissertation argues that Murray's project offers both a material account of the relationship between Christianity and American democracy and a methodological program for how to correlate theology and democratic criticism. To demonstrate the former, the study emphasizes three important aspects of Murray's intellectual production, identity, history, and an eschatological politics. To demonstrate the latter, it reveals how Murray employs theological norms to interrogate democratic practices and, conversely, how Murray employs democratic norms to interrogate theological practices.

Murray's analogy between the reigndom of God and the emerging, but not-yet present quality of American democracy presents an eschatological politics, her innovative method of democratic criticism. Her critical appraisals of identity and history inform Murray's political and theological vision of American democracy as beset by contradiction and not yet fully present. This vision, what 1 call Murray's eschatological politics, maintains an essential critical edge that reveals prevalent injustice, while offering a holistic vision of how Americans can contribute to making democracy more fully present.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
racial justice, Christianity and American democracy, democratic theory

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-02-18 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:33:38.

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