About

James Wellman is Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program and Term Professor for the Initiative for Global Christian Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies. Teaching at the University of Washington since 2002, his areas of expertise are in American religious culture, history, and politics, as well as in religion, conflict and international studies.

Prof. Wellman’s Spring Quarter Courses, 2020:

  • RELIG 101 A Life Worth Living:  Mondays – Thursday: 9:30-10:20 a.m.
    • What makes a life worth living? Using religious and humanistic traditions, we create meaning; we develop ethical traditions that enable trust and a thriving social order; and finally, we study the resources in our lives, which mobilize energy to drive our dreams. Rites of passage, from the indigenous to the post-modern, empower us to navigate our journeys. Each student will ask what makes life worth living? Each will create meaning and ethical maxims, as well as tools to navigate our global market to fashion a flourishing life. A life worth living, therefore, masters meaning, morals and the resources that create a life that uplifts, delights and loves the world.
    • I’ve taught RELIG 101 for two years–the outcomes from my students have been outstanding. Each student writes a final paper explaining what makes their life worth living, and then a detailed plan on how to achieve that life. In each case, students have written to me that this course changed their life, and made their future much clearer and much more exhilarating.
  • JSIS 596: Ph.D. Seminar: Religions, Cultures and Civilizations.  Thursday: 1:30-4:20 p.m.
    • The purpose of this seminar is to expose students to a selection of key works across the social sciences and critical humanities in the Religions, Cultures, and Civilizations (RCC) field. The RCC field engages the diversity of cultural and religious life throughout the world, anchored by concrete studies of world areas, histories, cultural and political movements, and religious institutions and practices.  This field exposes students to theoretical and international debates about religions, cultures, and power. Through a survey of the major concepts, theories, and controversies in these debates, the seminar will help both masters and doctoral students gain a solid appreciation of the fundamental approaches to RCC-related works.

Wellman is leading a new Initiative for Global Christian Studies. If you are interested in it or in contributing to this Initiative, please get in touch with him at: jwellman@uw.edu. And, if you want to discover more about it, please listen here.

Wellman is also working on a new area of research on Cross Cultural Religious Literacy. This is a program sponsored and funded by the Carnegie Bridging the Gap initiative. In partnership with his colleagues, Chris Seiple and Randy Thompson, we are developing an interdisciplinary group of scholars and global practitioners—from diplomats and military to NGOs and business—that teaches skill sets at the intersection of religion and realpolitik.  We are working to institutionalize a process of inter-cultural and religious understanding by creating a certificate in Cross Cultural Religious Literacy. If you are interested in further information, please see our website.

Wellman’s most recent book, High on God: How Megachurches Won a Nation will be published by Oxford University Press in February, 2020. In this book he explores Durkheim’s concept of homo duplex, explaining how megachurches make meaning possible for humans by simultaneously meeting their personal and communal needs. Along with his co-authors, Katie Corcoran and Kate Stockly, we use a large data set on megachurches to show a six step process that megachurches engage to give humans the “high” of knowing that their lives have meaning in relation to a larger community.

Wellman’s book, Rob Bell and a New American Christianity (Abingdon Press, 2012), explores one of the most well-known and controversial evangelical ministers in America. Bell, up until 2011, led a 10,000-member megachurch, and is now pursuing media opportunities in Hollywood. Bell’s artistry as a preacher, his fearlessness in pursuing various forms of media, makes him an ideal person to examine the future horizon of American Christianity. As Wellman wrote: “In this way, Bell is a postmodern evangelist–a slam poet, Billy Graham type, who beguiles with words, images, and ideas about a beautiful Jesus, whose stories transfix and transduce words into flesh, making incarnation the arbiter of all value.”

Wellman’s other publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (Illinois, 1999); two edited volumes: The Power of Religious Publics: Staking Claims in American Society, with Bill Swatos (Praegers, 1999), and Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007). His 2008 monograph, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press), received Honorable Mention for the 2009 Distinguished Book Award by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Wellman edited a volume with Clark Lombardi, called Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 2012). This volume examines case studies of the impact of religious groups on the human security of states in every region of the world.

Wellman is a Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Brooke Wellman and they live in the Seattle area.  He has three daughters, Constance and Georgia, both of whom attended and graduated from the University of Washington. Most recently, the family welcomed a third daughter, Simone James Wellman, who daily creates moments of pure joy and love. Each of these amazing women are his “bright and shining morning stars.”