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 Fall Quarter Courses, 2019:

  • JSIS.RELIG 541:  Religion, Politics and International Conflict. Monday: 2:20-5:50 p.m.
    • The course begins with the ways American religion has impacted U.S. foreign policy over its history. We examine this history of successes and failures—judging this history on the development of our ability to negotiate, mediate and reconcile our own secular and/or religious lens in relation to the secular and religious perspective of the other. From this foundation we take on the issues of religion, politics and international conflicts as they relate to questions of human and national security in multiple regions and countries.
  • RELIG 490/590B Comparative Religious Nationalisms; 5 grad; 10 undergrads. Thursday: 2:30-5:20 p.m.
    • This course is for advanced undergraduates and graduate students in religion, politics, international studies, sociology and other fields related to understanding the relation between religion and national identity. The mobilization of religious nationalism is a phenomenon that is sweeping the globe: from Turkey to India, from the United States to Myanmar, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, nations are using religion to mobilize identity and secure political strength. The course studies the theory and empirical reality of how religions are used to solidify and dominate national identity and political movements. Each student will choose their own country to research and write on related to the issue of religious nationalism.

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.”