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, 2020:

  • RELIG 490 Global Theologies of Resistance – Monday: 2:30-5:20 p.m. Remote
    • Current global events continue to expose deep cultural divides in regards to views on race, gender, and environmental threats. In response, Professor Wellman is offering a new course, RELIG 490: Global Theologies of Resistance. Students will examine Christian theologies from across the globe that resisted prejudice and oppression based on race, class, and gender, and fought against ecological destruction. Christianity is often seen as a religion of the elite and those that oppress. Challenging this stereotype, students will explore it as a religion of those resisting the status quo and seeking justice for all, including the natural world.Among other movements, the course examines the spiritual and religious basis of Black Lives Matter; Latin American liberation theology; South African theologies of liberation that were key in ending Apartheid; feminist and womanist movements worldwide seeking liberation for exploited and abused women; and indigenous theologies of liberation challenging systemic inequity arising from capitalism. We will also observe the spread of liberationist developments in multiple global religious movements.
  • JSIS 498: Readings Seminar : Comparative Religious Nationalisms.  Wednesday, 4:30 – 6:20 p.m. Remote
    • This course offers an in-depth and comparative analysis of the rise of religious nationalisms around the world. Religion, in one form or another, has been from the beginning central to how national imaginations have built their identity. We will use key contemporary research on the rise of ethnicity, religion and nationalism not only to become more responsible and responsive citizens but also for the sake of understanding how religion has become a major factor in these processes. We will discern  how we can contribute and join in the battle for a more enlightened, peaceful and inclusive community, state and nation. Our lives are constructed and instructed by ethnicity, religion and our national identity, it is incumbent on us to be aware of where these structures come from and the ways in which they inform our thinking, as well as to become more sophisticated observers and critics of our national stories and ideals. This will include thinking about policy and policy-making as we move forward in a world fraught with conflict and tensions over identity, ethnicity, religion and 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.”