Religion remains an important source of meaning for many Americans, and its diversity provides a deep reservoir of cultural creativity. From the creation of regalia for Native American and African diaspora worship to the foodways in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim celebrations, to Hindu puja (worship rituals) and the construction of Buddhist shrines, religious communities enact, adapt, and transmit their worldviews in imaginative ways. At the same time, religious institutions and religiously affiliated people have also caused unspeakable harm to many, and the process of reconciliation has only just begun.
At the 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Creative Encounters: Living Religions in the U.S. will carefully examine the intertwining of American religious communities and traditions and the imaginative encounters this mingling produces. Together we will confront those religious acts which have caused harm in the name of conquest and celebrate ones used to create profound cultural change. In examining the role of religion in American life, we will uncover a wellspring of creative expressions in the United States and, in some cases, their ties to others around the world.
Although rooted in millennia-old traditions, living religion involves the vibrant and surprising ways that religion emerges in our lives today. Creative Encounters invites you to join us at a welcome table—a table offering many worldviews, mutual respect, and cultural exchange. If done well, our conversations will extend beyond a two-week Festival, enriching national, even global, understanding about the depth, nuance, and potential of these diverse religious expressions.