Meet King Day 2013 speaker Anthea Butler

Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies and African American studies at the University of Pennsylvania, offers a sermon and the keynote address at Bates’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances. Photograph by Byron Maldonado.

The 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances at Bates include two addresses by Anthea Butler, a theologian whose forthcoming book explores the connection between Sarah Palin’s politics and her religion.

Associate professor of religious studies and graduate chair of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Butler offers the homily, titled God and the 99 Percent, for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel, 275 College St.

And she offers the keynote address, Martin Luther King Jr. and America’s Bad Check: America’s Poor in the 21st Century, at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21, also in the Gomes Chapel. Remarks by Bates President Clayton Spencer and others will precede the address.

The college King Day committee invited Butler as guest speaker because “she is a rare theologian who pays particular attention to political and economic issues,” says Charles Nero, chair of the college’s King Day committee and a professor of rhetoric and American cultural studies.

Butler is a historian of American and African American religion, and explores the intersections of religion with politics, gender, sexuality and popular culture. Her forthcoming book The Gospel According to Sarah (The New Press), looks at the role of religion in Sarah Palin’s political action, and Palin’s influence on the Republican Party.

Butler’s first book, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making A Sanctified World (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) is an engaging look at African American women’s lives and civic engagement, highlighting how African American women’s social uplift in the church is rooted not only in respectability, but in strict religious beliefs.

A regular guest on the Melissa Harris Perry Show on MSNBC and a sought-after media commentator, Butler also reflects on contemporary politics, religion and social issues on the online magazine Religion Dispatches and her own blog, “You Might Think So.”