Religion & Resistance

Tuesday, February 6th 2018 to Thursday, May 24th 2018

In many faith traditions, the promotion of social justice values is paramount. Activists who are inspired by the teachings of their faith often include religious references on protest signs and posters, as well as in performances. These religious allusions constitute markers to faith communities, calling all members to the cause. Religious references may also serve to ground the protest in ancient history and culture, linking a contemporary resistance movement with a well established, and possibly sacred, social value. 

Religion can be a powerful force. Challenges to religiously-based ethical standards and moral behavior often compel people of faith to respond with protests in support of their vision of a just society or a greater sacred order. Faith-based protest movements range widely in purpose: while some faith groups have played prominent roles in bringing attention to injustice, others have used religion to justify intolerance.

The past year saw heightened protests across the United States in reaction to a troubled political landscape that threatens social and environmental justice, human rights, and even behavioral norms. In the responding demonstrations, some participants choose to express faith-based sentiments on their protest signs. In other cases, it is religious communities who lead the protests, with secular groups joining in common cause.

In Religion and Resistance, we considered religion as a locus of dissent and an impetus for collective action, from the Vietnam War era to the present. Ken Light presented stunning photographs, with protest scenes and other crystallized moments that reverberated with religious imagery and significance. A series of archival posters captured a wide range of causes, each one connected to a faith group, a religious issue, or the artistic use of religious symbols. Religion and Resistance also included protest signs, made and used in the past year, to demonstrate resistance toward the current government and its exclusionary and unjust policies. Presiding over the exhibition was a giant puppet of Archbishop Oscar Romero, from Bread & Puppet in Vermont, reminding us of the ultimate cost some incur in standing up for justice.

Religion & Resistance was featured in SFGate and J. News 

An exhibition catalog was created in tandem with this exhibition, and copies are still available to purchase!