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WIU Professor Earns National Recognition For Book

Western Illinois University Religious Studies professor, Amy Carr, received national attention this spring for her look at theological ways of interpreting and responding to the political polarization of Christianity.

A book she co-authored with Christine Helmer, professor of humanities at Northwestern University, was honored as a finalist in Theology and Religious Studies at the 2024 Association of American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) awards. Their book is “Ordinary Faith in Polarized Times: Justification and the Pursuit of Justice.”

"I am grateful to Baylor University Press for nominating our book for the PROSE award, and for supporting from the start a book that seeks to build bridges among Christians who think very differently from one another about how their faith relates to contested ethical and political issues," Carr said.

The book examines theological and spiritual resources for Christians in the United States who may find themselves unable to speak to one another across deep divisions regarding “urgent social issues.” Carr and Helmer address this using theology to center the idea of justification by faith in Christ (not particular views on hot-button issues) as the primary ground of Christian belonging and community.

“Carr and Helmer articulate ways that justification by faith grounds Christian practices of effective listening and storytelling, even on the most contentious ethical questions today, with the hope that mutual conversation in and through the Beloved Community can get Christians who disagree oriented towards each other again for the good of the world,” according to the book’s description.

Carr and Helmer were also honored for their religious writings in 2023 when the pair received an Award of Merit for their article “Hospitable Courage in a Divided Church.” The article appeared in Reflections, a journal from the Yale Divinity School.

Find more information about WIU’s Religious Studies program, visit

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