Grawemeyer Award in Religion

The Grawemeyer Award in Religion is made possible by the creative generosity of the late H. Charles Grawemeyer. Louisville Seminary, jointly with the University of Louisville, awards the $100,000 prize to honor and publicize creative and significant insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine. The award also recognizes ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community.


2022 Winner: Duncan Ryuken Williams

Duncan Ryuken Williams Work describing Buddhists’ faith despite confinement wins Grawemeyer religion prize

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A scholar who explained how Japanese American Buddhists remained true to their faith even after being forced into U.S. detention camps during WWII has won the 2022 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Duncan Ryuken Williams, a religion professor who directs the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture at the University of Southern California, won the prize for ideas set forth in “American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War,” his 2019 book published by Harvard University Press.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government forcibly relocated more than 125,000 people of Japanese ancestry and imprisoned them in detention camps on U.S. soil. Two-thirds were practicing Buddhists.

Some were sent to live in former fairgrounds where stables were hastily converted into living quarters. Others were crowded into dwellings of tarpaper-roofed, Army-style bunkers. Many lost their homes, farms and businesses along with their possessions.

As Williams reviewed diaries and other records of their stay in the camps, he learned Buddhists continued to worship even in confinement. One family celebrated Buddha’s birthday by pouring coffee over a carrot carved in his likeness when they could not perform the traditional ritual of pouring tea over a Buddha statue.

“Their imprisonment became a way to discover freedom, a liberation that the Buddha himself attained only after embarking on a spiritual journey filled with obstacles and hardships,” he said.

The Buddhists’ steadfast devotion to faith in such conditions showed it was possible to be both Buddhist and American and helped launch a less sectarian form of the religion in the United States, Williams found.

“Williams’ work opens the way for a discussion that values religious inclusion over exclusion,” said Tyler Mayfield, who directs the Grawemeyer religion award. “He shows how Japanese Americans living in a time of great adversity broadened our nation’s vision of religious freedom.”

The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give the religion prize. Recipients of next year’s Grawemeyer Awards were named this week pending formal approval by university and seminary trustees. The $100,000 prizes also honor seminal ideas in music, world order, psychology and education. Winners will visit Louisville in April to accept their awards and give free talks on the winning ideas.

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Eligibility

Grawemeyer Religion Award Nominations are invited from religious organizations, appropriate academic associations, religious leaders and scholars, presidents of universities or schools of religion, publishers and editors of scholarly journals. Self-nominations are be accepted or considered. There is no discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief or lack thereof. Previous winners are not eligible for subsequent awards.

Click here to view the Grawemeyer Award eligibility information.

Click here to get the 2023 Grawemeyer Award nomination form.

For more information, contact Dr. Tyler Mayfield.
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
1044 Alta Vista Road
Louisville, Kentucky 40205-1798
U.S.A.
Telephone: (800) 264-1839
Fax: (502) 894-2286

Or see grawemeyer.org/religion for more information.

Past Grawemeyer Award in Religion Winners

1990
E.P. Sanders
Jesus and Judaism

1991
John Harwood Hick
An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent

1992
Ralph Harper
On Presence: Variations and Reflections

1993
Elizabeth A. Johnson
She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse

1994
Stephen L. Carter
The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion

1995
Diana L. Eck
Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras

1996
No Winner

1997
Larry L. Rasmussen
Earth Community, Earth Ethics

1998
Charles Marsh
God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights

1999
No Competition

2000
Jürgen Moltmann
The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology

2001
James L. Kugel
The Bible As It Was

2002
Miroslav Volf
Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation

2003
Mark Juergensmeyer
Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence

2004
Jonathan Sacks
The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations

2005
George M. Marsden
Jonathan Edwards: A Life

2006
Marilynne Robinson
Gilead: A Novel

2007
Timothy B. Tyson
Blood Done Sign My Name

2008
Margaret Farley
Just Love: A Framework For Christian Sexual Ethics

2009
Donald W. Shriver, Jr.
Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember Its Misdeeds

2010
Eboo Patel
Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation

2011
Luke Timothy Johnson
Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity

2012
Barbara D. Savage
Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion

2013
Leila Ahmed
A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America

2014
Tanya Luhrmann
When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God

2015
Willie James Jennings
The Christian Imagination

2016
Susan R. Holman
Beholden: Religion, Global Health, and Human Rights

2017
Gary Dorrien
The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel

2018
James H. Cone
The Cross and the Lynching Tree

2019
Robert P. Jones
The End of White Christian America

2020
No Winner

2021
Stephen J. Patterson
The Forgotten Creed