Sara Patterson

Professor of Theological Studies

Sara Patterson


– Interfaith Encounters
– Religion in America
– Introduction to Gender Studies
– Confronting Poverty in Indiana

Learn more about Dr. Patterson

Dr. Patterson teaches courses in theology, history of Christianity, and religion in the Americas.

Patterson’s current research project investigates the stories surrounding Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain (see link below), a piece of outsider, religious art in the California desert. In her work Patterson argues that Knight is akin to the early Christian desert fathers who escaped to the desert in order to experience God more fully. Just like the desert fathers, Knight has pilgrims who follow him into the desert seeking out the wisdom he offers. These pilgrims believe that Knight is a modern-day prophet of sorts whose wisdom includes a critique of capitalist materialism and a challenge to intra- and inter-religious divisions. Knight offers a message of divine love for all humans. Pilgrims travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to enter Knight’s constructed world that attempts to embody his message of God’s love for humanity. In her project Patterson is examining the ways that sight, sound, and touch operate in the exchange between the artist and his visitors. It is in the exchange of stories and visions of an alternative world that both Knight and pilgrims to Salvation Mountain construct sacred space together. In 2010-2011 Patterson received a Luce Fellowship from the Society of Arts in Religious and Theological Studies for this project.

In all of her work Patterson investigates the intersections of religious experience, place and community. She also teaches and writes about how gender, race and ethnicity affect religious experiences and religious communities. In 2012 she and her co-author Amy K. Hoyt received an Award of Excellence for their Gender & History article titled “Mormon Masculinity: Changing Gender Expectations in the Era of Transition from Polygamy to Monogamy, 1890-1920.”


B.A., Denison University
M.A.T.S., Claremont School of Theology
Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University


2013, The Stanley Totten Award