Faithfully Political: Religion, Politics, and the Search for Meaning
It is almost universally agreed that there are two subjects one should avoid discussing in polite company: religion and politics. In part, this is because religion and politics speak to us at the deepest levels of our being. They are both ways that we seek to make sense of the world. They are, in other words, topics worth exploring. In October and November of this year, our Adult Forums will challenge this well-worn taboo and examine the interplay of faith and politics. Politicians, scholars, and people of faith from around the area will discuss the ways our deeply held religious and political views shape the way we experience the world. In this contentious political season, we hope you will join us as we consider what it means to be both faithful and political.
“So that We May be Like Other Nations”: The Politics of Ambivalence in the Book of Samuel
Perhaps surprisingly, Scripture has quite a lot to say about politics. Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament contain numerous references to the political realities of the world and the ways faithful people should engage with the world around them. Few biblical texts articulate this better than the Book of Samuel. Samuel explores the seduction of power, the danger of misplaced loyalty, and the challenge of reconciling political engagement with our devotion to God. Join David Romanik as he considers what this astonishingly relevant book has to say to people of faith about this election cycle and our common life.
Click here for video excerpts from October 2 session.
Religious Freedom: Past, Present (Controversies), Future
Philadelphia was the birthplace of religious freedom, but today the idea is under threat around the world, including by some who claim to defend it. With an eye on history and global trends, Dr. Jon Pahl, the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at Lutheran Theological Seminary, will explore the recent controversies over marriage equality and the Affordable Care Act at the intersection of religion and politics in the United States.
Click here for video excerpts from October 9 session.
The Political Poet
When explaining the political vocation, Mario Cuomo famously observed, “You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.” In a similar vein, John F. Kennedy suggested, “If more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a better place.” Though they were making distinct points, both politicians agreed on an important truth: Poetry has a unique ability to describe the shape of the world. Redeemer parishioner Dr. Charles Zeiders has a deep appreciation for poetry’s expressive power. As an Anglo Catholic psychologist and poet, Charles uses poetry and spirituality to explore the politics of the contemporary age. Join him as he explores the intersections of faith and politics through a poetic lens.
Click here for video excerpts from October 16 session.
Working for the Common Weal: Community Engagement through Collaborative Politics
Pennsylvania is one of four states designated as a “commonwealth.” This distinction does not have legal implications; instead; it refers to a political community established for the “common weal” (or “common good,” in modern English). Redeemer parishioner Tiffany O’Neill has spent her political career working for the common good in the communities she has served throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As both a volunteer and an elected official, she has collaborated with people of many backgrounds and political affiliations. Join her as she shares her passion for public engagement and describes her collaborative approach to working for the common good.
Click here for video excerpts from October 23 session.
God Talk in the White House:
The Use and Abuse of Presidential Religious Rhetoric
In his first inaugural address, George W. Bush pledged, “When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.” This reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan is a powerful example of a president using a religious reference to communicate his moral vision. Indeed, throughout the history of this country, politicians have used religious language to express a sense of shared values with the American people. The Reverend Dr. Adam Kradel, political scientist and rector of Christ Church in Media, has studied this phenomenon by examining religious rhetoric used by American presidents in the post-World War II era. He has found that citizens tend to respond to presidents familiar with religious narratives, especially when they are seeking a leader who communicates beyond simple self interest. Join Adam as he shares his findings and explores the implications of our elected officials using religious language.
Click here for video excerpts from October 30 session.
The Perils of Absolutism
Even at their best, politics and religion are necessarily imperfect. Politics requires compromise and as such, it is almost never ideologically pure. Meanwhile, religion is a finite placeholder for an infinite God. Both religion and politics, in other words, require us to recognize their limitations. Nevertheless, there are many who assume that politics and religion are only legitimate if they are “pure.” Join Dr. Aryeh Botwinick, professor of political science at Temple University, as he explores how a deeper understanding of theology can challenge these absolutist tendencies in both politics and religion.
The Political Vocation: Who Are You Called to Be in Shaping the Good Society?
Though our politics have become nearly intolerable for many of us, people of faith have described a sense of being summoned to participate in the political process for generations. The Reverend Bill Golderer is one of these people. For over 15 years, Bill has participated in various aspects of regional and national politics in an attempt to help fashion a more compassionate and just society. He is the Senior Pastor at Arch Street Presbyterian Church and the founder of Broad Street Ministry, an innovative community that provides hospitality to over 8,000 Philadelphians struggling with hunger and homelessness. In 2016, Bill sought to represent Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S House of Representatives. Join Bill as he reflects on the intersections of his political and Christian vocations.
The Islamic State and al-Qaeda: Allegiance, Rebellion and the Caliphate.
Though we tend to assume that al-Qaeda and the Islamic state fall under the same umbrella, the relationship between these two extremist groups is incredibly fraught. Join Dr. Barak Mendelsohn, professor of Political Science at Haverford College, as he explores the way these groups argue about questions of legitimate authority and rebellion in Islam, and demonstrates how each is employing this discourse to promote its own interests while discrediting the other’s Islamic credentials.