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 Faith and Controversy

As the 2012 election approaches, Santa Clara University’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education is holding a series of lectures titled Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere. Speakers will discuss the ways in which sacred texts such as the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures shape the hottest debates of our times: immigration, the economy, gay marriage, war, democracy, and the presidency.

“The U.S. Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State, and rightly so,” said Michael C. McCarthy, S.J., director of the Ignatian Center, which seeks to advance the University’s commitment to integrate faith, justice, and the intellectual life. “And yet the United States is a remarkably religious country. For generations our public life has been deeply influenced by teachings and writings derived from religious traditions. When citizens apply their convictions with understanding, tolerance, sensitivity, and intelligence, we are a stronger nation for it, even when we may disagree profoundly on principles and policies.”

Throughout history, sacred texts have been used, and sometimes misused, by those seeking to assert authority in even the most secular corners of the public sphere:

  • Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan cited biblical principles to defend his budget proposal, while its severe cuts to social services were labeled un-Christian by opposing critics.
  • President Obama cited scripture in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
  • Swearing on the Bible has been a binding pledge for presidents, court witnesses, and judges for decades and more.

The Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere lectures began on Oct. 2 and continue to Election Day on Nov. 6. The lectures are offered through the Center’s Bannan Institute, which hosts yearlong thematic programs to engage Santa Clara University and the larger community around issues of contemporary religious, cultural and theological debate. A full list of events and speakers is available at www.scu.edu/ignatiancenter.

Upcoming lectures:

  • HOMOSEXUALITY: Jeffrey Siker, professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, “Scriptural Politics of Family and Homosexuality: Textual Orientations.” Issues will include the presidential candidates’ views on same-sex marriage, and the scriptural or moral backings each cites for his position. (Oct. 23, 4 to 5:15 p.m. at the St. Clare Room of the Library and Learning Commons.)
  • CATHOLIC CONSCIENCE: David DeCosse, professor of ethics at Santa Clara University, “Catholicism, Politics, and the Primacy of Conscience: Reflections on Newman’s ‘Letter to the Duke of Norfolk.’” Issues include 19th Century English theologian John Henry Newman’s view of Catholic conscience. (Oct. 24, 4 to 5:15 p.m. at the St. Clare Room of the Library and Learning Commons.)
  • ECONOMY: Catherine Murphy, religious studies professor at Santa Clara University, “Scriptural Politics of the Economy: Bringing the Gospel to Bear on Our Economic Debates.” Issues include the controversy over the Ryan budget and scripture as a resource for economic decision-making. (Oct. 30, 4 to 5:15 p.m. at the St. Clare Room of the Library and Learning Commons.)
  • PRESIDENTS: James Bennett, professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, “Scriptural Politics of the American Presidency: Religion in the 2012 Presidential Election.” Issues include the role of religion in presidential races, and the fact that this year’s ballot contains the most diversity in religious affiliations ever offered to voters. (Election Day, Nov. 6, 2012, 4 to 5:15 p.m. at the St. Clare Room of the Library and Learning Commons.)

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