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The Dynamics of Faith and Politics in Society

Julie Rubio, Professor of Christian Social Ethics, is preparing students to engage difficult conversations inside and outside the classroom.

Julie Rubio, JST’s new Professor of Christian Social Ethics, does not shy away from difficult conversations.  While some may retreat from talking about religion or politics in the public sphere, Professor Rubio points to the necessity of addressing these dynamics of society.  This fall, she is teaching an ethics course titled Faith & Politics.  In this course, Professor Rubio encourages students to consider critical questions like: How ought the religious convictions of citizens shape their political views and activity in a pluralistic society? What does religious freedom entail? Does religious language belong in public? What is the relationship between morality and law? Why are people of faith so divided on political issues? Is there any hope for common ground? 

Professor Rubio encourages students to delve into these difficult conversations, guiding future ministers and leaders of the Church to understand the nuanced and complex relationship between faith and politics, and to consider their own affiliations and perspectives.  While the course primarily focuses on the American context and Christianity, attention too is paid to the broader global context.  Students in the class come from all over the world, from Nigeria to India.  While the conversation’s focus may be narrow, the skills developed in engaging these conversations are applicable to many other particular communities across the world.  Professor Rubio hopes that students will return to their own contexts better equipped to engage these difficult conversations.

During a class this past September, Professor Rubio and her students dug into the topic “Is there a culture war?”  The class commenced by watching Pat Buchanan’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, using the speech as the primary text for that day’s discussion.  In setting up the clip, Professor Rubio remarked that religious differences used to politically divide Americans much more, whereas now interreligious political division has become much more common.  Throughout the discussion, she encouraged students to consider that different political perspectives alter how one defines what it means to be Christian, and how one understands the notion of truth as static or continually unfolding.

Professor Rubio remarks, “A class should be like writing a book.  There should be a coherent narrative that students can follow, with clear take-aways at the end of each class.”  In the fog of these complex dynamics, Professor Rubio is determined to prepare students to face and lead these difficult conversations.