God's Politics

God's Politics

I’m Going Back to School (by Jim Wallis)

This fall, for the fifth year, I’m teaching a course at Harvard. I spent Monday, the first day of the semester, in Cambridge. This year’s course, based at the divinity school, is titled “Faith and Politics: Should They Mix and How?” These undergraduate and graduate students come from the divinity school, but also from other schools — the Kennedy School of Government, business school, law school, and other universities and seminaries in the Boston area.
I enjoy these days at Harvard. The class is large, but the discussions are always very stimulating. I learn a lot from these students who come from every religious, racial, and national background. My final lecture each year always focuses on the crucial difference between career and vocation, and over the years, I’ve taught many young people who then act on their faith by going into various occupations — teaching, pastoral ministry, law, medicine, business, journalism, starting or serving nonprofit organizations, community organizing, or politics. (Some are running for Congress!) Many have become friends who I stay in touch with years later, and a couple are now part of our senior staff here at Sojourners. We’ve also gotten some great interns and volunteers from my classes.
It’s a lot of work and time preparing for each week’s lecture (you can’t just do your stump speech for 12 weeks to students as bright as these), commuting there and back on Mondays, meeting with many of the students one-on-one or in small groups, and, of course, reading and grading papers. But I have found it to be well worth it. I love the great events we have around the country, like we had in Iowa last week where we drew 1200 people on a weekday night in Iowa City — more than the candidates are getting these days. But I also love drilling down deeper with a group of 100 smart, eager, critical, (and becoming) committed young people.
Here is the description of this year’s course:


The role of religion and values in public life has always been important in American history, but is now a major political issue. There are those who would restrict religion to the private sphere, those who narrow it to only a few “moral” issues, and those who believe it applies to a broad agenda of issues that affect all of human life and society. For years, the debate has been dominated by the Religious Right, but it is now becoming broader and deeper as other voices are heard. On some of the biggest issues of our time, it now seems possible that faith can be used as a bridge to bring us together on common ground rather than a wedge to divide us.
This course will explore the connection between spiritual renewal and social justice, and how the revival of faith can change society. We will look at that both historically and in our present context. We’ll also look at it in relation to different faith traditions. When politics fails to resolve or even address the great moral issues of the day, social movements often rise up to change politics and meet the challenge. And the best social movements seem to have spiritual foundations.
We will examine these questions from political, theological, spiritual, historical, and practical perspectives. We’ll explore movements past and movements now possible. Given the fall 2007 context, we will discuss how faith and politics was discussed in the last two elections of 2004 and 2006, how it is changing substantially, and why the 2008 election could be very different, on matters of faith and politics, than any campaign in recent years. The agenda of the religious community is changing significantly, and Time magazine reports the “leveling of the praying field” between the two parties.
We will also discuss how the new focus of faith communities on issues like global poverty, climate change, terrorism and war, pandemic diseases, human trafficking, human rights, and genocide could provide the “tipping point” in finding elusive solutions. We will discuss what new movements around those questions would look like and how they are already are emerging. All this will be placed in the historic context and categories of religious engagement with society. We will look again at how H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic typologies might apply today.
This course is for anyone who wants to further explore the relationship between religion and public life, and the only prerequisite is interest. Whatever one’s beliefs (or non-beliefs), the course is planned to help us better understand how the relationship between faith, politics, and society can be healthy, dynamic, and respectful of the First Amendment. The course can also inform people in public life who want to act consistently and appropriately as people of faith.

Comments read comments(9)
post a comment
Stephen Rockwell

posted September 20, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Having taken this class two years ago at HDS, I can attest to what a great class it is. The conversations are engaging with a mix of students from the Divinity School, the college, the Kennedy School of Government and some of the other colleges. Jim welcomes challenges to his ideas and the inter-student dialgue is fantastic.
I used to blog during class…people would forward me questions which i ask in class. It would be great to open up the class using technology…similar to MIT’s Open Courseware.

report abuse


posted September 20, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Mr Wallis –
What will the students be reading for this class and will it be on the web so that we can access the lectures?
Blessings –

report abuse


posted September 20, 2007 at 2:51 pm

So is this a class he’s teaching or a book promotion? j/k… 😉

report abuse

Kevin Wayne

posted September 20, 2007 at 5:01 pm

”So is this a class he’s teaching or a book promotion? j/k… ;)”
How much time have you spent in universities? I’ve found many an occasion to ask that question in the normal course of things.

report abuse

Rick Nowlin

posted September 20, 2007 at 5:09 pm

If you read the story, you’ll note that he said he’s been doing this for at least five years — before “God’s Politics” even came out.

report abuse

Mike Walden

posted September 21, 2007 at 6:24 pm

Will any of the class be accessible on the web? I believe many would benefit if it were. Thank you.

report abuse

Henry Peters

posted September 22, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Who let the troll in?
Unfortunatly, this promotion of right wing politics while subverting faith is still common.

report abuse

Diana Madoshi

posted September 22, 2007 at 4:03 pm

Jim, would love to hear more about the class and the discussions. Can you share with future articles?

report abuse

Pingback: He Is Horny For Tumbleweeds 2015 From Cambridge Ks 67023 | How Bad Does He Want the Tumbleweeds in 2015?

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting God's Politics. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration ...

posted 11:14:07am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Why I Work for Immigration Reform (by Patty Kupfer)
When I tell people that I work on immigration reform, they usually laugh or say, "way to pick an easy topic." Everyday it feels like there is more fear, more hate. Raids are picking up in Nevada, California, and New York. A number of senators ...

posted 12:30:52pm Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Audio: Jim Wallis on "Value Voters" on The Tavis Smiley Show
Last week Jim was on The Tavis Smiley Show and talked about how the changing political landscape will affect the upcoming '08 election. Jim and Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state, debated and discussed both the impact of "value ...

posted 10:11:56am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Verse of the Day: 'peace to the far and the near'
I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like ...

posted 9:35:01am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »

Daily News Digest (by Duane Shank)
the latest news on Mideast, Iran, Romney-Religious right, Blog action day, Turkey, SCHIP, Iran, Aids-Africa, India, Budget, Brownback-slavery apology, Canada, and selected op-eds. Sign up to receive our daily news summary via e-mail » Blog ...

posted 9:31:25am Oct. 16, 2007 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.