Monday, February 18, 2013

Speaking at "Secularism on the Edge"

On Wednesday I will be at Georgetown University for a conference entitled "Secularism on the Edge."  (Yes, you read that correctly--a Jesuit university is sponsoring a conference on secularism!).  The conference is the brainchild of Georgetown Jewish Civilization professor Jacques Berlinerblau, author of How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom.

The opening plenary session of the conference will consist of a public conversation with Jacques focused on some of the themes in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction.  If you are in the D.C. area, be prepared for a free-wheeling discussion on the religious beliefs of the founding fathers, the current debate over Christian America, the historic understanding of the separation between church and state, and the political life of American evangelicalism.

I will be speaking in my capacity as an American historian, but also as a committed evangelical who found a lot of useful ideas in How to Be Secular.  Stay tuned.  This should be interesting (and fun).

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, you read that correctly--a Jesuit university is sponsoring a conference on secularism!

These days anything else would be the surprise.

see also

How Catholic is Georgetown University?

by Patrick J. Reilly

...But aside from these scattered improvements, the US bishops have little cause for celebration. Especially at many of the large Catholic universities, officials still thumb their noses at the bishops while ignoring the clearest provisions of Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Dissent in Catholic theology courses comes as no surprise to students, while many theologians scoff at the predicament of bishops who both insist on the mandatum for all teachers of theology (as required by Canon 812) and admit to no means of enforcing the rule. Few colleges and universities require the mandatum for theology professors or even minimal respect for Catholic teaching by professors, staff, officials, and even trustees. The Vatican's clear requirement that a minimum of half the faculty be Catholic is entirely ignored. Campus life often beckons students into sinful behavior, with homosexual clubs and activism expanding rapidly in recent years, leading abortion advocates invited regularly to lecture and receive honors, about ten percent of Catholic campuses annually hosting the vile play "The Vagina Monologues," and more.

Contrary to the predictions of many academics who in 1999 said the furor over "Catholic identity" in education would quickly die down, lay Catholics are increasingly voicing their outrage about campus scandals and exerting real pressure on the colleges and universities to conform to Catholic teaching. (The organization I founded in 1993, the Cardinal Newman Society, has jumped from 3,000 to more than 18,000 members in just the past three years, a sign of growing awareness and concern.)

No place invites more criticism than Georgetown University, and several other Jesuit institutions — Boston College, the College of the Holy Cross, Saint Louis University, Santa Clara University, the University of San Francisco, and others — are also frequently cited for scandals. Many believe that Georgetown is beyond saving as a genuinely Catholic institution. That's probably an exaggeration, but the problems are quite serious.

This much is certain: before the US bishops can declare the great project of renewing Catholic higher education successful, Georgetown must clean up its act. That's a tall order.