Archive for June, 2011

John Fea on Religion & the American Founding

Was America founded as a Christian nation? This is the title of Prof. John Fea’s book and the topic of our podcast this week. Prof. Fea presents a nuanced answer to this question, showing that although that the British American colonies were overwhelmingly Christian in culture in the late 18th century, the Founding was not necessarily a Christian event. We cover what it means to be a “Christian nation,” and examine whether the Founders lived up to Christian ideals, including a discussion of just war theory. This is a great podcast to pair with next week’s discussion featuring Mark David Hall.

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Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime

Prof. Byron Johnson, director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion, joins us to talk about his new book “More God, Less Crime.” We focus our attention on prison ministries noting how difficult it is to overcome the “prison code” and how faith-based programs work. Specifically, we explore the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Houston, TX and review Prof. Johnson’s six-year study of that program. Byron makes a strong case that although these prison ministries show positive results, more attention needs to be placed on helping prisoners after they leave the confines of jail.

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Thomas Farr on Religion, Religious Liberty & US Diplomacy

Prof. Thomas Farr discusses the important role of religion and religious liberty in foreign relations. Dr. Farr brings both a scholar’s insight and his experience as a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service and recent director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. We examine why American diplomats have often had a blind spot for religious issues and then turn our discussion to why promoting religious liberty is in the national security interest of the United States (and other nations).

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Karrie Koesel on House Churches in China

Prof. Karrie Koesel (U of Oregon) explores the “house church” movement in China, revealing how these clandestine religious groups are formed and operate in an environment that is not necessarily hospitable to independent religious organizations. We note some of the penalties that can accrue if such churches are discovered, but also discover that many of these churches exist in a “gray” market with the tacit approval of local government officials. We end our discussion with some speculation about how religion may be changing Chinese society and politics.

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