Category: Religion & Politics


Thomas Kidd on Benjamin Franklin’s Faith

Contemporary imagery often paints Benjamin Franklin as a Deist who saw little importance for an active religious faith. However, Franklin’s personal views of Christianity, as well as his shared public views, were much deeper and nuanced than many scholars will admit. Prof. Thomas Kidd (Baylor University) discusses Ben Franklin’s religious journey from growing up in a house with deeply Calvinist parents and siblings, through his rebellious teen years, a friendship with the fames preacher George Whitefield, and finally to a mature view of Christianity that emphasized the role of Providence and a virtuous citizenry.

Explore our archives for more episodes related to the Founding Era of the United States.

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Jeremy Castle on Religion and Voting Behavior

How does religious messaging affect voter attitudes towards a candidate? Prof. Jeremy Castle (Central Michigan University) discusses some experimental research he conducted on this topic with a number of colleagues and shares observations on a wide range of factors that affect how individuals vote. We discuss the political and social attitudes of Millennial evangelicals, and how religious rhetoric played out during the 2016 presidential election. Jeremy also chats about his work on whether or not political messages in movies have an impact on individuals.

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Steven Pfaff on the World of 1517

What did Europe look like economically, politically, and religiously on the eve of the Protestant Reformation? What broad historical trends facilitated the success Martin Luther’s schismatic break from the Catholic Church where others in the past had failed? Prof. Steve Pfaff (Sociology, University of Washington) discusses the factors spurring on the Protestant Reformation, sharing some of the most up-to-date research on how social movements spread.

The second in our series devoted to the people and events of the Protestant Reformation. Great for classroom use.

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Robert D. Rubin on Judicial Review & the Religious Right

Prior to the 1980s, the incipient Religious Right was skeptical of the US judicial system given a variety of decisions that went against their interests. Dr. Robert Daniel Rubin examines how Southern Christians came to embrace judicial review using two crucial court cases involving education in Mobile, Alabama, and Judge Brevard Hand who decided them. This discussion is both a microcosm of social and political change brewing in the South in the 1980s, but also a reflection of broader trends developing in American society.

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Frank Selden on the Military, Suicide, and Faith

Frank Selden, a Seattle-area attorney and author, joins us for a very personal and impactful discussion on his service in the military, his various suicide attempts, his faith, and how religious faith has approached the topic of suicide over the years. We learn how his views towards the Iraq War changed over two tours of duties, how he emerged from a suicidal spiral, and his perspective on religious faith today.

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Sarah Dreier on Anglicans, Lutherans, and African Churches

As certain Christian denominations in Europe and America turn towards progressive values such as the support for same-sex marriage and other LGBTQI rights, how do their affiliated churches in Africa manage this cultural change? Sarah K. Dreier, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, explores this often overlooked tension within transnational organizations. She discusses how African Anglican and Lutheran churches that have a stable source of funding and/or are facing significant competition from Pentecostal churches are more likely to vocally oppose progressive policies on sexuality and gender issues.

Check out our expansive archives, now over 330 unique episodes!

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Cara Lea Burnidge on Religion and Woodrow Wilson

To what extent did President Woodrow Wilson’s southern Presbyterian upbringing play in shaping his political attitudes and American foreign policy? Prof. Cara Burnidge (U of Northern Iowa) addresses this question in a fascinating discussion that tracks the former Princeton University president through a period of dynamic religious and political change in American history. A strong Calvinist influence combines with the burgeoning thought of the social gospel movement in the late 19th century and leads to a vision for a “new world order.”

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Jeremy Menchik on Islam, Tolerance, Democracy, & Indonesia

Indonesia is both the world’s largest majority Muslim country and a consolidated democracy. Yet, unlike Western democracies, the Indonesian state pursues a policy of Godly nationalism that prioritizes religious belief over secularism. Despite this, the nation also exhibits a high level of religious toleration for various religious minorities including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and various variants of Islam. Prof. Jeremy Menchik (Boston University) discusses this interesting balancing act and explains

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Chris Soper on the Challenge of Religious Pluralism

How do various democratic nations manage increasing religious pluralism around the world?  Prof. Christopher Soper, a distinguished political scientist at Pepperdine University, answers this question and talks about the third edition of his book The Challenge of Pluralism, co-authored with Kevin den Dulk and the late Stephen Monsma.  After Chris provides a few reflections on […]

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Jason Klocek on Religious Conflict and Repression

Why do governments repress religious organizations? Jason Klocek, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley, explains how government experience with, and fear of, conflict that has a religious dimension will motivate rulers to crack down not only on religious that appear to be a direct threat, but most religions in general. He shares the research results of a study he conducted with Prof. Peter Henne of the University of Vermont and provides a number of interesting case studies to illustrate their explanation, including Russia and China.

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