Religion in modern American politics

For the last couple of weeks, campus has been buzzing with the excitement of what will be, for most students, their first opportunity to vote in a presidential election and have a say in who will lead our country for the next four years. As a liberal arts university, Puget Sound encourages students to evaluate our world with a critical eye and the way we think about motives for voting is no exception.

On Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Schneebeck concert hall, Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Institute, will present a lecture entitled “Beyond Values Voters: The Shifting Role of Religion in American Politics.” Jones’ accomplishments and range of experiences are expansive; he has his own column, “Figuring Faith,” in The Washington Post, has worked as a consultant for various Washington D.C. think tanks, was an assistant professor of religious studies at Missouri State University and has experience serving on the national steering committee for the Religion and Politics Section at the American Academy of Religion, among many other notable experiences.

In 2009, Jones founded the Public Religion Institute, whose mission is to “help journalists, opinion leaders, scholars, clergy, and the general public better understand debates on public policy issues and the role of religion in American public life by conducting high-quality public opinion surveys and qualitative research.”

In addition, Jones has been featured in The New York Times, NPR, CNN and other notable national media sources. He holds a Ph. D. in religion with specific focus on the sociology of religion, politics and religious ethics from Emory University and is the author of two academic books concerning different effects of religion.

Dave Wright, who is the Chair of the Swope Endowed Lectureship on Ethics, Religion, Faith, and Values, which is sponsoring this event, said that Jones was chosen as a lecturer who could “share his own work exploring the tensions and intersections between politics and religion, and as someone from a non-partisan, highly informed research organization.”

Wright said that this lecture was strategically placed “following the 2012 elections to engage us around ways that religion did or did not impact the various outcomes of this election.”

The Swope Foundation was established to bring two or three major speakers to the University of Puget Sound each year to address topics of “faith, ethics, values, and religion.”

“The speakers are chosen to reflect many of the themes important to a liberal arts education in general and to our campus in particular—diversity in religious and social background; exceptional civic engagement; intellectual challenge and connection with local and/or global social issues,” Wright said. Jones will also speak in Professor Jacobson’s class, participate in a brown-bag lunch with students and have coffee with a small group of student and community leaders.

Jones’ lecture on Thursday night is open both to the Puget Sound campus and the Tacoma community, and though the lecture is free, it will be ticketed. A reception will be held in the Rasmussen Rotunda after the lecture.