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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life


Photo of Alan Wolfe

Letter from the Director

May 2014

Two major events at the Boisi Center stand out among our spring 2014 semester programs: our annual Prophetic Voices lecture and a major panel on healthcare reform.

We decided on our ideal lecturer in the fall when we came across an article and interview in the Wall Street Journal featuring Russell Moore. Newly appointed as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Moore now occupies one of the key places in what Lionel Trilling called the “blood crossroads” where religion and politics meet. Moore was at pains to let the world know that this was not one’s grandparent’s SBC. We are not a moral majority, he made it clear; we are a prophetic minority. A dissenting church, it would seem, had decided that dissent was its proper role.

Moore gave a lively and informed talk; clearly this man is no hard-right political activist, as so many on the religious right were. His faith, however, remains a conservative one, if that word makes any sense; he does not advocate a mushy or therapeutic kind of Christianity. True, he wants to reach young people who are increasingly turned off by an overly politicized religion. But he wants to reach them on what he considers Christian terms.

In a similar way, Boston College and the Boisi Center reached out to the very top for its discussion of the moral and ethical aspects of Obamacare. Joining us were Boston College’s own M. Cathleen Kaveny; John LaMattina, senior partner at PureTech Ventures; Peter Markell, executive vice-president and CFO of Partners HealthCare; and Eric H. Schultz, president and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. By near universal agreement, this was one of the best panel discussions we have hosted in our history. All four of our speakers showed a remarkable ability to speak clearly on very complicated matters ranging from how insurance works to what challenges hospitals face. We could not have done this panel without help, and we want to thank Andy Boynton, dean of the Carroll School of Management, and Vincent Rougeau, dean of the Law School, who joined us in sponsoring this event.

I was able to finish and send off to the publisher my next book, now entitled At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora is Good for the Jews, about which I held a Boisi Center lunch discussion in the fall. The book will be out in October, published by Beacon Press. So far, so good. The “blurbs” are very positive and I await publication proud of what I have done but fully aware that the topic is a controversial one. I have therefore been actively following the developments within the American Jewish community over Israel and have the distinct impression that we may be at a major turning point.

This summer will be a time of recovery and refreshment for me as I think about new projects. In the meantime, Erik, Susan, and I are busily planning next year’s events. We cannot say much about that now but if next year turns out to resemble this one, it will be a great success.

— Alan Wolfe