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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Writing about Religion in a Polarized Age

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Photo of Pope Francis visiting Brazil

Rod Dreher, American Conservative
Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times
Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches
Alan Wolfe, Boston College

Date: Thursday, October 23, 2014
5:30-7:00 PM
Location: Devlin 101, Boston College

The Boisi Center will live-tweet this event. Join the conversation at #WritingAboutReligion.

A live broadcast of this event can be watched at for those who can not attend in person. 

Abstract: Both our politics and the wider American culture are increasingly polarized. Public discourse is often vitriolic, and rhetoric divisive. In such a context, nonetheless, there can still be found the few, but impressive writers who distinguish themselves with their thoughtful commentary on controversial and important topics. This Boisi Center panel brings together several such writers whose area of focus is a topic central to culture and individuals’ worldviews: religion. These writers will discuss their insights regarding contemporary discourse on religion, including the challenges that exist for those who desire to engage in thoughtful reflection on provocative topics; as well as present their approaches to these challenges.

Rod Dreher Head Shot

Rod Dreher is a writer, editor and blogger, who currently writes a regular blog for The American Conservative. He is the author of two books: The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2010), about his childhood home of St. Francisville, LA, and his sister’s battle with cancer; and Crunchy Cons (2006), about a growing "conservative counterculture" movement that stands outside the GOP mainstream. Previously Dreher worked as the director of publications for the John Templeton Foundation, and as a columnist and editorial writer for Dallas Morning News from 2003 to 2010. His writings have appeared in such publications as the National Review, Weekly Standard, and Wall Street Journal, and he has contributed commentaries to NPR’s All Things Considered as well as several television networks. Dreher is currently working on a book project about the "Benedict option," the idea that orthodox Christians should respond to the increasingly secular world by retreating from mainstream society into small religious communities. He holds a B.A. in Journalism from Louisiana State University.

Mark Oppenheimer Head Shot

Mark Oppenheimer is the 2014-2015 Corcoran Visiting Chair in Christian-Jewish Relations at Boston College. Oppenheimer is a journalist known for writing the biweekly “Beliefs” column for the New York Times, and he has also written about religion for the New York Times Magazine, the Nation, and Christian Century. His books include Knocking on Heaven’s Door: American Religion in the Age of Counterculture (2003) and Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah across America (2005). In addition to his writing, Oppenheimer teaches in the English department at Yale University and at Yale Divinity School, and he has also held appointments at Wesleyan University, New York University, and Wellesley College. While at Boston College, he will complete his research on Judeo-Christian interpretations of family law, specifically with regard to marriage and divorce. He received his B.A. and his Ph.D in Religious Studies from Yale University.

Sarah Posner head shot

Sarah Posner is an investigative journalist, author, and expert on the intersection of religion and politics. She is a regular contributor on religion to Al Jazeera America and Religion Dispatches. Her work has also appeared in the Atlantic, Politico, Washington Post, Mother Jones, American Prospect, NationSalon, and many other publications. She is the author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters (2008), which investigated the unholy alliance between politicians and televangelists. The regular host of a weekly program at, Sarah also has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, Current, NPR, PRI and other radio outlets.

head shot of alan wolfe

Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and professor of political science at Boston College. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books, including, most recently, At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014), Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (2011), The Future of Liberalism (2009), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), Return to Greatness (2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (2003), Moral Freedom (2001) and One Nation After All (1999). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Atlantic, and has delivered lectures across the United States and Europe.

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