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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Redeeming Freedom: Evangelicals and Democracy, Around the World and Across Time

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Timothy Shah, Council on Foreign Relations
Date: March 18, 2009
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Devlin 101

Evangelicals around the world have a pretty poor political reputation – either as would-be theocrats or head-in-the-sand quietists. Mostly, this reputation is undeserved. Research on politically active evangelicals around the world and across modern history demonstrates that, compared with many other religious folk as well as adherents of various forms of secularism, they have often proven to be pioneers of democratic culture and politics. This is no accident. Evangelicals believe in a close and essential connection between social freedom and spiritual redemption, making evangelical Protestantism arguably the faith most at home with liberal democratic modernity.

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Timothy Samuel Shah is adjunct senior fellow for religion and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), senior research scholar at the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University, and formerly senior fellow in religion and world affairs at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. At CFR, Dr. Shah coordinates a series of symposia on the nexus of religion and foreign policy, as well as a related study group and roundtable series. In addition, Dr. Shah conducts research on religious movements and their impact on global democratization, including evangelical Protestants in Africa and Latin America, Hindu nationalists in India, and Islamists in South Asia and the Middle East.

He is presently writing a book on religious nationalism in South Asia, where he has conducted extensive field research, as well as a book (with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott) on the importance of religion for the study of comparative politics and international relations. Since 1999, he has served as research director for the international study, “Evangelical Protestantism and Democracy in the Global South,” and edited a resulting four-volume series published by Oxford University Press in 2008-2009. Dr. Shah’s articles on religion and its relationship to political theory and comparative politics have appeared in the Journal of Democracy, SAIS Review of International Affairs, Brandywine Review of Faith and International Affairs and the British journal Political Quarterly.

Dr. Shah has an AB magna cum laude with highest honors in government and a PhD in political science, both from Harvard University. He also studied theology and law at Christ Church, Oxford University in 1997-1998. His PhD dissertation on religion and the origins of liberal political thought in early modern Europe, completed in September 2002, was awarded the Aaron Wildavsky Award for Best Dissertation in Religion and Politics by the American Political Science Association in 2003. He lives in Rockville, Maryland with his wife and five children.