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Boisi Center Symposia on Religion and Politics


Film offers a rich medium to explore theology and religion, and is an effective vehicle for exploring the ways theology and religion coexist, conflict, and interact with human experience and modern life. The purpose of this symposium will be to screen and discuss films that can be termed theological or religious in their narrative content, themes, and images.

2016-2017:  The Bible in American Political Discourse, 1960-2016

The Bible holds a special place in American discourse. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded to be a "City on a Hill" (Matt 5:14). Facing the prospects of civil war, Abraham Lincoln cited Scripture proclaiming that "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (Mark 3:25) At the end of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" (The Book of Revelation). As a foundational text of American life, both sides of political debates have found themselves deploying the Bible for their own political goals. 

This graduate symposium explores the use of the Bible in American political discourse with a focus on touchstone events and debates. Preliminary topics include the Civil Rights MovementEnvironmentalismReagan-Era nuclear apocalypticismWelfare Reform9/11, and Prop 8.  Each topic will explore the biblical rhetoric for conflicting purposes. 

2015-2016:  Women in Religious Leadership

Women are under-represented in leadership positions within the major world religions. What theological and social reasons have led to this situation? What would religion look like if women were better represented in leadership positions? 

To discuss these and related questions, the Boisi Center offers a non-credit graduate symposium on women in religious leadership. In six sessions during the spring semester, the group will discuss the background and current realities of women's leadership in five major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. 

2013-2014:  Religious Diversity and the Common Good

Religious diversity is frequently cited as evidence of a free and flourishing society, but it can be a source of conflict and misunderstanding as much as peace and respect. In what ways does religious diversity contribute to or detract from the common good? Can a religious community be a part of the larger society while maintaining its distinct faith and practices? Or must religious communities choose between assimilation (in “the melting pot”) and separation?

2012-2013:  Religious Freedom in America

What is religious freedom? What is its proper role and scope in the United States? How do various interpretations of this freedom affect law, policy, and politics in American public life?
This non-credit reading and discussion group is open to undergraduate and graduate students in any school at Boston College.  We will read texts that address the meaning of religious freedom in the context of electoral politics, law, education, civil disobedience, bioethics, and American Islam. In six sessions over the course of the academic year (two in the fall and four in the spring), the group will discuss the theories and practices of religious freedom expressed in these texts.

2011-2012: Is God-talk a Requirement in American Politics?

Why do references to God and faith play such an important role in the current presidential campaigns? What role has God and faith played in American political history?
In this non-credit reading and discussion group, we read seminal speeches in American political history that address contemporary political questions. Topics include: immigration, racism, national crisis, American exceptionalism, public morality, and social welfare. In six sessions over the course of the academic year (two in the fall and four in the spring), the group will discuss different views expressed in these speeches about God and the proper role of God and faith in American political rhetoric.

2010-2011: How Christian is American Politics?

Participants read seminal speeches in American political history that addressed this and related questions, including those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, as well as Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney. Topics included: the founding, war and national crisis, religion and the presidential candidate, racism, federalism and public morality, and the 2012 election and contraception debate. Designed and facilitated by graduate research assistant, Brenna R. Strauss.