Academy Conversations

Douglas Sharp, Dean of the Academy, discusses issues of faith and public life with Academy participants.

Douglas Sharp, author of Academy Conversations, a blog which discusses issues of faith and public life, will be taking a hiatus from writing to work at the Lake Street Church of Evanston as the Part-Time Temporary Head of Staff. We wish him well in this new position and look forward to his return. more

Rich and Poor, Richer and Poorer

It is unfortunate that so many have taken Jesus’ words, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me (Mt 26:11 NRSV), as an explanation for why there are poor people, as a rationalization for their permanence, and as a justification for indifference and inattention to them. They’re here – always have been and always will be – and since there is little that can be done to change the unchangeable, we should just accept it and get on with our own lives. Or so the conventional thinking goes. more

Finally, A Bible for Humanists

Christians in the English-speaking world may be surprised to learn that a new “Bible” has appeared and has quickly rushed to be the number one seller on Amazon’s spirituality category. It is not, however, a Bible with which Christians are familiar, at least in this form. Rather, it is a “Bible” assembled for humanists, secularists, atheists, and erstwhile religionists. more

Kangaroo Justice, Real Violence

Given the global attention received last fall by the Florida pastor who announced that he would burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11, I was frankly surprised to learn that he had found a way to break his promise and burn one anyway. more

Think For Yourself

Over the years, I’ve met some rather opinionated people. Some of them I actually liked. Some I thought were really brilliant and others were sadly out-of-touch. Most let their views be known with candor and humility, though some were arrogant and contentious. But what they all have in common is this: They have an opinion, it’s theirs, and they’re sticking by it. more

Giving Up to Rule by the Few

It is disconcerting to think that the possibilities for personal freedom and well-being intended by the founders at the birth of our republic have not been realized in the way or to the extent they envisioned. Their experiment in democracy became a work-in-progress for succeeding generations, and we still haven’t quite got it right. more

Manufacturing Fictions

It appears that we got what we asked for. Back in the eighteenth century, we asked for a liberal democratic government that secured and protected personal economic liberty, and that’s what we have. We wanted a government to guard everyone’s freedom to assure that minority interests and concerns would not be trammeled on by the majority. We coveted a political system that had the capacity to resolve conflicts and competing interests while maximizing freedom. We sought a government that we could form and change when it needed changing and keep when it did right by us. more

Subject to the Governing Authorities

Christians argue with each other about the meaning and relevance of Paul’s exhortation to believers to be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1–2). Obviously a tiny religious minority who revered a man executed as a criminal by the authorities had no leverage to secure its own benefit and liberty in an empire ruled by a pitiless emperor. As Paul saw it, the best chance for the early Christians to survive was to submit to the ruling authorities in all ways without resistance. The reason was simple: this authority had been established by God, so bucking civil authority was bucking God. The fact that civil authority was exploitive and oppressive was not important. Obedience was what was important. more

Believe It, or Not!

Watching the president’s State of the Union address with the self-selected inter-party seating arrangements lowering the usual partisan hype, I found myself wondering whether the civility on display was merely ceremonially contrived for the occasion, or a genuine indication that our politicos recognize the importance of collaborative political work to achieve the common good. more

Still a Very Long Way To Go

There are some things so important, so vital, so essential to human flourishing that their deprivation by either society, government, or religion can only be said to be immoral and reprehensible. One of those things is justice. And of all the moral insights and convictions bequeathed to us by Dr. King, among those that ring most true today, is one he handed on to us, having acquired it from the nineteenth century British politician William Gladstone: Justice delayed, is justice denied. more

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead