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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2021
Sep 26, 2022
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PPOL 499 - Faith, Race & Politics
Faith and politics have always interacted in American political life—in both positive and negative ways. The questions have always been not if they will intersect but how—and whether those interactions are for the common good. Race has always been at the center of our public life, with religion used to either divide us or bring us together. When presidents and other political leaders make racial fear and division even more explicit, and some church leaders are silent or even supportive, how are both the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith at stake? How are the racial inequities revealed by COVID-19 and the deeper reckoning with systemic racism sparked by George Floyd’s killing changing our national narrative? We will analyze and reflect upon America’s “original sin” of racism and how it still lingers in both attitudes and institutions, as well as on the fundamental demographic changes underway in the country and what it will mean to build a bridge to America’s multi-racial future. How does religion at times make our nation’s extreme polarization even worse, and how it could help heal it? Could it contribute to asking moral questions of all sides and faith traditions? How do we not go left or right—but deeper? This course will examine the intersections of faith, race, and public life in the United States across a series of critical issue areas. Race has always been at the center of American life—historically, structurally, morally, and religiously. Therefore, this class will have a strong focus on racial justice, given the controversies over police shootings, the growing public interest in reforming the criminal justice system, the Black Lives Matter movement, the great significance of the nation’s first African American president—and reactions to it. As America’s original sin of racism—valuing white people over other people—still persists, how can we build a bridge to the new America that our changing demographics are bringing? What are both the challenges and the hopes? Related topics will include immigration and both domestic and international poverty. We will also look at some of the divisive social and moral questions like life and dignity, family, and religious liberty across racial and religious lines. How does religion impact public policy, in positive and/or negative ways, and how do we examine and evaluate the difference? Historical examples—like the churches’ vital role in the civil rights movement—will all be discussed. We will examine current examples of diverse faith communities impacting ongoing debates on voting rights, immigration reform, federal budget choices, policing and criminal justice, and interfaith conflict and collaboration. The roles of particular faith communities will be compared, including Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American churches; Jews, Muslims, and others (including “spiritual but not religious” and the “none of the above,” the fastest growing religious affiliation in America). Biblical texts and visions of “social justice” will be explored, along with Catholic social teaching language of “the common good.” We will take up the roles of government, civil society, and religion; and what “a moral economy” might look like in business, political, and ethics discussions. Frequent guest presentations will expose students to a variety of interesting policy makers, scholars, and practitioners in social movements. The style of the course will be very interactive.
3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

Levels: MN or MC Graduate, Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture, Seminar

Public Policy Department

Course Attributes:
College/AFAM:Hist,BeSci,SocInq, Mean Grade is Calculated, College/SFS/REWA Area 3, X-List: AFAM, X-List: GOVT, Core: Theology

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