Faith and Politics

THEO 366: Faith and Politics-Fall 2009

TR 3:45-5:15PM


Dr. Julie Hanlon Rubio                                                Office: Humanities 344

Office phone: 977-2892

Email:                                                Office hours: R 11-12, 2:30-3:30                                                                                   

Course purpose:

The course is designed to help students think more deeply about the relationship between faith and politics.  In contemporary political debates, religion is sometimes explicitly invoked and sometimes it lies underneath the surface of more recognizable tensions.  There is a great deal of disagreement about how faith ought to affect political behavior in a pluralistic society. Disputed questions include: How (if at all) ought the religious convictions of an American citizen shape her political behavior?  Should a politician attempt to “legislate morality”? Should we try to keep “a wall of separation” between church and state?  Should people of faith focus on working for political change, social reform, or the perfection of their own communities?  In the first half of the course, we will lay the groundwork for later discussions by studying how religion and politics have intersected in American history, and how different religious groups engage in political action today.  In the second half of the course, we will read and analyze political theologians, noting the different frameworks they use to approach contentious political issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and immigration. Students should leave the course understanding different approaches and able to defend their own.  Prerequisites: Theo 100 and one theology course at the 200 level and one at the 300 level.


Relation of Course to Five Dimensions of St. Louis University:

Students will have the opportunity to grow in their knowledge of religion and politics as they think about how people ought to live in a religiously diverse society.  They will build inquiry and communication skills as they engage in critical reading, writing, and speaking about difficult issues. By learning to engage in respectful conversation with each other across differences of faith and politics, students will prepare to participate in religiously and politically diverse communities.  When they leave the course, students should be more certain of their own views and better able to provide leadership in public dialogue.  Finally, students will reflect on their own spirituality and values as they respectfully engage the spirituality and values of others.


Course Objectives:

Students will learn:

*about consistency and change in the relationship between religion and politics from the founding of America to the present

*how key differences between religious liberals and conservatives shape today’s most contentious political debates

*how the major religious groupings in the U.S. participate in political life

*different theories about how religion and politics ought to intersect in public life

*different theological approaches to controversial political issues

*to think, speak, and write about faith and politics from the perspective of a citizen in a democracy

 *to think, speak, and write about faith and politics from the perspective of a faith tradition 


Required texts:

Three texts are available for purchase at the university bookstore.   In addition, many articles will be available on the internet or electronic reserve.  We will spend our time together discussing these texts, so it is extremely important that you print them out if necessary, read them, mark them up, and bring them to class.


Frank Lambert                        Religion in American Politics: A Short History

J. Matthew Wilson            From Pews to Polling Placing: Faith and Politics

                                                in the American Religious Mosaic

USCCB                        Faithful Citizenship   

[R]                                    Articles available on E-reserve.  Password=Faith.


Course Requirements:

1. Case Study: Consider a contemporary case concerning the role of religion in American public life light of course readings and argue for a sound resolution of the problem. Length: @5 double-spaced pages..  Good websites for paper topics include: and Guidelines available on e-reserve. Weight: 20%.  Due date: Sept. 22

2. Midterm: An in-class midterm will be given on Oct. 15.   It will consist of a combination of short answer and essay questions.  Please bring a blue book to class.  Weight: 20%.  

3. Paper: Due Nov. 25.  Consider approaches of different religious groups to politics and defend what you consider to be the “best practices.”   Guidelines available on e-reserve.  Weight: 30%. 

4. Final Research Project: You may select any of the issues identified in the second half of the syllabus or one of your own choosing to research.  Your paper will present an argument on the issue from the perspective of one religious tradition. Use at least 2 in-class sources and 4-6 solid outside sources.  Approximately half of these sources should be theological and the other half from political science. You must defend your argument by appealing to theological concerns and moral reasoning.  You must also show awareness of the complexity political advocacy in a religiously pluralistic society.  Length: 8-10 pages.  One-page typed proposals (include a working thesis, preliminary bibliography, and rough outline) due in class: Dec. 1. They will be returned on Dec. 3. Papers due: Dec. 10.  Weight: 30%.  Guidelines available on e-reserve.

5. Participation. In my classes, I proceed from two assumptions: we can all learn from each other and we all have a responsibility to come prepared to help each other learn.  Participation in class discussion is important, because: (1) It is a great way for you to think through the central issues of the course, (2) It helps make you responsible for doing the reading as it is assigned, (3) It allows me to assess your understanding right away and adjust my teaching to help you learn better instead of waiting for a test or paper, (4) Most students learn more when they are active in class, (5) You will learn a great deal from other students as well as from me and the readings.

            Good participation means: accurately summarizing or analyzing the reading, using your own knowledge or experience to emphasize or question a part of a text, relating the readings to contemporary political issues, making connections between readings, addressing questions to classmates to draw them into discussion, and limiting your own speaking in order to listen and make space for others to speak.  I invite you to find a way to contribute to class every day.  If you have concerns about participation, please come talk to me. 

            Oral participation will be graded. A=Daily or near daily participation showing critical engagement with the readings.  B=participation @ once/week, with reasonable knowledge of the readings.  C=irregular participation with some familiarity with the readings.  D=minimal participation.  F=present but silent.  Weight: 10%.


Course Policies:

1.  Late papers will be penalized.  Your grade will go down by one half of one letter grade (5 points) for each class day to a maximum of 20 points.  Exceptions may be made in exceptional circumstances (i.e., illness, family emergency, etc.) if you provide documentation.

2. Please arrive on time.  Arriving late interrupts discussion and suggests a lack of

commitment to class.  Let me know if you must arrive late or leave early.  Avoid leaving the room during class.  If tardiness is an ongoing problem, your final grade may go down by up to one letter grade.

3. The University is a community of learning, whose effectiveness requires an environment of mutual trust and integrity.  Academic integrity is violated by any dishonesty such as soliciting, receiving, or providing any unauthorized assistance in the completion of work submitted toward academic credit.  While not all forms of academic dishonesty can be listed here, examples include copying from another student, copying from a book or class notes during a closed book exam, submitting materials authored by or revised by another person as the student’s own work, copying a passage or text directly from a published source without appropriately citing or recognizing that source, taking a test or doing an assignment or other academic work for another student, securing or supplying in advance a copy of an examination without the knowledge or consent of the instructor, and colluding with another student or students to engage in academic dishonesty. 

            Any clear violation of academic integrity will be met with appropriate sanctions.  Possible sanctions for violation of academic integrity may include, but are not limited to, assignment of a failing grade in a course, disciplinary probation, suspension, and dismissal from the University.  Students should review the College of Arts and Sciences policy on Academic Honesty, which can be accessed on-line at under “Quicklinks for Students” or in hard copy form in the Arts and Sciences Policy Binder in each departmental or College office

4. A good environment for learning requires that we all pay attention to each other.  Use of electronic devices (including cell phones and iPods), planners, books for other classes, newspapers, etc. during class is not allowed. Laptops are prohibited unless necessary due to disability.  Try to look at other students when they speak, and speak to everyone when it is your turn to talk.

5. Every paper you write for me will need citations.  Cite your sources every time you use another person’s words or ideas.  Example: (Carter 58).  Articles from edited volumes should be cited with the article author’s name. The MLA citation method is preferred.  A guide is available at

6. Attendance is required.  You are responsible for signing the attendance sheet every day.  Please see me at the end of class if you forget to sign or if you find a mistake of some kind; do not attempt to write over my marks.  While it is optimal to be in class everyday, you are allowed two absences for any reason.  This should cover most illnesses, extra curricular activities, and family emergencies, so you need not talk to me about these cases unless you want to.  Your final grade will be lowered by 3 points for each additional absence.  Please write me a letter or email if you have used up your free absences and will need to miss class due to illness or family emergency.  You must provide appropriate documentation.  I will then excuse the absence.  You are responsible for contacting another student to obtain notes.  You may schedule an appointment with me to go over material you do not understand.  Those who enter the course late will begin the course with unexcused absences.

7. Holding Papers/Exams: You can expect that papers will be returned in class 1-2 weeks after they are submitted.  I will hold papers and final exams for 1 year in my office.  You may arrange to pick them up.

8. Grade Challenges: If you believe a paper has been graded unfairly, you may

challenge the grade.  You must provide written justification for re-consideration.  I will re-grade the paper, and the grade may go up, down, or remain the same.

9. Any student who feels that he or she may need academic accommodations in order to

meet the requirements of this course—as outlined in the syllabus, due to presence of a disability, should contact the Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action.  Please telephone the office at 314-977-2930.  Confidentiality will be observed in all inquiries.

10. Evaluation: I will ask you to fill out a course evaluation online at the end of the course.  You will receive an email reminder as well.  I value your input.


Grading Scale:

A+ 97-100            B+ 87-89            C+ 77-79            D 69-60

A  94-96            B  84-86            C  74-76            F 59-50

A-90-93            B-80-83            C-70-73


The Arts & Sciences Grading Scale can be accessed at:

Grade Points
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.3
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D 1.0
F 0.0


Grading Standards:

D and F papers do not meet the basic requirements (i.e. thesis is not an argument, sources are not appropriate, knowledge of subject is weak, organization is not evident, analysis is absent, length falls short of the minimum).

C papers meet the basic requirements in an acceptable way, but have significant flaws (i.e. weak thesis, sources, knowledge, organization, analysis, and argumentation).

B papers meet the basic requirements and are good pieces of writing.  In these papers, the thesis is sound, the sources are solid, knowledge of the subject is fairly strong, the organization is logical and clear, the analysis is competent, and the argumentation is fairly strong.

A papers are excellent.  In these papers, the thesis is strong and thoughtful, good sources are well-utilized in support of the main thesis, thorough knowledge of the subject is evident, organization is effective and paper is well-cued, analysis is insightful, argumentation is very convincing, and counter-arguments are treated effectively.  A papers show a depth of comprehension and reflection not present in B and C papers.



Schedule of Classes

Date            Topic                                                                                    Reading


I. Religion and Politics in American History                                               


8-25            Introduction: Diversity and Conflict                                    None; Handout

(Check out:


8-27            The Founders                                                                        Lambert 14-40


9-1            Immigration, Unity, and Division                                    Lambert 41-73                       


9-3            Religion and Wealth                                                            Lambert 74-103


9-8            Religion and Science                                                            Lambert 104-29


9-10            Religion and Rights                                                            Lambert 130-83


9-15            Religious Right                                                            Lambert 184-217


9-17            Religious Left                                                                        Lambert 184-250                       


II.  Religions in the American Public Square Today


9-22            American Mormons                                                            Wilson 105-30

                        *Case study due

9-24            American Protestants                                                            Wilson 29-51


9-29            American Catholics                                                            Wilson 81-104


10-1            American Jews                                                            Wilson 185-212


10-6            American Muslims                                                            Wilson 213-50


10-8            Historical Roots of Culture War                                    Hunter 107-32 [R]


10-13            The Broad American Middle                                                Wolfe 275-322 [R]                                   

*10-15            Midterm Exam                                                            None                                   


10-20            No Class-Fall Break                                                           


III. Religious Approaches to Politics


10-22            War and the Problem of Dirty Hands                                    King [R]


10-27            Economics: Justice and Freedom                                    John Paul II 468-73 [R],

                                                                                                            Novak [R]


10-29            Be American                                                                         Murray 149-64 [R]


11-3            Be the Church                                                                        Hauerwas 96-115 [R]


11-5            Gay Marriage                                                                        Ratzinger 178-82 [R]


11-10             Immigration                                                                        Heyer 1-32 [R]


11-12            Environment                                                                        USCC,  “Global Climate

                                                                                                            Change” [google]


11-17            Abortion                                                                        Cuomo 202-16 [R], Cahill 6-

                                                                                                            11 [R]


11-19            Capital Punishment                                                            Stassen 119-30 [R], John

            *Paper due                                                                                    Paul II 96-100 [R]


11-24            Buying and Not Buying                                                TBA


11-26            Thanksgiving: No class                                                None


12-1            The Kingdom or the Common Good?                        USCCB [all]

            *Proposals due in class


12-3            Presentation/Discussion of proposals                                    None

            *Proposals returned in class           


12-10            Final Project due to my office, Humanities 344, by noon


A How-To Guide


1. Reading: Read with a purpose.  Approach the readings with the topic for the

 day’s class in mind.  Find the thesis of the article and look for the arguments the author uses to defend that thesis.  Read introduction and conclusion carefully—they usually contain the core of the argument.

2. Taking notes: Follow my outline on the board and fill it in as we go.  Note page

 numbers of crucial parts of the texts we discuss in class so you can go back to those passages.  During discussion, summarize the main positions rather than trying to write down every comment. Listen for my summaries at key points in the class and my recaps at the beginning of class. 

3. Participation: Come to class with a few good responses or comments prepared.  Look for opportunities to contribute what you’ve learned and/or ask about what confuses you. Respond to the comments of other students, especially if you have a different point of view.  Think about what kinds of comments or questions the class needs to learn the material and have a richer conversation.  Strive for a mean between participating too much or too little.  If you’re nervous or want to know how to improve, come and see me.  I am committed to helping every student feel comfortable speaking in my classroom.

4. Guidelines for papers: Evaluation will be based on the following:  (1) Do you have a strong thesis that answers the question and controls the paper?  (Thesis belongs on p. 1.)  (2) Does your paper show strong knowledge of readings? (Most paragraphs should include quotation or paraphrase.)  (3) Is your argument clear and logical?  (Pay attention to ordering and transitions.).  (4) Does your argument show a grasp of the complexity of the issue? (Consider counter-points.)

5. Getting help with papers: I am happy to meet with you to discuss ideas for papers and give feedback on drafts, as long as you meet with me at least one week in advance of the due date.  The Writing Center can also be a great help to you: 977-2930.

6. Getting help in general: Feel free to contact me by email or phone.  You can expect a response within 24 hours.  We can set up an appointment during office hours or at another time or place that is convenient for you.  I can help clarify readings or assignments you do not understand or just talk about issues raised in class.