People of faith who feel at home neither with the religious right nor the secular left will gather May 2-3 in Nashville to carve out a third way in bringing their moral values to bear in public policy.
Former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, University of Alabama law professor Susan Pace Hamill and author and ethicist Miguel De La Torre are among confirmed speakers headlining the conference, “Living from the Big Bible: Reshaping American Politics,” sponsored by the Baptist Center for Ethics.
The purpose of the gathering is to provide a forum for the religious center that gets left out in the false choice between politics of the left and right, said Robert Parham, executive director the Nashville-based BCE.
Much was made in the last election of the “religion gap,” between conservative voters who believed elected leaders should allow faith to inform their policies and liberals who preferred that candidates keep their beliefs separate from their politics.
Parham says the problem with the religious right is not that they appeal to the Bible but with the parts of it that they choose to ignore. They read a “small Bible,” he says, speaking only to a few issues, like abortion and gay marriage. The “big Bible,” he says, addresses both personal morality and social justice, speaking to an array of issues.
Clergy and political leaders from a variety of faith traditions will be featured, including Church of God, Church of Christ, Methodist, Baptist and Jewish.
Former Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Baptist, is the former first lady of Missouri who served two years in the U.S. Senate to fill a vacancy created by the death of her husband, Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was elected posthumously in 2000. A Democratic Party leader and author of Don’t Let the Fire Go Out, her 2004 memoir, she is scheduled to speak on “Living My Faith Through Politics.”
Susan Pace Hamill, professor of law at the University of Alabama, led the fight for tax reform in Alabama, after study toward a master of divinity degree at Samford University’s Beeson School of Divinity helped her conclude that the state’s regressive tax system is immoral. She influenced Gov. Bob Riley, a conservative Republican, to lead a tax-reform initiative that voters eventually defeated.
Hamill, a Methodist, is scheduled both to describe the experience and to offer a critique of the current Bush budget “through the eyes of faith.”
Miguel De La Torre, a Cuban-American professor of ethics at Hope College in Holland, Mich., will discuss Reading the Bible from the Margins, the title of a book published in 2002. A companion volume, Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins, came out last fall. De La Torre, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a doctorate from Temple, writes a regular column for EthicsDaily.com, the BCE’s Web site.
Along with keynote addresses and theme interpretations, panel discussions will explore the role of faith in public campaigns, controversy over public displays of the Ten Commandments and debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools.
Other nationally recognized speakers have been invited but are not confirmed.
Information about registration and a full program are available at EthicsDaily.com, in a special section that will be updated as details are confirmed.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.