A hearty welcome today to Religion & Politics, a spanking new webzine brought to us by Washington University's spanking new John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics. It's a fine looking site, with fine essays by a bunch of leading religion scholars and higher journalists, from Michael Ruse and Molly Worthen to Amy Sullivan and Michael Sean Winters. I'm pleased to be able to say that I serve on the editorial advisory board.
In that capacity--and keeping with the spirit of this blog--I would be remiss in not offering a suggestion or two. The 'zine is innocent of political scientists, and while I can appreciate the prejudice, I do think that an enterprise dedicated to understanding religion & politics needs to have a few folks on hand who can crunch the numbers and bring the analytic armamentarium of social science to bear. Humanists--historians and theologians and the like--can't be expected to do all the lifting.
I'm also a little concerned about the house motto: "Fit for Polite Company." Editor Marie Griffith explains it thusly:
Our journal was founded to explore these issues from a broad range of diverging viewpoints, rather than a single grinding axe. That is a tall order, and one we do not take lightly; as Leigh Eric Schmidt stated recently in a lecture about the Danforth Center’s purpose, “However impolitic, we’ve made bedfellows of religion and politics.” Aren’t these topics the very ones your mother warned you never to raise at a dinner party? Well, as our tagline suggests, we’re here to make them fit for polite company.
Well, Leigh and Marie are married to each other, but these days religion and politics are bedfellows whether they like it or not.
The Center on Religion and Politics' eponymous founder, former senator John Danforth (R-Mo.), made a certain stir a few years ago with his book Faith and Politics, which took the religious right to task for conflating their religious and political agendas and took his party to task for binding itself to the religious right. Doilies in the rectory are all well and good, but out in the public square, they're cutting purses, detonating stinkbombs, and beating each other over the head with bladders. One can hope that Religion & Politics will deign to take notice, and even now and then join the fray.