LISTEN: SMU religion experts Matthew Wilson and Charles Curran on KERA


Originally Posted: September 21, 2015

Pope Francis Comes To America

This week, Pope Francis visits the U.S. for the first time, making stops in Washington, New York and Philadelphia. This hour, we’ll talk about what his visit means for American Catholics – and about how their beliefs align with church teachings, with SMU religion experts Matthew Wilson and Charles Curran. LISTEN

Dedman College Alumni Celebrated at Homecoming

Congratulations to Dedman College alumni Bess Enloe ’60, finance educator and the Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters ’02, ’06, ’12. Mrs. Enloe will receive a Distinguished Alumni award while Rev. Waters will receive the University’s Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes the outstanding achievements of an alumnus or alumna who has graduated in the past 15 years. READ MORE

Listen: Mark Chancey, Religious Studies, on “Impolite Conversation”

Originally Posted: September 1, 2015

Impolite Conversation #3: Religion Curricula and Other Curricula

For September, we’re going back to school by talking to Mark Chancey of SMU and the Texas Freedom Network about teaching religion in public schools and about how religion gets inserted into other subjects. And in OLT, Dan geeks out about a new DC Comics animated film and Tim dreams of faster space travel. LISTEN

Linda K. Wertheimer, author of the new book Faith Ed.: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance, praised Religious Studies Prof. Mark Chancey

KERA, Think

Originally Posted: August 20, 2015

Teaching Without Preaching

Public schools aren’t allowed to encourage students to pursue religion. Yet so much of navigating a diverse world requires an understanding of other people’s beliefs. This hour, we’ll talk about how to prepare students without proselytizing with Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed.: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance (Beacon Press). LISTEN

The Source: Texas’ State Board Of Education And Textbooks

Texas Public Radio

Originally Posted: July 2, 2015

Many problems still exist in how Texas adopts its school textbooks say critics. Reforming the process failed to gain traction in the state’s 84th legislative session.
The troubles have been well documented by Texas journalists over the past 10 years and even some documentarians got in on the action.

The process has produced textbooks that some say distort history, conflate and portray religions inaccurately. Schools have not been required to use the State Board of Education (SBOE) approved books for the past few years, but recently the SBOE requested a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, that many view as another grab at controlling local school districts content.

Gov. Greg Abbott appointed newly elected district 6 board member Donna Bahorich as Chair of the board. The Houston Republican has gotten a lot of attention as a result, with many questioning her role administering public school education when her children were homeschooled. LISTEN


Donna Bahorich, Chair of Texas’ State Board of Education
Michael Soto, Professor at Trinity University, and former SBOE member for San Antonio
David Brockman, Instructor at Southern Methodist University

Holy Words in Hollywood: The Ten Commandments and American Identity

Event date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Event time: 7:30pm

Location: McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall

Dr. Adele Reinhartz is Professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa



The epic Bible films of the 1950s used the Hebrew Bible much as the Puritans did in an earlier era: as a prophecy of America’s role on the world stage. This lecture, illustrated by movie clips, will focus on Cecil B. DeMille’s classic 1956 film The Ten Commandments and its portrayal of Moses as a Jesus-like redeemer who champions liberty and democracy, American-style.

For more information:

New courses help students shape ethical dialogue in variety of fields

DALLAS (SMU) – Nine new courses to be taught at SMU beginning this fall aim to address real-world ethical challenges from the political science realm to the video game industry.

With $128,000 in grants from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, many of the 25 faculty members who developed the courses or have sponsored ethics-focused research grants gathered March 19-22 in Taos for a ethics course development and writing workshop.

“We have long felt that professors are among the most influential people in a student’s college life. If their professors write about, talk about and teach ethics, students will see ethics as important and worthy of attention,” says Maguire Center Director Rita Kirk.

The grants are part of a half-million dollar, five-year incentive award offered by the Maguire Center to professors for course development and research publishing. (For recipients, see below.)

SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson says his course “Ethics of Revolution and Civil Disobedience” will reflect current political issues students see in everyday life.

“Ethical-issues discussions surrounding resistance to the state are especially timely, given the current debates over conscientious objections to vaccination, the Obamacare contraception funding mandate and same-sex marriage,” he says.

“As our society continues to become more and more diverse in its mix of religious and philosophical beliefs, a growing number of Americans will find that they have significant moral objections to some aspect of government policy,” Wilson says. “When are they duty-bound to subordinate their own consciences and obey, and when are they ethically permitted, or even obligated, to resist? That’s the core question this class will explore.”

SMU Religious Studies Professor G. William Barnard will guide students through the complexities of world religions “to more consciously articulate and address difficult moral issues within the matrix of their own lives,” he says. READ MORE

Professor Matthew Wilson on Texas Faith: Is it ever justified to use torture as an instrument of American policy in a dangerous world?

Dallas Morning News, Texas Faith Blog

Originally Posted: December 18, 2014

By Wayne Slater

A new Senate report has rekindled the debate over enhanced interrogation, or torture – an issue of profound political, social and moral implications. We know the context: enhanced interrogation was a desperate attempt to prevent another 9-11. It worked or didn’t. It was used sparingly or wasn’t.

In retrospect, some religious voices make a clear case that torture is immoral and should never be used. Others say that even if immoral in full or in part, the 39 captives subjected to it should be viewed against the larger evil of 3,000 people killed on 9-11. . .

What does your faith say about enhanced interrogation – about torture – as an instrument of American policy in a dangerous world?

As expected, our Texas Faith panel of theologians, clergy, activists and experts take a dim view of torture — but come to their views from various traditions that are guaranteed to provoke thought.

WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

One of the great things about the Bible is that hardly any form of human behavior is excluded from its pages. Christians might prefer not to think about slavery, rape, greed, or child abuse. But passages of the Holy Scripture compel us to do so.

And some of those passages are truly unpleasant to read. Take Psalm 139, for example. It contains verses that call upon God to “kill the wicked” and to “hate them with perfect hatred.” Take Psalm 137, where believers can find happiness by seizing the children of their enemies and smashing the “little ones…against the rock.” In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul calls his religious adversaries “dogs.” And in the New Testament letter known as Second Peter, an Apostle says his religious enemies are “irrational animals…born to be caught and killed.”

Anybody who wants to create a theological rationalization for condoning torture can find words in the Bible that will be the raw materials for doing it.

In fact, Christians have done it. The idea of “enhanced interrogation” was practiced nearly to pernicious perfection in the medieval era for several hundred years during the “Inquisition.” Instruments of torture were devised to inflict great pain by religious authorities and by political authorities who understood themselves to be acting in concert with the church. The CIA has more sophisticated technology than was available to the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. But both used the techniques of “waterboarding” as one method of torture, for example. These methods were used to extract confessions from persons who were believed to be heretics or infidels. Some victims would confess to anything in order to stop the pain. Others, believing that they were being tortured merely as a prelude to being executed, would resist confessing with their last breaths.

For centuries, Christians have condemned those acts of violence that were perpetrated in the name of God. There are three basic reasons that Christians now oppose torture. First, it treats a victim as something less than a human being created in the image of God. Second, it derives from the arrogance of power, whereby the agents inflicting torture assume to themselves that torture as a divine device. Third, whatever confessions torture may yield cannot be trusted, because the one who confesses in response to torture may be lying just to make the pain stop.

We Christians have had our own experience with inflicting, and enduring, torture. It is theologically erroneous, religiously unrighteous, and practically unreliable. Just because somebody can find a way to justify it does not make it an instrument of salvation.

MATTHEW WILSON, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Southern Methodist University

Catholic teaching condemns torture as fundamentally at odds with the dignity of the human person. It is rejected not only as a general rule, or circumstantially, but as an intrinsic evil—that is, a practice that can never be justified and is not morally licit under any circumstances.

As a practical matter, we all know that the utility and efficacy of torture are very much in doubt. Intelligence officials and those with interrogation experience seem to give conflicting accounts of whether torturing prisoners tends to produce useful information that would not otherwise have been forthcoming. This very uncertainty makes torture a different moral case from other forms of defense of self or others. “Enhanced interrogation” might cause a prisoner to reveal information that he might not have otherwise, which might actually be actionable and allow authorities to disrupt a plot that might have come to fruition and might harm innocent people. This extremely attenuated chain of possibility must be weighed against the certainty of degradation of the human person—and loss of national moral authority—that is inevitable when government makes the decision to torture someone. And to be clear, the degradation involved is not only that of the prisoner himself, but also of those asked to administer torture.

To ask someone to intentionally inflict severe and grievous harm and suffering on another person is to ask him to release (and indeed to cultivate) the basest impulses of his nature. It is hard to emerge from that morally unscathed.

It also must be acknowledged that the Church’s moral teaching on this score has not always been as clear as it is today. As the Catechism admits: “In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture.” In modern times, however, the Church has come to categorically disavow the use of “physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred.” No end, no matter how humane or noble, can justify the devaluation of human dignity inherent in such practices.

The American leaders who authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation” in the wake of the September 11th attacks faced incredible pressures, difficult choices, and an overriding imperative to protect the American people from harm. It is admittedly much easier to undertake a moral evaluation of torture from our vantage point than from theirs. That said, the teaching of my faith on this score is very clear. The captured prisoner, however heinous his crimes may be, is created in the image and likeness of God, and thus possesses an inherent dignity and moral worth that we are called to respect absolutely. READ MORE

Department of Religious Studies hosts a lecture on Muslims and Jews in Christian America

Dallas Morning News

By TAYLOR DANSER Neighborsgo

Published: 23 October 2014 08:25 AM

Religious historian Charles L. Cohen will lecture on Jews and Muslims in Christian America at 4 p.m. Thursday in Room 100 of Southern Methodist University’s Hyer Hall.
Cohen is the E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions and director of the Lubar Institute for the study of Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information call Richard Cogley at 214-768-2099.

Social Studies Revised

THINK, KERA. Originally posted: October 6, 2014

Texas is considering new social studies textbooks for public school students for the first time since 2002. This hour, we’ll talk about questions that have arisen about how they teach culture and religion with a pair of SMU professors who testified about the books before the State Board of Education – Kathleen Wellman of the history department and David Brockman, who teaches religious studies. LISTEN