GOV 335M / RS 346:
RELIGION AND POLITICS IN AMERICAN THOUGHT
FROM THE COLONIES TO THE CULTURE WARS
This online summary of the yllabus includes only the general design of the course. It does not include detailed information such as the course calendar, which changes from semester to semester.
Prerequisites and other boilerplate
If the course is taken as Gov 335M, enrollment requires six semester hours of lower-division government. This number may be repeated when topics vary. The course can also be taken as RS 346, but enrollment is limited. Whether listed as Government or as Religious Studies, it carries a writing flag and fulfills part of the basic education requirement in writing. Within the Government Department, its field is Political Theory.
The course was put together by combining the most successful parts of two earlier courses (Religion and Politics in American Thought I and II).
Religion in politics is an emotional issue for believers and nonbelievers alike, and there is a great temptation to simply clobber one's neighbor with a slogan like "Separation of church and state" or "In God we trust." The purpose of this course is to help you get beyond the slogans.
We will be studying a large number of sources, mostly primary, of varying length and difficulty, from the colonial period right up to the present. Some sources discuss issues like whether faith should be enforced or whether revolution is consistent with the law of God. Others discuss issues like the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses in the Constitution. Still others discuss particular historical controversies, such as whose side God was on in the Civil War, what God thinks of war in general, or what God requires by way of racial justice. A final set of readings concerns the quarrel between secularism and its critics. Typically, we will read the religious arguments on each side of each of the issues we discuss.
Every course is taught from a point of view. That doesn’t mean that the teacher can’t be objective. You can read more about this in the Course Policies, but for now suffice it to say that students in all my classes are welcome to express any opinion for which they can give reasons, and my aim is to teach you enough so that if my own point of view is distorted in any important respect, you will have be equipped to detect the distortion and challenge it. Of course you should be prepared to be challenged in return!
In this course, it won't matter much that you can read what a writer has written and figure out what he believes. What will matter is whether you can learn to figure out why he believes it, and how it is logically related to other things he believes. In other words, when you read you will be expected to look for arguments, not just propositions.
For Unit 1, the requirement is a set of analytical outlines (20%); for Units 2, 3, and 4, the requirement is a 4-page take-home essay (20% each). Fourteen short-answer-format quizzes are administered on scheduled dates (20%). There is no cumulative final examination. Attendance and participation do affect grades.
Although analytical outlines are not required for Units 2, 3, and 4, I strongly recommend that you do them, and if you do, you get up to 8 points of extra credit per unit. Your grade for each of these three units will be your essay exam grade plus your extra credit points. Please note that for extra credit, you need not analytically outline the parts of the readings packet that I wrote myself, although I do expect you to read them carefully. What you need to do is submit a complete set of analytical outlines of the other readings for the unit. The final deadline for analytical outlines is the same as the final deadline for the essay.
Be sure to notice that in each of the first two units, there are two different deadlines. The first deadline is optional: If you want to turn in a first draft of your analytical outline or essay for critique, then you must turn it in by this date. The second deadline is required: This is the deadline for final drafts.
Students must work independently on analytical outlines and essays: Any sharing of drafts among students will be treated as scholastic dishonesty. For each day that an examination is late, the grade for the examination will be reduced by one letter. I don’t accept late analytical outlines at all, because the only way to get any benefit from analytical outlines is to write them as you are going along during the unit – not all at once at the end.
Before averaging the fourteen short-answer-format quizzes, I drop the two lowest quiz grades. All quizzes are based on the readings, not the lectures. It is impossible to do well on the quizzes without staying on schedule in studying the readings, and it helps enormously to analytically outline them.
Final grades will be calculated in three steps. First, each student's quiz grades will be averaged. Second, this average will be "curved." Third, the curved quiz average and the take-home essay examinations will be weighted, as follows:
Unit 1 analytical outlines (uncurved)
Unit 2 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)
Unit 3 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)
Unit 4 essay plus extra credit (uncurved)
Curved quiz average
The required readings will be in a packet available for purchase at the UT Copy Center, McCombs 3.136, phone: 471-8281. You must have a personal copy of the packet, not only for study but also for use in class.
The packet includes 39 short readings by Nathaniel Ward, Roger Williams, John Locke, Jonathan Mayhew, Julia Ward Howe, Abraham Lincoln, Kenneth L. Grasso, Dorothy Day, Abraham Kuyper, Martin Luther King, Everett E. Gendler, Malcolm X, Joseph Storey, Thomas M. Cooley, Russell Hittinger, Alexis de Tocqueville, Alberto Giublini and Francesca Minerva, Robert C. Koons and Matthew O’Brien, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Humanist Society, Francis Schaeffer, and Pope Benedict XVI, as well as the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, excerpts from six Supreme Court cases, the official transcript of an exchange on the Senate floor between Sens. Rick Santorum and Barbara Boxer, and a Philadelphia grand jury report.
An entirely optional reading, Evangelicals in the Public Square (Budziszewski), will be on reserve at the PCL.
Topical outline of the course
Issues in Early America
Religion and civil authority
Resistance to the English
Natural Rights arguments
The Civil War
"God is with the North" (Howe)
"No, North and South are both guilty" (Lincoln)
Issues in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century America
The problem of the all-encroaching state
Catholic social thought
Protestant social thought
War and peace
Just war doctrine
A Jewish view
Civil rights and black power
"The enemy is injustice" (King)
"No, the enemy is white people" (Malcolm X)
The original understanding
Early constitutional thinkers
A roadmap of contemporary jurisprudence
Free Exercise Clause cases
Establishment Clause cases: Neutralism
Hostility to religion?
Secularism and its critics
Influential arguments about democracy, secularism, and Christianity
The "culture wars"
Illustration: The debate over abortion
Two secular humanist manifestoes
An evangelical Protestant manifesto
A Catholic perspective