Times Talk discussion touches on religion and politics

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By Tressa Eckermann, Senior Staff Writer

On Feb. 20, Dr. Rory Conces and Dr. Paul Williams of the Religion and Philosophy department moderated a small discussion on how religion and politics work together or, in some cases, against each other.

Times Talk, sponsored by faculty group Newspapers in Curricula and the New York Times, is a way to discuss current issues in our society in an informal setting. Running until about 1 p.m. the discussion moved quickly and with humor.

The discussion was attended by eight people and began shortly after 12:30 p.m. when Conces handed out two articles from recent issues of the New York Times. The first, “Tunisia Faces a Balancing Act of Democracy and Religion,” focused on the increasingly violent revolts in Tunisia. It’s also about the balance they have tried to strike between religion and democracy.

One of the questions posed was if a more regulated culture like Tunisia was more susceptible to violence. Williams, who took the question, voiced his concern with answering that question. His feeling was that certain hot button issues like that have so many facets that it’s hard to lump them together and give a definitive answer. Essentially, there are just too many factors that go along with these issues.

The second article covered, also from the Times, was about President Obama’s proposed birth control rule. The issue has divided critics and caused people to question both their political and religious beliefs. The issues turned to the idea of religious freedom and how women factor into the birth control rule.

Williams queried, “Is it possible to simply be an American and not have democratic or republican issues boil over?”

Williams discussed tensions in the ‘60s and ‘70s with the anti-war movement and civil rights and how they relate to issues today.

“The level of discourse wasn’t as antagonistic,” he says. “But people were still in the streets forty years ago.”

Quickly the issue shifted to focus on religion when the issues of priesthood, marriage and celibacy were called into question. Williams, believes that the issue is divided loyalties. “Where does your loyalty lie?” he asked.

There will be one more discussion that will take place on Feb. 28 in the MBSC Gallery Room on the third floor. “Do you trust what you read? The News. The Story. Checking your sources,” will be hosted by Marlina Davidson, Courtney Fristoe and Dr. Adam Tyma. It will take place at 11:30 and run until 12:45. Free lunch is provided to the first 15 students.

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