Is civil discourse possible in today’s politics?

Alumni-faculty study team comes to a positive conclusion


Fall 2012

In the third edition of the partnership between the Calvin Alumni Association and the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship under the banner “Developing Christian Perspectives,” a group of Calvin faculty members and alumni discussed political discourse from the perspective of faith.

“I’ve been fortunate to be part of each faculty-alum reading group, but this one was marked by widely shared and equitably distributed contributions by everyone in the group—and each time we met,” said group co-chair and Calvin political science professor Doug Koopman. “The contributions were thoughtful, stimulating and constructive. Further, the group really seemed to cohere in an outstanding way. Finally, there is the work product already developed and even more to be forthcoming.”

The group met in October, February and May to discuss shared readings on the topic and work toward providing resources to the Calvin community, and to larger communities, that resulted from the benefits of its work. The group’s reading list included:

  • Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Unchristian World by Richard Mouw.
  • Republic.com 2.0 by Cass Sunstein.
  • 12 Steps to a More Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong.
  • A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf.
  • When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation by James Fishkin.
  • Revolution 2.0 by Wael Ghonim.

In addition to these books, group members read a number of articles and brought insights from their experiences as Christians and professionals in a variety of fields.

The group encourages other groups of Christians who believe political engagement matters to have similar discussions about how we might promote unity in Christ and still disagree about political questions.

These conversations also led to a proposal that Calvin and some other institutions could collaborate to administer a deliberative poll on the topic of Kent County government unification. The details of that project are being developed.