Comparative religion series to focus on politics, religion

Temple Beth El’s annual comparative religion series will focus on politics and religion.

“It’s an election year, and we knew that those two topics were going to be very much on everyone’s mind,” said Matt Kelly, chairman of the Comparative Religion Committee.

The six-week series, called “Politics and Religion: Where is the Line?” will include speakers ranging from historians to journalists to local faith leaders. The series is free and open to the public, and it will begin Jan. 26.

The series is supported by the Ted and M.E. Hessberg Endowment, and the Sandra Weinstein Hospitality Fund provides refreshments each evening.

The series will look at current and historical perspectives about religious beliefs and political activities and whether religion should play any role in the political debate.

Each evening will look at the topic from a different angle, whether its faith leaders discussing how they approach politics with their congregations or local elected officials, including Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, talking about whether personal religious beliefs influence their behavior.

Each session will begin 7 p.m. and last two hours. About half the time will be devoted to the featured speakers, and during a break the moderator will choose questions from the audience for the speakers to answer.

Kelly said the moderators don’t shy away from provocative questions, but they focus on keeping the conversation on topic and maintaining an atmosphere of civil discussion.

“It’s enriching and the feedback we’ve gotten from the public has been tremendously supportive,” Kelly said.

He said the program would be of interest to people of any faith, or no faith at all.

“If you are interested in religion, if you’re interested in politics, if you’re interested in history or law, there is going to be something for you,” he said.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

The series begins Jan. 26 at Temple Beth El, 5101 Providence Road, and will be held for six consecutive Tuesdays. Here is a list of speakers and topics for the series:

▪ Jan. 26: U.S. Minority Relations: Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist perspectives on Religion and Politics. Speakers include Imam Atif Chaudhry from the Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte; Ryusho Jeffus, Shonin, Myosho-Ji, of the Wonderful Voice Buddhist Temple; and Rabbi Judith Schindler, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El.

▪ Feb. 2: Christian Approaches to Religion and Politics: Conservative Protestant, Liberal Protestant, and Roman Catholic viewpoints. Speakers include David Chadwick, senior pastor, Forest Hill Church; Steve Shoemaker, former pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church; and Sister Rose Marie Tresp, director of justice for the Sisters of Mercy in Belmont.

▪ Feb. 9: The Vision of the Black Church: Civil Rights to Moral Monday. Speakers include The Rev. Rodney Sadler, associate professor of Bible at Union Presbyterian Seminary and Associate Pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist Church, and Minister Corine Mack, president of Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP.

▪ Feb. 16: Changing Legal Lines Across the Decades: Legal Experts on Religion and Politics. Speakers include Jake Sussman, civil rights attorney with Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC; Bill Marshall, William Rand Kenan Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law; and Greg Wallace, associate professor of law, Campbell University School of Law.

▪ Feb. 23: Pews to Polls: The Use of Religion in Politics (Conservative Religious and Liberal Religious Politicians). Speakers include Ed Williams, former editorial page editor of The Charlotte Observer; Richard Vinroot, former Charlotte mayor; Trevor Fuller, chairman of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners; Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts; and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham.

▪ March 1: How the Pendulum Swings: An Historical Overview on Religion and Politics. Speakers include Rabbi Jonathan Freirich, associate rabbi of Temple Beth El; Bob Whalen, Queens University of Charlotte history professor; and Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer faith and religion reporter.