Lecture to delve into dangers of mixing religion, politics

By Mallory Hisler

The intersections of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and their impacts on politics will be the focus of the Annual Hugh and Beverly Wamble Religious Liberty Lecture at 2 p.m. today on the fifth floor of the Cashion Academic Center.

Dr. Charles Kimball, presidential professor and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, will discuss what happens when religions and politics combine.

“I’ve spent a great deal of my life studying and traveling to the Middle East, and I have lived there. In the last 30 years, lots more conflicts have taken place, and religion plays a significant role in all of those conflicts,” Kimball said. “I like to look for ways to try and help avoid the pitfalls of dangerous religion.”

The lecture is based off Kimball’s book, “When Religion Becomes Lethal: The Explosive Mix of Politics and Religion in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

Kimball has been interviewed by more than 700 TV and radio stations in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Australia and South Africa since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to his biographical sketch on the University of Oklahoma’s website.

Dr. Charles McDaniel, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, said Kimball was a natural choice for the lecture series because of his international experience and extensive background in nearly all sides of the matter.

“He’s got both an academic background in church-state relations and a policy background, so he was something of a logical choice for us. We knew of his book and his theme, and we thought it was highly consistent with what we study [at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies],” McDaniel said. “We were kind of embarrassed that we hadn’t asked him before.”

Kimball, an ordained Baptist minister, said he believes it is important to both study and understand other religions.

“It’s very important and practical, particularly today, to be knowledgeable about the other religious traditions,” he said. “We live in an interdependent and interconnected world.” Although he is a Christian, Kimball said he is somewhere in the middle on church-state relations.

He said he doesn’t think any of the religions give a clear-cut way of running the government, and the state should not be fully reliant upon a religion. However, he doesn’t think religion and the state should — or can — be completely separate either.

“I think in the end, none of these religions gives us a template for how we should organize government,” Kimball said.

McDaniel, who is in charge of the lecture, said it is not geared toward one specific audience, but anyone interested in the subject matter.

“We have had lots of people come [to lectures in the past] who had a general interest in the intersection of religion and state from the community, as well as undergrads, grad students and faculty,” McDaniel said.

Kimball said he plans on exploring some of the roots of the three religions, what their holy books actually say, what followers of the religions have done and how to move forward constructively.

“I hope that it will stimulate thinking and some questions. I expect that some of what I say people will find provocative, some will find it useful and some will find it unsettling,” he said. “I hope there will be a lively discussion.”

Kimball will have discounted copies of his most recent book for sale at the lecture, and will be available to sign them.