Reflections on the Sacred and the Sovereign

from Criterion, Winter 2001

On October 20, 2000 the Divinity School and its Martin Marty Center hosted a conference entitled "The Sacred and the Sovereign."  Organized by Ph.D. students John D. Carlson and Erik C. Owens under the supervision of faculty member Jean Bethke Elshtain, the conference brought to Swift Hall members of the U.S. military and the State Department and scholars with expertise in ethics, political science, and religion to consider the relationship between the political order and religious thought at the onset of a new century.

With several hundred people in attendance, the day was characterized by lively exchange and sometimes intense, though always civil, debate.  Participants included: Divinity School alumnus R. Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame); Robert Gallucci (Georgetown University; State Department); Paul Griffiths (University of Illinois at Chicago); Father J. Bryan Hehir (Harvard Divinity School); Robin Lovin (Southern Methodist University); General James P. McCarthy (USAF, Ret.; United States Air Force Academy); Susanne Hoeber Rudolph (University of Chicago); and Margaret OBrien Steinfels (Commonweal magazine).

Criterion asked Messrs. Carlson and Owens to offer some reflections on the lessons of the conference.  The first essay, by Mr. Owens, considers the topic of the morning session: the various traditions that address the use of force in international politics, namely the just war tradition and its boundaries with the realist and pacifist traditions.  The second essay, by Mr. Carlson, ponders themes from the afternoon session, namely the sovereignty of international institutions, be they religious, political or quasi-governmental.

(A background reader to the conference and other related materials are available online.  An edited volume on the conference by Messrs. Carlson and Owens is forthcoming from Georgetown University Press.)


Next: "Transitions and Traditions: The Use of Force in International Politics"

2001 University of Chicago (The Divinity School).  
Originally published in Criterion, Volume 40, Number 1 (Winter 2001).  
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