Author of Acclaimed "Bowling Alone" Among Presenters at Inaugural Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture

Oct. 24, 2007
News Photo 4295Robert D. Putnam is The Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and author of the best-selling "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community."

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Dr. Robert D. Putnam, The Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and author of the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, will be one of more than 100 scholars exploring the topic of friendship and its transformative possibilities - personal, civic and spiritual - during Baylor University's inaugural Symposium on Faith and Culture on Oct. 25-27. The symposium is sponsored by the Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor.

The conference on "Friendship: Quests for Character, Community and Truth" will be held at various locations on the Baylor campus. An impressive group of scholars from across the disciplines and from a variety of institutions will present more than 100 contributed papers on philosophical and spiritual friendship with God, as well as friendship in literature, pop culture and film, community engagement and practices of the church. A program description and schedule of events can be found here.

"The inaugural Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture will explore friendship, one of the most significant aspects of our lives, and seeks to reflect upon how friendship shapes and transforms our lives," said Dr. Darin H. Davis, associate director of the Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor. "Indeed, the moral life, the flourishing community and the paths towards truth and God all require us to seek the companionship and challenge of others. Though we live in times when friendship seems increasingly difficult to realize, we need, now more than ever, to consider how friendship might serve as the basis for renewed forms of personal, civic and spiritual life."

Highlighted lectures by Putnam on Oct. 25 and by Dr. Paul J. Griffiths, The Arthur J. Schmitt Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, on Oct. 26, are free and open to the public. All other sessions are free to Baylor faculty, staff and students. However, the general public must register for those sessions.

One of 13 invited speakers, Putnam's lecture on "Faith and Friendship: Initial Findings from a New National Survey" will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in Bennett Auditorium in the Draper Academic Building. His lecture is free and open to the public.

Putnam said religion and religiously-infused social ties have always been crucial to American civic life, with half of all American "social capital," such as volunteering, philanthropy and group memberships, considered religious. Because of this, he contends that religious Americans are better neighbors and better citizens, more generous (even to secular causes), more likely to volunteer, more involved in community and civic life, more likely to vote, more likely to work on community projects, even more likely to join protest marches.

"Figuring out why religious Americans are better citizens and neighbors turns out to be an interesting puzzle," Putnam said. "A second, related puzzle is whether Americans today are becoming more religiously engaged, or less. The answer turns out to be both and that paradoxical answer in turn raises further questions about the future of faith in America. All these themes will be addressed in my lecture."

Putnam is author or co-author of a dozen books and more than 30 scholarly articles published in 20 languages. Most recently, he has written on the theory of social capital in the best-selling Bowling Alone, and a collective volume, Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society (2002). In 2003, he completed Better Together: Restoring the American Community, which describes a dozen promising new examples of social capital-building in communities across America. He is currently undertaking research on the challenges of building community in an increasingly diverse society.

For his theory of social capital, Professor Putnam was recently awarded the 2006 Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science by the Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University. The Skytte Prize is one of the largest and most prestigious in political science.

Putnam is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a former President of the American Political Science Association. A former dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, he also has served as associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, director of the Center for International Affairs, and chairman of the department of government. He has been consulted by both the Clinton and Bush White Houses, by leading governors and members of congress from both parties, by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and by national leaders from Germany to Finland to New Zealand.

He was educated at Swarthmore College, Balliol College, Oxford; and Yale University, and has received honorary degrees from Swarthmore and Stockholm University. Before joining Harvard in 1979, Putnam taught at the University of Michigan and served on the staff of the National Security Council.

Griffiths' lecture on "Befriending the Religious Other: Why Love Is Easier Than Friendship" will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, in fifth floor banquet room of the Cashion Academic Center in the Hankamer School of Business. His lecture is free and open to the public.

With scholarly interests focus on philosophy of religion and theology, Griffiths has published on both Buddhist and Christian thought. Among his recent publications are Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (1999); Problems of Religious Diversity (2001); Philosophy of Religion: A Reader (co-edited with Charles Taliaferro, 2003); and Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity (2004).

Other featured speakers at the Symposium on Faith and Culture, include:

LIZ CARMICHAEL, fellow and tutor in theology at St John's College, Oxford, where she also serves as college chaplain.

C. STEPHEN EVANS, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University.

THOMAS HIBBS, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University.

ALAN JACOBS, professor of English at Wheaton College.

DOMINIC MANGANIELLO, professor of English literature at the University of Ottawa.

MARY NICHOLS, is professor and chair of political science at Baylor University.

CHARLES PINCHES, professor and chair of theology and religious studies at the University of Scranton, where he also co-directs the Center for Ethics Studies.

ROBERT C. ROBERTS, Distinguished Professor of Ethics at Baylor University.

NANCY SHERMAN, University Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University and adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown Law School.

PAUL J. WADELL, professor of religious studies at St. Norbert College.

CAROLINNE WHITE, faculty research fellow of classics at the University of Oxford and associate editor of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources.

For more information, go to the Institute for Faith and Learning at Baylor at http://www.baylor.edu/ifl or call (254) 710-4805.

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