James Calvin Davis ’92 – “Mary Ellen Borges Memorial Lecturer”

James Calvin Davis PosterMiddlebury College

Churches and Colleges: Schools of Civility

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7 p.m.

The absence of civility in American politics has become a national crisis, one we revisit every election cycle. This talk will explore the concept of civility, its importance to our public well-being, and the essential role religion and the liberal arts might play in satisfying this national need.

This event is sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Square and the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Churchill Fund. It is also part of the Clarke Forum’s Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty Series.

Biography (provided by the speaker)

IMGJames Calvin Davis is a professor of religion at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he has taught ethics and American religious history for nearly fifteen years. An expert on the role of religion in American political and public life, he is the author of In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). In this book, Davis considers religion’s impact on various moral debates in America’s past and present, arguing that the participation of theological perspectives in the debates of a pluralistic democracy does not threaten the First Amendment. Instead, religious traditions hold great potential to enrich both the content and the civility of our public conversations, in a manner that enjoys both historical precedent and constitutional sanction. In fact, Davis argues that religion’s careful inclusion in our “great debates” may be just what we need to improve the health and well-being of a public discourse that currently appears to be on life-support. Since the publication of this book, Davis has been widely sought as a speaker and teacher on issues surrounding political civility, moral discourse, and religion in American public life.

In addition to his work on contemporary ethical conversation, Davis is an expert on Anglo-American Calvinist (especially Puritanism), an interest he began cultivating in an undergraduate thesis on Puritan poetry at Dickinson College. He is the author of several books and major essays on Puritan ethics, including a landmark collection of the writings of Roger Williams, the Puritan firebrand for religious freedom. On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams (Harvard, 2008) is the first major collection of Williams’s writings to be made available in nearly two generations.

James Calvin Davis graduated from Dickinson College, Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and the University of Virginia. He currently resides in Shoreham, Vermont, with his wife Elizabeth and two boys, Jae and Kisung.

Mary Ellen Borges Memorial Lecture
The purpose of this Memorial Lecture is to honor the life and ministry of Mary Ellen Borges by establishing an annual event which will feature a person well qualified to address topics of importance relating to spiritual or social issues.

Such presentations may address a wide range of topics and issues which might have contemporary application or interest, or historical importance. These topics would not be limited to theological, biblical, or ecclesiastical issues, but also could include ethical, societal, psychological, philosophical, and scientific topics.

As a joint venture of St. John’s Episcopal Church, on the Square, Carlisle and the Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this annual lecture is intended to bring the area religious community and the college community together as topics of importance and presenters of recognized accomplishment and authority are invited to address both constituent sponsoring groups.

Lecture Video