The Academy of Philosophy and Letters will be holding its annual conference on the topic “Civil Religion and American Self-Understanding” next weekend at the BWI Doubletree in Baltimore. There are still spaces available for those who want to attend. This year’s keynote speaker is Patrick Deneen. Please contact me at for more information.

The program is as follows:

Speaker:  Patrick Deneen, Notre Dame, “Liberalism as a Civil Religion”

8:30-10:30 AM.  PANEL/ROUND TABLE 1. Historical and Literary Sources/Recollections on Civil Religion (Harbor Room)             

            Chair: Lowell Gustafson, Villanova University

James Matthew Wilson, Villanova University, “Integral Humanism: Jacques Maritain’s Dream of a New Christendom”

Ryan Holston, Virginia Military Institute, “Rousseau on Civil Theology”

Jeff Polet, Hope College, “Bellah’s Seminal Essay on American Civil Religion”

Jay Schalin, The Pope Center, “Civil Religion and the Millennial

Rejection of the American Identity”

10:45 AM -12:45 PM.  PANEL/ROUND TABLE 2:  Historical Perspective and Public Philosophy (Harbor Room)

Chair: Joe Baldacchino, National Humanities Institute

Chad Pecknold, Catholic University “Augustine and Civil Religion”

Jay Starliper, “The Politics of Misery: Peter Viereck and the Celestial State”

R.V. Young, Modern Age, “Cicero and Civil Religion”

Peter Haworth, Anamnesis, “Tocqueville and Public Philosophy”

Chair: Dan McCarthy, The American Conservative

Speaker: Richard Gamble, Hillsdale College, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

3:30-5:30 PM. PANEL/ROUND TABLE 3: American Civil Religion and the Rise of Majoritarian Democracy (Harbor Room)

Chair: Barbara Elliott Houston Baptist University

John Pinherio, Aquinas College, “Civil Religion and Westword Expansion”

James Wallner, Senate Steering Committee, “The End of the Filibuster?”

Michael Federici, Mercyhurst University, “Rewriting the Unwritten Constitution”

Lee Cheek East Georgia State College, “Scalia and Civil Religion”

Justin Litke, Belmont Abbey College, “Equality as the Foundation for American Civil Religion”

Chair: William Byrne, St. John’s University

Claes G. Ryn, The Catholic University of America, “How Desperate Should We Be?”


10:00 AM-noon.  PANEL/ROUND TABLE 4.  Civil Religion and Popular Culture (Harbor)

 Chair: Brian Mitchell, Academy of Philosophy and Letters

Justin Garrison, Roanoke College, “Fight Club and American Civil Religion”

Greg Butler, New Mexico State University, “Bruce Springsteen’s Runaway American Dream”

Rob Delfino, St. Johns University, “Zombies and Vampires: Civil Religion and Popular Culture”

Jeremy Beer, American Philanthropic, “Booth Tarkington and the Dynamism of American Self-Identity”


Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Previous articlePublic Schools, Local Schools, Family Schools
Next articleLocalist Roundup: The Week’s Weakness
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.