ATLANTA — Mercer University’s Center for Theology and Public Life will sponsor a series of discussions with two young Christian leaders in Washington on the Atlanta campus Oct. 4 as part of the Mercer Lyceum initiative. The day’s events, titled “Christian Faith, Moral Values and Public Service: Two Views from Capitol Hill,” will feature Katie Paris, a Democrat and senior vice president of Media Matters for America, and Joshua Trent, a Republican and health care policy advisor for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
“Our nation is bitterly polarized. Can we even talk to each other across partisan lines? Does Christian faith help or hurt us in the effort to restore civility to public debate?” said Dr. David P. Gushee, Mercer’s Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life. “I think that Katie Paris and Josh Trent will help to show both the different directions that Christian faith and ethics can lead people in terms of public policy, and also that differences over public policy do not need to be framed in bitter and divisive ways.”
The two will have four opportunities to share how their Christian faith has influenced their political views and actions while portraying how citizens of any political party can meet congenially to discuss important issues on which their opinions differ. All four of the events are free and open to the public. The events include: “Christian Faith, Vocation and Public Service,” at 10:45 a.m. in Cecil B. Day Hall; “Federal Health Care Reform: Competing Christian Perspectives,” at noon in the Trustees Dining Room; “The Health Care Reform Debate,” at 6 p.m. in Room 007 of the Business and Education Building; and “Faithful Discipleship, Politics and Government,” 7:40 p.m. in Room 007 of the Business and Education Academic Building Room.
“Every day in Washington, Christian women and men go off to their jobs in government service. Many of them attempt to bring the resources of their faith to bear on the work that they do,” Dr. Gushee said. “This day gives us a glimpse into how two prominent young Christian leaders in Washington try to integrate their faith, their ethics, and their service in government and politics.”
Prior to rejoining Media Matters for America, Paris spent five years at the Center for Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for the faith community that builds broad coalitions of faith leaders around issues of justice, compassion and the common good and amplifies mainstream religious voices in the media. During her time as program and communications director, Faith in Public Life advanced faith-based advocacy on issues from torture to health care to immigration reform, organized a nationally televised presidential forum featuring questions from faith leaders with then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Paris brings a decade of professional communications and research experience to her recent return to Media Matters, a 90-person round-the-clock media monitoring, research, and messaging center, which she helped launch in 2004. She has also served on presidential, senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns and continues to serves as senior adviser to Faith in Public Life.
Trent serves as a health care policy advisor for Dr. Tom Coburn, U.S. senator from Oklahoma. In this role, Trent advises Dr. Coburn on Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, health IT and a variety of other health policy issues. Previously, Trent has served as the deputy director of the refugee resettlement office at the Department of Health and Human Services, served in the George W. Bush White House Office of Presidential Personnel for three years and worked for the chief of staff at the Labor Department under Secretary Elaine Chao. While in Washington, Trent has participated in the fellows programs of the C.S. Lewis Institute and Claremont Institute and has served on the boards of an arts nonprofit and a state society.
About the Mercer Lyceum
The Mercer Lyceum is an effort to help coordinate existing University lectures and events, as well as new ones, around a single theme. The Lyceum will allow for more in-depth discussions, and, organizers hope, more in-depth learning, while helping to create new partnerships among the many disciplines at Mercer’s campuses. The Lyceum has been approved for four years, with two biennial cycles focusing on a single theme. The first theme is “Rebuilding Democracy” and will run from Fall 2011 to Spring 2013. The theme is built in part to help educate students about the challenges facing American democracy – hyper partisanship, governmental gridlock, low voter turnout and weak understanding of constitutional democracy, as well as outside threats, such as the growing gap between rich and poor, a shrinking middle class and the decline of America’s influence in the world. The Lyceum will help to inform students about these issues, but also help to train them to become better citizens themselves by examining possible solutions to those issues. The organizers hope the conversations help them find ways to address those challenges both as citizens and as professionals in their chosen careers.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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