Herald misinterprets U of C professor

By Nathan Dyck

One of the University of Calgary’s own had a run-in with the mainstream media recently. Following Professor Shadia Drury’s Jan. 19 lecture, the Calgary Herald ran a front-page article entitled "Jesus called ‘bad tempered.’"

"My position is much more complex than presented in the Herald," she said. "I spoke against Christianity in politics, not against Christianity."

Drury’s lecture, the first in the Poli-Sci Graduate Studies Series, was criticized by the Herald.

"University is a domain for freedom of thought," said Drury. "[One should] be able to question even the most sacred documents."

The lecture was well-attended. "Jesus doesn’t take well to skeptics, [he] casts them into the furnace of fire," said Drury, addressing a room packed with people.
The lecture was based on two individual arguments she claimed proved Christian religion–even "idealized," or pristine Christianity, as understood by fundamental interpretations–has no place in modern politics.

"Christianity is a zealous and immoderate religion that is profoundly unsuitable to be the foundation of political ideas or political philosophy," said Drury, claiming Christianity had negative and destructive consequences when brought into politics.

Stating that "it is impossible for the religious right to respect what they think is damnable," Drury attempted to illustrate the incompatibility of personal religious belief with a modern liberal democracy. Without down-playing the inner values that people hold, she questioned applicability to necessary moderation and sobriety.

"People convinced that they have a monopoly on good should refrain from bringing their belief into public life," she said.

Christian ethics represent a heroic ideal that goes beyond and flies in the face of reason and natural justice, she said. The heroic ideal, she explained, is an involvement in the world that stresses personal change and accomplishment. Drury cited Thomas Aquinas, who realized that divine law (or law in an ideal form from god) and natural law (or law necessary for life on earth) were distinct. She argued that any attempt to make inner goodness a foundation for politics leads toward totalitarianism.

Drury argued against relying on concepts that assume transformative (life-altering) religion or heroic personal religion can rid society of its ills, and criticized the use of a "harsh doctrine" of absolute right and wrong, with its assumption of one correct route.

The Herald was not the only objector to Drury’s lecture. One attendee questioned how her contentions could explain the importance of religion to Dr. Martin Luther King, who was known to draw heavily on his personal religion in his human rights messages. Another audience member raised Pascal’s Wager, which argues in favour of religious belief.

To the latter question, Drury responded that such questions still lie outside of the bounds of politics in a pluralist society (where various views are taken into account). She cautioned again that politics should not be about addressing issues of divinity but merely dealing with civil concerns.

The Herald declined to comment on the issue.

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