St. Olaf College Professor of Political Science Dan Hofrenning has been appointed to the Martin E. Marty Chair in Religion and the Academy for the 2017-18 academic year.
The Martin Marty Chair symbolizes what it means to live and work at the intersection of faith and reason. The chair provides opportunities to address significant religious issues and to respond to wider social and political issues in a thoughtful and faithful way.
During his term, Hofrenning will focus on two main areas: 1) church and state and 2) religion, secularism, and higher education. He will lead a campus-wide exploration of these topics through a combination of public lectures, discussion groups, and the development of a new course in religion and politics.
In focusing on church and state, Hofrenning will look specifically at the nature of religious pluralism in America.
“I would like to explore two paradoxes: First, the United States has the most religious citizenry — and the most secular state of all developed nations. Moreover, America has much religious diversity and tolerance — even as religious divisions seem to be growing,” he says. “I will look at religious diversity and tolerance and the ways in which religion contributes to our increasingly fractious politics.”
In focusing on religion, secularism, and higher education, Hofrenning will explore the role of religion and the academy both at St. Olaf and in the broader context of higher education.
“Historically, there has been a complex negotiation between religious institutions and the academy,” he says, noting that St. Olaf seeks a middle ground between the sectarianism of its past and the secularism that defines much of higher education. “We embrace and celebrate a range of religious and secular perspectives. I would like to explore this tradition with particular attention to the interaction of secularism and religion.”
Hofrenning, who has taught at St. Olaf since 1988, says he’s looking forward to exploring these topics.
“I believe they are very consistent with the intellectual interests of Martin Marty and are crucial questions both for American politics and higher education,” he says.