Helping Christian Public Servants Pursue Justice
Religious Right politics has failed.
Today, intellectually-serious conservatism has been banished to the margins. And in part, it deserves to be, because of its one-sided failure to reckon with injustices inherent in the institutions it defended, and its failure to comprehensively reflect on the moral assumptions and social effects of the modern economy. In any case, evangelicals have always been tempted to think that good intentions are the main thing that matters in politics, and have tended to charge into the public square with little careful reflection about the principles that should guide practical policy. This might have been alright when public institutions were still populated by people of principle, but as politics has increasingly degenerated into nakedly partisan warfare, good intentions plus pragmatism is no longer a recipe to advance the common good. Christians engaged in public policy desperately need to be equipped with a combination of theological principle and political prudence.
What can we do about it?
There is a desperate need for good intellectual resources addressing law and public life from an evangelical yet catholic perspective, but there is a treasure trove of untapped riches from post-Reformation Protestantism providing a compass for Christian jurisprudence and social ethics. These resources can still inform our thinking today, providing needed perspective in a time when our options have been artificially narrowed by the banality of political discourse. We aim to “translate” these materials to the modern world, not merely publishing texts in English but distilling their insights into clear and concise principles that can directly inform and guide evangelicals working in law and public policy.
However, more reading material is not enough—there is plenty of good reading material in the world. Networks of mentorship are essential if evangelical Christians wading into the minefields of law and politics are to maintain both a faithful witness and intellectual rigor. Davenant aims to establish such networks, connecting cohorts of young Christian lawyers and law students and also cohorts of young Christians working in government with evangelical scholars who can connect them with the riches of the past and encourage them to think outside of the narrow boxes they have been given.
There is an urgent need out there, and a hunger among evangelical Protestants engaged in politics for something of substance to guide them. Many have lamented to us the vacuum of serious Protestant thought within the Beltway, and the reduction of Christian public engagement to empty moralistic slogans or short-sighted partisanship. Political theology and Protestant legal thought have been a focus for Davenant since its inception, and few if any groups are as thoroughly-steeped in the Reformational political tradition as our network of scholars. We have something of value to offer and we want to bring it to those in a position to effect serious change. We have already laid a lot of intellectual groundwork on this front with our publications Jesus and Pacifism, The Two Kingdoms, Natural Law, For Law and For Liberty, and Divine Law and Human Nature.
What can you do about it?
Within the coming year, we want to pivot decisively from laying groundwork toward directly addressing more practical contemporary questions. To this end, we are holding our annual National Convivium next year on the theme “Reforming Justice: Protestant Wisdom, Economic Freedom, and Modern Injustice.” We will hold two gatherings, one in the Southeast US in May and one in the Northwest in August. The total cost of these conference-retreats will be around $10,000.
We also plan to initiate a series of publications addressing the theological foundations of America and American political and legal thought.
- Your gift of $250 can provide free attendance for a needy student.
- Your gift of $600 can enable us to not only provide free attendance, but cover travel costs for those who would otherwise be unable to attend.
- Your gift of $1,250 can cover the costs of producing a Davenant Guide to the American Republic, or similar publications.
- Your gift of $5,000 can fully fund our costs to put on a National Convivium.
Please consider giving to this important initiative, and help us aid Christians in law and public policy to more effectively pursue justice.