A discussion on the intersection of religion and politics, sponsored by the Political Science Association and the Association of Student Anthropologists, was held in the University Center on Monday afternoon.

Professor Ron Stockton teaches a Religion and Politics class at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and led the discussion along with three of his former students: Damir Vucicevic, Joe Miszcak and a third student who requested not to be named in this story.

Stockton gave an overview of the course, and explained how he maintains order in a class that deals with such controversial and sensitive subjects.

“I try to sort of shock students a little bit on the first day,” Stockton said. “I say to them, ‘if after a few weeks I haven’t insulted your religion, slip me a note and I’ll do so at the next possible opportunity.’”

Stockton pointed out that he is not trying to hurt students’ feelings, but only looking at religious institutions from a social science perspective.

One of the main themes of the discussion was that religious revolutions, uprisings and changes in general tend to have political motivations.

In Stockton’s Religion and Politics class, he has his students read Osama Bin Laden’s declaration of war on Americans and the story of the Maccabees in the Bible, and has them compare the two religious revolutions.

“(The story of the Maccabees) really is almost identical to what Osama Bin Laden was all about: a traditional culture trying to keep its ways,” Miszcak said. “It was amazing how similar they were; I didn’t expect that at all.”

Vucicevic talked about the First Vatican Council in the Catholic Church, which was discussed in the class, and how it appears if viewed from a political science standpoint.

“The Catholic Church looked at how they could reform their teachings to make it more appealing to the people,” he said.

In relation to the current political state, Stockton explained how the relationship between religion and politics in the United States has changed in recent years.

“When I was the age of most of you in this room (college-aged), you would find that Catholics were on one end and Southern Baptists were on the other,” he said. “What’s amazing to me is what has happened.
“Now you have right-wing Protestant groups, the Catholic Church, conservative Jews all clustered together (politically), and that’s amazing to me.”

Professor Stockton’s Religion and Politics class is POL 355, and is offered in the Winter semester 2013.