Charles Mathewes is the Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He spent much of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, and was educated at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. He is the author of Evil and the Augustinian Tradition and A Theology of Public Life, both with Cambridge University Press; Understanding Religious Ethics from Wiley-Blackwell; and The Republic of Grace, from Eerdmans. Among other edited volumes, he is the Senior Editor for a four volume collection on Comparative Religious Ethics: The Major Works for Routledge Publishers. From 2006 to 2010, he was Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the flagship journal in the field of religious studies, and was the youngest Editor ever appointed to lead that journal. He was Chair of the Committee on the Future of Christian Ethics for the Society of Christian Ethics, the inaugural Director of the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, and he currently serves on the House of Bishops Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church. He is currently finishing two books, one provisionally entitled The Future of Political Theology, the other provisionally entitled The Future of Christian Ethics.
I don’t know precisely when I first met Jean Elshtain. I think it was in the summer of 1995, in Swift Hall, home of the University of Chicago Divinity School. I must have been told of her arrival by one of the faculty. I know I talked to her in the corridor, that most important of places to ambush your teachers, and decided after that chat, that I would sit in on her class that Fall term—entitled, as I remember it, “Beginnings.”
Hollywood and academia may not often be thought of in one breath, but they do share some things, not the least being a hyperventilating and parochial culture of celebrity. Having been in this business now for a few of these cycles, I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go. Which figures are selected to be smiled upon by the fame machine seems almost random, a matter of tuche, the semi-theological bad luck of those who are selected, by a blind fate, or an erratic Greek deity. The perduring and valuable work of genuine scholars mounts in height and depth gradually over decades, chiseled out of serious matter, and their import is often recognized only in retrospect, late in a career or after the author is dead. Others—the academic version of one hit wonders—flash up in an instant, are talked about—though not as often talked to, and still less often carefully read—for a frenzied spasm of a few years, then are dropped like an empty foil bag of chips, left to blow heedlessly among the trees in the groves of academe, or to wander the halls of academic conferences, for decades to come.
I’m afraid, but I’m quite sure, that the work of Agamben falls into the celebrity category. […]
The Republic of Grace means to offer an extended account of why and how we, Christians and non-Christians alike, must learn to understand ourselves as continually, graciously, coming to be re-habituated, and recalibrated, into the grammar and language of love, even–and perhaps ultimately–in the public realm.