Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Who is Hunter?

Written by: on February 17, 2020

Who is Hunter?

Hunter began his career at Westmont College as an Assistant Professor of Sociology from 1982-1983.

He then moved to the University of Virginia, where he taught as an Assistant Professor of Sociology from 1983 to 1989. He then became a Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies from 1989 to 1994.

He held the position of Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies William R. Kenan from 1994 to 2003, before becoming a Labrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Theory of Sociology with appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Religious Studies . Since 1995 he has also served as Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture of the university.

In 2004, the White House nominated Hunter to be part of the National Council of the National Foundation of the Humanities, a position he has held since his confirmation by the Senate. He has also served on boards of directors for Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Civic Renewal Commission. Since 2011, James D. Hunter has been a member of the Peace Research Endowment board.

As of 2010 Hunter had written eight books and edited another three. His author books include Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (1991), which describes a battle for control of American culture and social institutions fought between conservative religious groups (Protestants, Catholics, and Jews) and their politically progressive counterparts. In 2005, Hunter won the Richard M. Weaver Award for Academic Letters.

James Davison Hunter talked about this notion of confrontation


The church, since it exists within the wide range of vocations

Individuals in all spheres of social life (commerce, philanthropy, education, etc.) must be present in the world of ways that serve the constructive subversion of the entire infrastructure of social life incompatible with the shalom to the one we were created and for which we were called. Like a natural expression of his passion to honor God in all things and love our neighbor as ourselves, the church will defy all structures that dishonor God, dehumanize to people and neglect or hurt creation. Pg 235.

To change the world is a much welcome effort to think seriously about religion and public life, church and state, spirituality and secular culture in the United State. Hunter is a confessing Christian, an extended meditation upon tree crucial issues facing contemporary Christianity.

Who controls American culture and How?

What has been the effect of politicizing religion?

What should be the stance of a committed Christian to the contemporary “world”?

We have faith in public life.

In other words, we have faith in the positive and significant role that faith should play in public life, and we have faith that public life will support justice and the common good. We believe the positive role for faith in public life is fulfilled when:

  • Religious voices for justice and the common good impact public discourse and policies; and
  • Those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public debate.
  • Faithful contributions to public life should not, and need not, violate America’s central tenet of separation of church and state.

What, then, does Faith in Public Life understand by the “social justice faith movement?”

I was reading this article by Stephanie Block and I think it echoes to what Hunters are saying

Faith in Public Life first explains what the movement isn’t: it isn’t addressing what it dubs the “Religious Right’s” issues of abortion and homosexuality.  Faith in Public Life issues, by contrast, are “social and economic justice.”

Now, one might think we’re talking compatible and complementary concerns as if the politics of the right is exclusively concerned with the protection of vulnerable human life while the politics of the left is concerned about a high standard of living for all.  If that were the case, right and left are allies – not enemies.  Both would be working toward the common good.

Now, looking at the world is suffering because there are many things that are objectively contrary to the Gospel. The three great virtues, faith, hope, and charity, which make us enjoy, make us suffer, especially charity.

How can we fix this?

We live in a society that we don’t like, at least, we don’t like it at all. Look where we look, we see that there is much to be redeemed: much to clean, much to change, much to clean up. There is the world of childhood, of youth, of married life, of old age, the world of education, of politics, of family, etc., all of them with immense sectors of baptized, heartless, living on their backs. to the Gospel, producing, consequently, fruits of death. It is not necessary to provide data. Given the current state of affairs there is an inevitable question, which Christians have been repeating since the day of Pentecost: “What do we have to do, brothers?”, asks that by doing it today, in its social dimension, it could be translated by this other: how to fix this?

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

https://search-proquest com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/docview/871163935?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo accessed 2-17-2020

https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7707 accessed 2-17-2020

About the Author

Joe Castillo

8 responses to “Who is Hunter?”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    I feel like Hunter was trying to provide common ground for Christians to stand upon, and in a way, redefine the means by which change happens. Social justice has diverse meanings, depending on what side of the political or religious aisle a person sits on. For some, its Gospel. For others, its the antithesis of the Gospel. Hunter works to bridge that gap, but does so in a way that is so simplistic that those sitting on different sides trying to bring forth change in their own way, will likely dismiss his conclusions. I would argue many Christians already think they are living like Jesus. Sadly, we all have blind spots, so we continue to cry out, “What do we have to do?” to implement true change.

  2. Dylan Branson says:

    Joe, as a pastor what are some of the practical ways that you’ve tried to influence your congregation to live their faith in the public life? How has Hunter’s book reinforced or changed the way that you would encourage your congregation to dialogue with public life?

    • Joe Castillo says:

      In his passage on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that Christians are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5: 20). An ambassador is an official envoy who represents a foreign sovereign and provides a link between his host country and the country he represents. Ambassadors work to build relationships and develop policies that favor both the host and the country of origin of the ambassador. An ambassador is appointed by the leadership of those whom he represents and is given authority to speak on his behalf.

  3. Greg Reich says:

    I would be interested to see what your people think. How do those in your congregation who have immigrated to the US view the concept of faithful presence? Do you sense they have deeper faith in the American government and freedom or in God?

  4. Shawn Cramer says:

    Similar to Darcy’s comment, I think we are in desperate need of some “third way” other than left/right, conservative/progressive. I think “faithful presence” is a decent start. Part of the challenge is deconstructing nearly every approach, including his own past (Gordan College).

  5. John McLarty says:

    You rightly pointed out that both political conservatives and political progressives have policies that demonstrate their high value for human life, yet regard each other as enemies. It’s hard to raise money for your side if there isn’t an ideological opponent. How is it that the ideolouges have successfully gained control of the narrative when the majority of the country identifies themselves as moderates who can see merits and liabilities in both party’s policies?

  6. Jer Swigart says:

    What if, by loving our neighbor, we can actually subvert the systems of racism, militarism, and materialism that crush people. It seems so simple…yet so elusive. What do you see as the connection between our desire for power and our inability to love neighbor well?

  7. Chris Pollock says:

    I’m interested in the meeting point of culture between the sacred and secular.

    What are the metaphysical dynamics to these and what does it look like at the interface?

    Being in the presence of God is unmistakable and perhaps indescribable though oh-so real. What decision-making happens on our part as we consider the connection or mixing of ‘sacred-secular’? Or, does it just happen and all of a sudden we find our selves in the midst of a new solution, all mixed up?

    In ‘Spotlight’ Politics, issues are mere platforms. Nothing more. How can we bring the ‘heart’ of the matter into the conversations? Politics would look different and Politicians (as we currently know them to be) would have to go back to doing whatever else they do.

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