Mathewes

Charles
Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies

I was born in the United States, but I spent the rest of my childhood overseas, in Saudi Arabia. Because of that, I’ve always thought that profound religious difference and serious geopolitical concern were alive and interrelated. 

I eventually became fascinated with religious ethics, because I am interested in how people think about how and why they behave as they do in their lives, how they might behave better, and why they might care to so improve. I have a special interest in evil: in how humans have imagined what it means for people to “go bad,” in what that fact says about the cosmos, and in what responses we might be obliged to make to those insights.

I am drawn to the College Fellows centrally because of the Fellows’ interdisciplinary ambition. It is both interesting and fun to work together with colleagues to create a kind of education that is more than the sum of its parts, and that tries to spark conversations across disciplinary boundaries and semester segments. Liberal education’s traditional intellectual flexibility, and its diversity in courses of study, should be retained; but we want to amplify those strengths with a direct holistic attention to the overall shaping of the individual, as both a person with vivid convictions and a citizen with civic obligations.

I enjoy working with students to engage their interests in thinkers, writers and complicated philosophical and religious topics. I delight in those moments when a class “spills over” the syllabus’s explicit boundaries, and we begin to engage matters far beyond the themes on the syllabus; in those moments, we confront matters of surprisingly immediate concern to people in the class, or just go so deeply into the topics of our study that we uncover surprising and heretofore unnoticed (even by me) insights.