I spent the past year representing a rare breed at YDS. Though enrolled in the Master of Arts in Religion program, I have no intention of pursuing a doctoral degree. Though I have attended church services each Sunday for most of my life, I do not seek to enter formal ministry. My fellow students do not, of course, fall easily into the two groups, but such stereotypes hold up a surprising amount of the time.
I take note of this dichotomy right away because it speaks to my own motivation for enrolling in our faith and foreign policy course. I hope to represent the in-betweeners, the individuals who have a stake in international political issues but lack a clear and concise stance.
Our world would be a healthier place if we allowed for less certainty when addressing international relations. Governments seem to form religious freedom committees under the impressesion that with x number of religion experts and y number of political scientists, the group will improve z number of lives. But it is incredibly rare for such assumptions to hold up under operating conditions that involve incongruous domestic, international and cosmological climates.
Expressed in terms of the course syllabus, I would call myself an Elizabeth Shakman Hurd-er with an optimistic bent. So many of her concerns about letting people slip through categorical cracks resonate with me, but I have a soft spot in my heart for organizations like the newly formed U.S. religious engagement office, if simply because having high-ranking people discuss religion matters to me, especially when they stay focused on the pursuit of knowledge rather than seeking hard and fast conclusions.
Maybe someday I will work in such an office, wielding whatever slice of political power I gain for the good of such uncertain people as my present-day self. But until then, I plan to not let my lack of an official title, or even a firm ideological stance, keep me from joining the conversation.