A letter writer recently warned us all that "The University of Tennessee is sponsoring a series of lectures on Islam that is nothing more than a promotion of a religion."
Your reader can relax.
On Oct. 28, Sherman Jackson from the University of Southern California delivered the first annual Siddiqi Lecture in Islamic Studies at the University of Tennessee. His topic was abstruse: "Converging Limits: Shari'ah and the U.S. Constitution."
My wife and I attended the talk. My wife is a hospice chaplain and an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. I am ordained as a priest in the Episcopal part of the Christian faith. And as odd as it may seem, each of us, in a previous life, went to law school and practiced law for a number of years. We therefore had a double professional interest in Jackson's talk.
Rest assured, Jackson's lecture was anything but a "promotion of a religion." It was a technical analysis of the interrelationship of the law of Islam and the constitutional law of the United States. I doubt that anyone came away from the evening enticed by the seductive virtues of any particular religion, be it Islam, Christianity or modern American constitutional secularism.
What we did come away with was a renewed appreciation of UT and its Department of Religious Studies. Together they provide a safe and learned forum for honest conversation about the great faith traditions of the world.
The Department of Religious Studies in particular is a jewel in UT's crown.