Adam Jortner to discuss key essence of democracy

Democracy isn’t a one-man job. America is not a monarchy. Everyone is involved, from constituents to mayors and governors, all the way up to the White House. 

Adam Jortner, author and the Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Professor of Religion at Auburn University, wants people to gain the perspective of democracy as a necessity, not a luxury.

He will deliver his lecture, titled “The Gospel and the Ballot Box: A History,” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, in the Hall of Philosophy for Week Five of the Interfaith Lecture Series theme of “The Ethical Foundations of a Fully Functioning Democracy.”

Jortner wants to start with democracy as a process and how it happens.

“Democracy can occur under all kinds of interesting and different conditions that we’re not used to thinking about,” Jortner said. “I really want to talk about what democracy is and ways for everyone to create and sustain it … through a life of faith.”

People act according to their faith, Jortner said, but the dictation of faith does not make it oppose democracy. He wants people to be comfortable talking to others, regardless of differing beliefs or religious choices.

“I’d like to give people a roadmap for talking to their neighbors, which is really the essence of democracy,” Jortner said. “It’s something that’s really hard to do, but I want to encourage that kind of civic engagement, and give everybody some tips and tricks for making something that’s hard a little bit easier.”

Everyone has their own role to preserve democracy. In 2018, Jortner ran in the general election for Alabama State Board of Education and lost, but he said the experience was rewarding.

“It made me certainly feel a very deep kinship to all the people in my district, even though the vast majority of them, I did not know personally,” Jortner said. “That was a real blessing.”

Along with being able to talk to people with different beliefs, Jortner said it’s always a challenge when the democracy in question is ruled by strangers. His challenge as a historian and professor is to keep an open mind and listen carefully.

“You are putting your life and your liberty in the hands of people you’ve never met,” Jortner said. “Because of that, there is an obligation in democracy to build public trust and build civic engagement — even with people you don’t like (or) people you can’t stand.”

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn is a rising senior at Kent State University majoring in journalism with a minor in public relations. At Kent, she’s currently the social and digital director for KentWired, serving previously as the general assignment, feature and opinion editor. She is also a third-year member of Tri Sigma sorority. This is her first summer at Chautauqua, and she is previewing the Interfaith Lecture Series. She’s very excited to interview the speakers and see everything Chautauqua has to offer.