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Come listen to Sam Gregg and other Acton Institute affiliates engage in this important discussion. 

What has Jerusalem to do with Washington D.C.? How should we understand the connection between Christian faith and American Liberalism? Some say it is a necessarily antagonistic relationship, others that it is a fruitful partnership that has been orchestrated by God himself, and still others that it is a relationship in tension, bearing both good and bad fruit. While this question has been with us since the beginning of the American political experiment, our current cultural season seems especially fraught with difficulty and division with regard to how to think about our most important identities, loyalties, and duties. With this in mind, the Faith and Democracy in America conference will consider this question with the intent of fostering meaningful conversations about what it looks like to do justice to both God and Caesar. 

The conference will be held at the Prince Conference Center on the Calvin College campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan; overnight accommodations are available through the Prince Center.

The conference is sponsored by the Acton Institute and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics.

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Plenary Speakers

Patrick J. Deneen Headshot
Patrick J. Deneen, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame

Professor of Political Science

Patrick J. Deneen, Ph.D. holds a B.A. in English literature and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University. Serving as a Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame since 2012, where he holds the David A. Potenziani Memorial College Chair of Constitutional Studies, Deneen previously worked as Speechwriter and Special Advisor to the Director of the United States Information Agency, was an Assistant Professor of Government at Princeton University, and held the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor of Government post at Georgetown University. 

Deneen's teaching and writing interests focus on the history of political thought, American political thought, religion and politics, and literature and politics. His current work focuses on the growing conflict between, and potential new alignments arising out of, a globalist meritocratic elite and populist nationalists and his published books include:

  • Why Liberalism Failed (Yale University Press, 2018)
  • Conserving America? Thoughts on Present Discontents (St. Augustine Press, 2016)
  • Democratic Faith (Princeton University Press, 2005)
  • The Odyssey of Political Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) 
  • Democracy's Literature (ed.), (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005)
  • The Democratic Soul (ed.), (University Press of Kentucky, 2011)
  • Redeeming Democracy in America (ed.), (University Press of Kansas, 2011)
James K.A. Smith Headshot
James K.A. Smith, Ph.D.
Calvin College

Professor of Philosophy

James K. A. Smith, Ph.D. is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. The award-winning author of Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, his most recent books include You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (2016), Imagining the Kingdom (2013), Discipleship in the Present Tense (2013), Who's Afraid of Relativism? (2014) and How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (2014). His popular writing has appeared in magazines such as Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and First Things, as well as periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Detroit Free Press. Smith is also a Senior Fellow of Cardus and serves as editor of Comment magazine.

Panel Speakers

The event will also feature five panels with invited speakers from various perspectives, each addressing crucial components of the driving question: Is Christianity compatible with American Liberalism? These panels will address the challenges of pluralism, technology, civic belonging, the free market, and how to best understand the American Founding.

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


Prince Conference Center
1800 East Beltline Avenue Southeast
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
United States


Thursday, December 6, 2018
10:30am - 12:00pm American Origins
12:00pm - 1:00pm Lunch
1:00pm - 2:30pm Belonging in America?
2:30pm - 3:00pm Coffee Break
3:00pm - 4:30pm Liberating Technology?
5:00pm - 6:00pm Reception
6:00pm - 7:30pm Plenary/Rule of Law Lecture featuring Patrick Daneen

Friday, December 7, 2018
9:00am - 10:30am Liberating Markets?
10:30am - 11:00am Coffee Break
11:00am - 12:30pm Faith and Pluralism
12:45pm - 2:15pm Lunch and Plenary Session featuring James K.A. Smith
Thank God for Liberalism:
An Alternative History without Nostalgia


The Conference Registration fee is $50, and includes lunch and a reception on Thursday and lunch on Friday at the event. Undergraduate students may attend any of the sessions at no charge, but should pay the registration fee to eat meals with the group and attend the entire event.