Policy Wonks for Christ

At Civitas, grad students learn to think Christianly about public life.

Will Inboden, a towering redhead who drives a pickup truck and flashes a wicked grin when he laughs, landed on Capitol Hill fresh from his undergraduate years at Stanford. Working in the offices of senators Sam Nunn and Tom DeLay, says Inboden, "showed me the day in, day out sausage-making of practical politics." But Inboden was frustrated: "I realized I was not equipped with a theoretical framework that would help me approach politics as a Christian."

Inboden's desire for a theologically sensitive approach to politics became more obvious when he helped craft the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. "That experience challenged me to ask what role religion has in foreign policy. When is it right to leverage the kingdom of man for the ends of the kingdom of God?" These were big questions for a young policy wonk.

So Inboden went back to school, heading to Yale to pursue a Ph.D. in history. He wanted to figure out how piety applies to public life and look at how foreign policy had been conducted in the past. It's no great shock that he's found Yale a place where the latter question is answered in the finest detail. But figuring out the former is a little tougher.

"I'm not in a program that's equipping me with explicitly Christian tools," Inboden acknowledges. To remedy the imbalance, he spent last summer in Washington, D.C., studying policy and Christianity at a unique civic-education and leadership institute called by the Latin name Civitas (meaning citizenship, state, or commonwealth).

Civitas is sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, which cooperates with the Center for Public Justice, the Brookings Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The Civitas program has, including Inboden, 12 doctoral scholars ...

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