Providing Christian college students with formational educational and professional opportunities that propel them to lives of faith and leadership in the public square.
The Initiative on Faith & Public Life is a project of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), one of the world’s leading policy think tanks, based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to provide Christian college students with formational educational and professional opportunities that propel them to lives of faith and leadership in the public square.
We achieve this mission by partnering with an ecumenical community of students, faculty, scholars, and professionals across the country and by sponsoring conferences, on-campus events, and other intensive programming. We also produce a variety of educational resources, including books, essays, videos, and documentaries.
Reflected in all our programs and resources are AEI’s core values: a commitment to democracy and free enterprise, solidarity with those at the margins of our society, and an appreciation for a robust competition of ideas. In that spirit, we foster rigorous, nonpartisan dialogue about a wide range of relevant topics—economics, business, society, culture, politics and public policy, and vocation and calling—from a distinctly Christian perspective.
Through all this work, our initiative exists to equip Christians for faithful, informed engagement in contemporary public life. Explore our website or contact us to learn more and get involved.
While we do not believe there is one perfect approach to Christian participation in politics and public life (faithful engagement is complicated and significantly context-dependent), there are some broad principles that inform our initiative’s posture toward these questions:
In light of our ultimate hope in Christ, we believe we should view politics as important, but not ultimate; political wins as consequential, yet inherently temporal and fleeting. As such, we should be politically engaged, taking seriously the political implications of the command to “love thy neighbor,” but not captive to particular leaders or ideologies.
We believe that the manner of our political engagement—and the public witness produced through those actions—is as important as the results of our engagement. That being the case, we have a responsibility to treat political opponents as our fellow citizens and human beings made in the image of God, who deserve to be reasoned with, cared for, and respected.
In our approach to politics and public policy, we believe we should always champion the equal dignity of every human life, and—to borrow the phrase from Catholic Social Teaching—have a “preferential option” for the poor and vulnerable.
We believe pluralism should be acknowledged as an unavoidable reality, and that Christians should be committed to bringing our strongly-held beliefs and ethical principles into the public square primarily through persuasion rather than coercive power.
In the face of real or perceived persecution, we believe Christians should not be willing to defend themselves at all costs, particularly if it means sacrificing Christian principles. Instead, we should adopt the posture of the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships,
We believe we should be committed to the rule of law and democracy—not as ends in themselves, but as the best means to deliberate over and build a common life in a pluralistic society.
Finally, rooted in a proper understanding of human anthropology, we believe it is important to advocate for political and economic institutions that promote individual agency, opportunity, and responsibility, as well as communal solidarity.
This approach is not meant to be particularly exclusive or to take the form of a political platform. In fact, our community of partners consists of Christians from across the political and ideological spectrum who have prudential disagreements about which policies best promote human flourishing. We believe these disagreements are actually healthy and result in better public policies. Instead, this vision aims to sketch out some basic, ground-level principles and practices that we believe are critically important for our common life.
Based in Washington, DC, our core team is part of the American Enterprise Institute’s broader Academic Programs department. We plan and coordinate all of the initiative’s programs, with the help of AEI staff and scholars and a network of external partners.
A position that rotates each academic year, our Visiting Professors are partner faculty members who are selected to contribute to the initiative’s work in various ways. Past Visiting
Professors have served as instructors for our Summer Honors Program, given lectures on campuses, written publications, and provided our team with advice and guidance.
Ideas Council Members
Our Ideas Council is a group of mid-career professionals who work in a variety of sectors, but share an interest in the intersection of faith, politics, society, and economics, and are committed to our initiative’s mission of investing in the lives of
college students. Like Visiting Professors, they support our work in various ways: advising and guiding our staff, serving as mentors for students, speaking on campuses, and participating in major conferences. A selection of members are listed below.
Matthew Lee Anderson
Center for the Common Good
Christ the King Presbyterian Church
Author, “Passion & Purpose”
The Philanthropy Roundtable
Anne Marie Hauser
Forge Leadership Network
Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership
Nexus Impact Advisors
Chandler Epp Navarrete
Andrea McDaniel Smith
Chelsea Patterson Sobolik
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commisision; Author, “Longing for Motherhood”
Catholic Education Partners