James Calvin Davis

Professor of Religion

 Fridays 1:00-4:00
 Munroe Hall 406

Professor Davis began teaching at Middlebury College in 2001.  He offers courses in social ethics and American religious history.  In both his teaching and his writing, Professor Davis is interested in the ways religious traditions have contributed to debates over moral issues, political freedom, and civic responsibility in the United States.

An expert in Anglo-American Calvinism, Professor Davis is the author of a monograph on the Puritan firebrand for religious freedom, Roger Williams (The Moral Theology of Roger Williams, WJK Press 2004), as well as editor of On Religious Liberty: Selections from the Works of Roger Williams (Harvard, 2008).  This latter book represents the first collection of Williams's writings to be generally accessible in nearly fifty years.  

More recently Professor Davis has written In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us (Westminster John Knox, 2010).  In this book, he considers religion's impact on moral and political debates in America's past and argues for the benefit of a robust, respectful, and diverse religious contribution to contemporary public discourse.

Besides teaching in the Religion Department, Professor Davis currently serves as the Academic Director of the Privilege & Poverty Initiative, a new opportunity for Middlebury students to study the causes and consequences of poverty in a deliberate sequence of classroom learning and internship experience.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

RELI0190 - Ethics & Abrahamic Religion      

Ethics and Abrahamic Religion ET, WT
Ethics is the study of the values and convictions by which individuals and communities determine what is right, wrong, good, and bad. For many, religion is a lens through which to understand those moral values. In this course we will explore the varied contributions that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have made to debates over issues like violence, sex, the environment, human rights, and social justice. In the process of understanding these traditions and their impact on global moral discourse, students also will develop skills in ethical reasoning through class discussion and from the perspective of their own worldviews. 3 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2016

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RELI0293 - Health Care Ethics      

Ethics in Health Care
This course is an introduction to the principles, virtues, and other moral norms that guide decision-making in health care. We will focus on moral values accepted by Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and humanistic traditions, and embedded in a liberal, pluralistic society. Popular films and numerous case studies will provide students an opportunity to develop skills in moral reasoning, in conversation with these intellectual traditions. The health care issues we will consider include expectations for patient-physician relationships, research on human subjects, euthanasia and assisted suicide, abortion, assisted reproduction, genetic information, and access to health care resources. 3 hrs. lect./disc. AMR NOR PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2017

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RELI0298 / INTD0298 - Privilege and Poverty      

Privilege and Poverty: The Ethics of Economic Inequality
In this course we will study the ethical implications of domestic and global economic inequality. Drawing from history, economics, sociology, philosophy, theology, and other disciplines, we will examine the causes and consequences of inequality, critically evaluate our usage of the terms “privilege” and “poverty,” and consider the range of moral responses individuals and society might have to inequality. We will ask whether it is unfair, unfortunate, or necessary that some citizens live with significantly less material wealth than others, and whether those who experience “privilege” have any moral responsibility to those who exist in “poverty.” PHL SOC

Spring 2013, Winter 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

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RELI0396 - War/Peace/Christian America      

War, Peace, and Christian America ET, WT
Many Christians have argued that war is morally justifiable in certain circumstances, while others have maintained that killing of any kind, even in the name of the state, is wrong. In this seminar we will examine the theological roots of pacifist, just-war, and crusader perspectives, and then consider how Christian interpretations of political violence have been used to support or dissent from American armed conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to the War in Iraq. Throughout the course, we will ask how American views on war have been shaped by the persistent interpretation of the U.S. as a “Christian nation.” 3 hrs. sem. HIS PHL

Fall 2013, Spring 2016

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RELI0398 - Amer Religion & Social Justice      

American Religion and Social Justice
Religious communities and organizations have contributed significantly to moral and social reform movements throughout U.S. history. From the colonial period to the present, religion has helped shape the discourse around issues like economic justice, racial equality, women’s rights, immigration, environmentalism, and LGBTQ rights. In this course we will study religious involvement in these social justice movements, critically examining the theologies that inspired both reform and resistance to social change. Throughout the course, we will consider the impact religion may have had—positive and negative—on struggles for social justice in the United States. 3 hrs. sem. AMR HIS NOR PHL

Spring 2015, Spring 2017

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RELI0500 - Independent Research      

Independent Research
(Approval Required)

Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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RELI0700 - Senior Project in Religion      

Senior Project
(Approval Required)

Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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RELI0701 - Senior Thesis in Religion      

Senior Research for Honors Candidates
Approval required

Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

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Department of Religion

Munroe Hall
427 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753