Thomas Heilke studies religion and politics. He's especially interested in the ways people adjust their faith to fit their politics.
Americans, he said, have been making a lot of spiritual adjustments in the wake of Sept. 11.
For Christians, some of these adjustments are troubling.
"A Christian believes that God is a god of peace, not war. But here we are at war in Afghanistan," he said. "What does that mean? Does it mean anything?"
Heilke, an associate professor in political science at Kansas University, will try to answer these and other big-picture questions during a lecture 7 p.m. Thursday at Alderson Auditorium in the Kansas Union.
Heilke's comments will the subject of a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Friday at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave.
Heilke is part of a national speaker bureau being assembled by the Pew Charitable Trust in hopes of beginning national dialogue on religious issues involved in the U.S. response to terrorism.
His presentation, "A Social Scientist Talks About Faith, Conflict and Society," will serve as a rough draft for future appearances at other universities.
"I'm still figuring out what I'm going to say, but I suspect I'll look at how we as a society view the rest of the world through a lens that sees conflict and violence as necessary 'where there's conflict, there's violence,'" Heilke said. "But are there other ways to look through that lens and not see violence and force in the way we as Christians conduct ourselves?"
Heilke's appearance and the panel discussion are being sponsored by a coalition of campus ministries.
"Thomas is perfect for this," said Bob Clark, co-director of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at KU. "He's very good at sorting things out, and a lot of his work has been in the areas of peace, war and violence. And he's coming at this as both a person of faith and an academician."