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Kenneth Townsend 12 M.A.R.
Kosciusko, MS, B.A.,Millsaps College; M.Phil., Oxford University; United Methodist

I was raised by an evangelical pastor in rural Mississippi and can’t recall a time when religion didn’t play a big part in my life.  It was not until college, however, that I started to discover the extent of our nation’s religious diversity.  That discovery prompted me to write an undergraduate thesis on consensus building and to pursue graduate studies in political theory, where I explored how public reasoning can take seriously religious and non-religious citizens’ views without leaving any party feeling coerced or neglected.  My studies then led me to teach political theory, ethics, and public policy for a couple of years.

TownsendWhile teaching courses such as “Liberty, Justice, and Equality” and “Religion, Politics, and the Law,” I became increasingly interested in the theological dimensions of contemporary political and philosophical debates, and, consequently, drawn to divinity school.

As an ecumenical divinity school that takes faith and intellect seriously, YDS has provided many opportunities for personal and vocational reflection.  While at YDS, I’ve been able to explore my own faith during regular worship in Marquand Chapel and while interning at the Episcopal Church at Yale.  Classes such as “Faith and Globalization,” taught by Tony Blair and Miroslav Volf, have opened special opportunities for thinking about faith and the public sphere.  And co-directing the Yale Committee for Social Justice at YDS has reminded me of the practical ways that faith can and should inform questions of justice. 

Classes such as “Faith and Globalization,” taught by Tony Blair and Miroslav Volf, have opened special opportunities for thinking about faith and the public sphere.

My interest in bridging secular and sacred worlds and in thinking about the complex contours of justice also led me to apply to Yale’s law school, where I am currently pursuing a JD, along with the MAR at YDS.  As I see it, law school provides very practical tools for putting justice into practice, but the classes and communities of YDS offer chances to reflect on the nature of justice and why it matters in the first place. 

I’m not yet sure what my future holds, but YDS has helped give some shape to my plans.  I know that I want to bring together people who often do not understand themselves as having much in common—whether it’s lawyers and pastors or evangelicals and atheists—to think in practical and principled ways about what justice means.  Whether in academia or public service, I am certain that my time at Yale will deeply and forever shape my life’s work.

 

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