An Interview with Matthew Pinna
conducted by Stiven Peter
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m currently a second year in the college studying political science and tentatively English. I’m from Long Island NY, so I suppose I’m used to city life. I’m most known maybe notoriously for my current vice president position in the College Republicans and my online presence.
What role did religion play in your life?
So my community is pretty mixed in terms of religion. Long Island at least, parts of Nassau County where I’m from, is a very strong Italian American community. You also have a fairly sizable Hispanic community, which creates a pretty strong Catholic presence there. I was at least the beginning of my life as a Catholic and then eventually the family shifted more to- wards Protestant churches around there. Their services were a lot more engaging. I suppose that my religious beliefs are more like a hodge- podge of all that.
In terms of impact, I’m sure for many Chicago people who are reading this, they read them Protestant Work Ethic by Weber. The concept was apparently spoken but it wasn’t exactly called the Protestant Ethic, but thought of as family tradition. Nonetheless, it definitely per- vades everything I do.
For the reader, The Protestant work ethic is a theory developed by Max Weber claiming that Protestants viewed success as a sign that one is saved. This belief generated a social ethic that emphasized working hard, working diligently, and caring for what God has given you.
In what ways has UChicago’s Religious Landscape challenged you?
I haven’t really felt that my beliefs were exactly like threatened or challenged. We’re in a group of very hardworking people here, but there is one thing that does surprise me: religion is very subdued in terms of where I feel it should be on campus. It should be a lot more active in terms of service things it does and in advertising more so to people who aren’t exactly following that specific day. Religous groups seem to be insular as a whole.
What comes to your mind when you think about the intersection of Christianity and politics?
Well what comes to mind for me is just seeing your fellow human being as a fellow human being. And that should of course be the guid- ing force in politics. It’s a love of country, love of your country men, and doing the best thing you could do to serve them regardless of whatever differences that may appear. This belief is fun- damental to any sort of functioning civic society.
The idea that everyone is made in the im- age of God, deserving of dignity, is a Ju- deo-Christian idea. Our current society is built on this assumption.
Exactly. Exactly right.
So then would you agree that Christianity
is a force for tolerance that provides the grounds for a pluralistic civil society.
Definitely the grounds. You could certainly be
a non religious person and still comes to those same conclusions of loving laws, loving people, loving everybody, but we do have to actually acknowledge the grounds of our political philosophy came from that.
What would you say to somebody who isn’t a Christian and therefore distancing them- selves from accepting the fact that they’re that they’re civic society is built on Christianity values?
Well what I would say to that person is just simply read the political texts that our society is based on. When you read their arguments as well as the arguments of those that con- vinced them as well. You see Christian as- sumptions undergirding them.
You know we’re at the University of Chi- cago and so we’re reading these thinkers and theories. Why do you think there’s still indifference or disdain towards religion? Well I mean you did say study these texts but that’s just the case with the people that defi- nitely not studying these texts. If they study these texts and don’t come to the conclusion that these are clearly products that they’re heavily based on Christianity, then they’re not actually studying the text. But for those peo- ple who do, I’m fine with if don’t care if some- one’s religious.
But how can you be indifferent about reli- gion when you read these texts and see the religious foundation behind them?
Well it’s some well because at least today I know many people come to these conclu- sions by themselves without using religion. I feel that as long as a non-Christian comes to those conclusions and still acts the same way a Christian would, I would have no problem with them. I do have a problem with the people who are actively against religion. Those are people who I feel are the ones who should really go back to those texts and see their Christian roots.
Why are you okay with people who are in civic society but bracket out religion?
Well I wouldn’t say it’s like a bracketing out like their against it. I think people should be ok with religion being around them, even if they themselves are not religious.
So you’re advocating a society were religious values are valid in public discourse?
Yes. We love people love the laws love the country. We could agree to disagree or we could agree to exist to coexist peacefully. Like I said the problem is with people who can’t come to those conclusions.
Given the ideals that we sketched out, how would you modify the cam- pus environment in discussing the role of religion and politics?
I would say the best thing you could do is just have people come down and visit religious and political organizations themselves.
So you’d think that we should be more open about our religious beliefs in our political environment? Everybody should be more open about who they are. And if you’re not open about who you are then you’re not be- ing genuine to yourself, or to anybody around you. I believe that everybody at heart here still is a good person and the overwhelming majority of them will talk to you and really discuss things in the best possible way. So if you want to be challenged and engaged in finding your values, then find yourself a person here and start talking