Mark Smith, who teaches political science, comparative religion and communication at the University of Washington, will speak about our commonalities at One Day University in Seattle.

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Tall book shelves cover almost half the wall space in Mark Smith’s small office on the University of Washington campus. He motions to them. Books just like these helped the UW professor of political science and adjunct professor of comparative religion and communication reinvent himself.

Smith, one of four professors from various U.S. universities speaking at The Seattle Times-sponsored adult-education event One Day University on March 7, credits Alan Wolfe’s “The Transformation of American Religion” and other works in political science and sociology for leading him to research the relationship between religion and politics. His conclusion: The social divide in America is not as great as it may seem.

“I would put it in terms of, ‘Is America coming apart at the seams?’” Smith said of his upcoming lecture. “A lot of people think that it is. If you look at the country, they think that it’s really fundamentally split … and my claim is gong to be that, yes, there are differences, but don’t forget all the things we agree upon.”

Event preview

One Day University

9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., March 7,

Washington State Convention Center, 800 Convention Place, Seattle; sold out (

Those things include a capitalist, but regulated economy; some kind of a welfare state; and separation of church and state, said Smith, who has been teaching at UW since 1997. He started his research examining the political power of business in America, before transitioning to the conservative movement and its economic rhetoric.

Smith argues that the American citizenry has more in common than it realizes. The news media buries the similarities, Smith said, in favor of more attention-grabbing reports. TVs are tuned to the struggle in Washington, D.C., with a democratic president and republican Congress, instead of stories about handshaking and agreement.

“No reporter wants to report that story and no reader, viewer or listener wants to read or view or watch that,” Smith said. “So the whole system is biased toward overrepresenting the conflict areas and underrepresenting the areas of agreement.”