Ted Jelen, 1952-2017

UNLV Political Science professor Ted Jelen on December 13, 2010. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

My old friend UNLV Political Scientist Ted Jelen died a few weeks ago. Ted was a founding father of the modern study of religion and politics, helped found the section on Religion and Politics in the APSA, and was founding editor of the section journal Politics and Religion. Ted also served as editor of Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion for a term or two in the 1990s. Ted was a prolific writer, and was one of the most influential figures in the field. I always resented how many conservative Christian social scientists root the founding of religion and politics in the (mostly) “Evangelical” gang of four. I’ve had more than a half dozen young political scientists and sociologist wax about their influence, and I usually respond that I thought it was Jelen and Wilcox who made the most important contributions. Ted’s book, The Political Mobilization of Religious Beliefs was the most important work on the prospects and problems for conservative Christian religious mobilization.

I met Ted in the early 1990s, when he was still at Benedictine. My friend and colleague Tobin Grant tells me that Ted was once the lowest paid full professor in all of Political Science according to an APSA study. He moved on to UNLV, where he finally received some degree of recognition for his scholarship. Tobin and I tried to hire him here at SIU three or four years ago. Ted and I  had several conversations about the pros and cons of SIU v. UNLV. In the end, UNLV made him “an offer I can’t refuse.”  I’m sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to have him here.

Ted was always smiling, always friendly, and eager to help with anything. He was a conscientious and fair editor, and was a person who always helped lift others, rather than simply promoting himself. He helped me several times in my career, and I’ll never forget it.

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2 Responses to “Ted Jelen, 1952-2017”

  1. David Yamane Says:

    Thanks for posting. For some reason I had not heard this news. 100% Ted was a great and supportive colleague.

  2. sherkat Says:

    I heard from Tobin several days after he died. I knew he had some issues, but for some reason I thought he was free and clear….

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