Essay in WaPo - "Religious opposition to vaccines is rooted in politics, not tradition"

I wrote a piece for the Washington Post about religious exemptions to vaccination. Such exemptions lack any religious or theological justification, and they are also historically anomalous. Religious exemptions to vaccinations, however, have generally lacked a coherent basis, and those seeking them for coronavirus vaccination face an uphill battle. Religious beliefs have not historically been used as a justification to avoid vaccination, and the recent emergence of religious-based exemptions — animated by partisan politics, fear and debunked scientific studies — is an anomaly. This is not surprising, given that getting vaccinated (to protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable) fits neatly into the moral logic of the world’s major religions. This is one reason Pope Francis has called getting vaccinated against the coronavirus an “act of love.” Vaccine hesitancy that is purportedly grounded in religious belief is in fact often rooted in political identity.  White evange

Op-Ed for Haaretz - "Tucker Carlson's Cynical Love Affair With Orban's Hungary"

Last week Tucker Carlson was in Hungary singing Viktor Orbán's praises, thrusting the aspiring authoritarian into the headlines again, so I wrote a piece for Haaretz  exploring the American Right's embrace of Hungary, which is often coupled with a condemnation of the United States. Basically, American conservatives, and especially religious conservatives, want the U.S. to be more like Hungary. This is bizarre for run-of-the-mill economic reasons: ...considering the matter only from a detached and coldly analytic perspective, it is a bit odd for the richest and most powerful country in the world (at least for now) to look with envy on a far less prosperous country that emerged from behind the Iron Curtain only a few decades ago. In many fields and industries, American institutions and companies lead the world in prestige and innovation, and many of the technologies that are key to humanity’s future, from electric cars to mRNA vaccines, are largely developed in the United State

In Open Letter, (Some) Evangelical Leaders Condemn Christian Nationalism

A coalition of prominent evangelical leaders published an open letter yesterday condemning Christian Nationalism. I wrote a short piece on it yesterday evening for The Square , the blog for the Religion and Its Publics project that I edit. In general, I think the letter is admirable, and I like how the writers wield the charge of heresy against the Capitol insurrectionists. I was, however, disappointed to see who did not sign the letter. I also think the statement raises the interesting matter of whether it is appropriate to question the sincerity and legitimacy of people's religious beliefs. After January 6, perhaps yes.

Op-Ed for The Virginian-Pilot on democracy and authoritarianism in a time of emergency

I wrote an op-ed for The Virginian-Pilot  on democracy and authoritarianism in a time of emergency - in this instance, the emergency occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic. It is part of the " Democracy and Pandemic " series, sponsored by the Democracy Initiative at UVA. With the election tomorrow, it is fitting to quote the final two paragraphs of the piece:  "This underscores the importance of electing leaders who are intelligent, honorable and trustworthy, or who are at least competent. One of the many reasons Donald Trump’s election alarmed so many people is that he seemed to lack even the basic qualifications to hold elected office, let alone the highest office of the land. He seemed, and has since proven to be, fundamentally incapable of governing the United States.  A sort of nihilism animated some of Trump’s supporters in 2016 — the system isn’t working, so let’s blow it up — and the pandemic has laid bare the recklessness of this way of thinking. Hopefully the c

Hungary’s Illiberal Democracy

I recently finished a  podcast on Viktor Orbán’s Hungary and the “illiberal democracy”   he has created. The country is illiberal because the government openly favors, in both its rhetoric and policies, one set of beliefs at the expense of others. The country is a democracy because Hungary’s direction under Orbán is arguably a reflection of the will of the people. But can a country that does not support basic rights and liberties be a democracy? And why do many American religious conservatives admire Orbán, despite his authoritarian tendencies? I interviewed Andras Petho and Rod Dreher to help me find answers. Thanks to  The Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at UVA  for production support and to the  Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs  for funding.

European Disunion

Here is another audio piece I put together for the Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at UVA. It's related to my first podcast, Consider Hassan , and features a Greek, a Spaniard, and the enduring challenge of European stability. Click here to listen to the full piece .

Consider Hassan - Episode 4 of the Sacred & Profane podcast

Nothing grates against the ear quite like one's own voice, but here is 20 minutes of it on a podcast I helped put together for the Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab at UVA. It's an exploration of an ancient political fear, the "tyranny of the majority," but told through the story of an Iraqi refugee seeking asylum in Austria. It is a good story because of the courage of its protagonist and the skill of the Lab's producers. Click here to listen to the full episode .