Does the world need another religion and politics blog? Of course not, but that fact is evidently not sufficient to dissuade me.

When I first started reading blogs a decade ago, I figured I would start writing my own in fairly short order. The timing never seemed right. In 2003-04, I was busy working on my master's. From 2005-07, I worked as a parish minister and it seemed unwise to offer public musings that would have been almost exclusively political and highly partisan. I dropped out of church quite abruptly after that and went through a phase in which I did not feel I had much to say about anything. From 2009-11, I was doing Ph.D. coursework. As I transitioned from coursework to research phase of my doctoral program, I almost started a blog. Instead, I spent much of 2012 working on another blogging project.

Much of what appears here will be opinions and commentary. I may occasionally share some insights and findings from my academic research on religion and American politics. However, a number of friends have encouraged me to do more popular writing about religion and politics. To that end, I will use this forum to explore and sharpen my perspectives and arguments, ideally for publication elsewhere.

In the end, all I have to offer arises out of my own experience. The trouble with writing about religion and politics is that most people have opinions on those subjects that they believe are at least as valid as yours. Even so, I would put the depth of my reflections and my dark nights of the soul up against just about anyone's! But I suppose everyone thinks his or her own experiences are unique.

If I do have a unique contribution, it is probably along these lines: I hope to use my knowledge and understanding of American political institutions, processes, and behaviors in to help people think through the political consequences of their religious beliefs (or the religious consequences of their political beliefs -- whichever the case may be).

I expect to write more about religion than politics. I grow weary of politics, but religion is almost endlessly fascinating to me. In my first few blog posts, I'll touch on evangelicals' political advocacy (suing over the 2012 HHS contraceptive mandate), a controversy in a Mainline Protestant denomination (same sex marriage and The United Methodist Church), the politics of an issue that finds almost all U.S. religions and denominations on the same side (immigration reform), and a cultural item (consumerism and the religious and secular meanings of Christmas). I suspect these topics are typical of the writing I'll publish here.

As a Ph.D. student, my primary job is to write a doctoral dissertation. This is probably a bad time to start blogging. My dissertation (on the political influence of clergy) will be long, technical, and only of interest to a few specialists. Blogging seems like the opposite. I hope my posts here will be short, non-technical, and interesting to a lot of people.

Time will tell. I invite you to follow along with me. But you should know, Dear Reader, that blogging is -- at least for the moment -- low on my list of priorities. Still, it seems fun and I look forward to thinking out loud about religion and politics.