I write news analysis and commentary for a range of outlets, from popular press to academic publishers. Here are links to most of my published pieces.


2018

A reckoning for Southern Baptists, and an opportunity
Will the SBC’s #MeToo moment accelerate its decline? Or could it be the start of a revival? My advice: Don’t write off the Southern Baptist Convention.
Religion News Service | June 1, 2018

In finding common ground, Jimmy Carter and Liberty U. set good example
Falwell and Carter offered a model of civility and generosity that all Americans, whether Baptist or not, can stand and applaud.
Religion News Service | May 21, 2018

Cheers and caution for President Trump's new faith-based initiative
I applaud the broad outline of President Trump's faith initiative. Better late than never. But implementation will be key.
Religion News Service | May 4, 2018

Paul Ryan doesn't have a prayer
Until we know more details, firing the House chaplain looks horrible for Ryan, who regularly acquiesces to the ugliest Republican trends in the Trump era.
Religion News Service | April 27, 2018

Barbara Bush's old-fashioned religion
Barbara Bush seemed to embody the virtues of womanhood promoted in 20th-century American Protestantism: loyalty, duty and family.
Religion News Service | April 18, 2018

No integrity for Trump's evangelical disciples. Sad!
Conservative Christians blame Hollywood and liberals and everyone but themselves. But they are the ones who brought vulgarity, adultery and a porn star into my family’s home.
Religion News Service | April 10, 2018

What baseball can learn from religion
The world of religion offers clues to the causes and consequences of baseball's present troubles. It also suggests what it will take to revive the great American pastime.
Religion News Service | April 4, 2018

Why Billy Graham should not lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda
The cause that Graham served with longevity and distinction is evangelical Protestantism, not the United States of America.
Religion News Service | February 26, 2018

Why I kept my questions for the Rev. James Martin to myself
I asked one gay Catholic layman why he didn’t just convert to Episcopalianism. “This is my Church,” he said. “She is my mother. I am hers and she is mine.”
Religion News Service | February 1, 2018

Brownback deserved more Democratic support
I would not vote for Sam Brownback. I certainly did not vote for the president who nominated him. But we need qualified people to serve in the government. Democrats: International religious freedom is important. Ambassador Sam Brownback is not your enemy.
Religion News Service | January 25, 2018

Where are mainline Protestants on abortion?
United Methodists’ ambivalence reflects what Americans actually believe about abortion rights: It’s complicated.
Religion News Service | January 18, 2018


2017

Notre Dame, contraception, and a better conversation about sex
In a surprising reversal, Notre Dame decided last week that allowing its health insurer to provide free contraceptives to female students and workers does not, after all, impinge on its religious liberty. So how sincere was the legal argument to begin with?
Religion News Service | November 15, 2017

Gun massacres: Why aren't more churches telling the truth?
The simple truth is that, while no law can prevent a specific mass shooting, commonsense measures can make them less likely overall. This is not debatable. Truth-telling churches should proclaim this loudest of all!
Religion News Service | November 6, 2017

LGBT-affirming Christians are more emboldened than ever
Conservatives should get serious and specific about how they propose helping at-risk LGBT youth. And progressives should say exactly what beliefs need to be discarded and how this impacts the rest of their theology.
Religion News Service | October 20, 2017

Who cares for the pastor's spouse?
Clergy spouses make a profound and unique commitment to their faith. Yet far too often, they struggle in isolation and silence.
Religion News Service | September 12, 2017

A faith to weather the storm
One little-known fact about American religious communities is that many are mobilized for immediate disaster relief.
Religion News Service | August 30, 2017

Eugene Peterson reminds us: The Christian LGBT debate is far from over
For opinionated elites, he has simultaneously been a hero and a villain in the same week. But for everyday Christians reading about the controversy, Eugene Peterson is exactly where they are: confused, conflicted, and torn.
Religion News Service | July 14, 2017

A media firestorm elevates a false narrative of Southern Baptist racism
The resolution condemning white nationalism passed easily in the convention’s closing session, to thunderous applause from the floor.
Religion News Service | June 15, 2017

Bernie Sanders, the unwitting star of liberal cluelessness on religion
We cannot banish half the population from the public square because they believe their religion is right and others’ are wrong.
Religion News Service | June 14, 2017

Why religious liberty trumps free birth control
People should not be compelled by the state to violate their consciences. That’s what religious freedom means, and it is a foundational American value.
Religion News Service | June 1, 2017

Trump casts faith leaders as unpaid extras in his TV-show presidency
A clownish cast of old-school religious-right figures and various other Trump disciples eagerly showed up to dutifully support the president’s executive action, completely unaware of how insignificant it turned out to be.
Religion News Service | May 5, 2017

A closer look at 'The Benedict Option' yields suggestions worth considering
I still find Rod Dreher’s assessment of Christian influence too gloomy. But he makes a fairly strong, if unfashionable, case for medieval ways of thinking that are arguably at least as enlightened as our own.
Religion News Service | March 31, 2017

Keep religious conservatives involved in American life
Rod Dreher might consider retreating from the secularizing forces of modernity to a more ascetic lifestyle. But he doesn’t need to take the rest of upper-middle-class white Christianity with him.
Religion News Service | March 24, 2017

Why evangelical opposition to Russell Moore is deluded
Moore’s critics say he has alienated white evangelicals and forfeited his opportunity to influence the Trump administration. They are wrong.
Religion News Service | March 14, 2017

Ash Wednesday doesn't need to sparkle
I bristle at the notion that people have to put glitter in their Ash Wednesday ritual to properly welcome LGBT people.
Religion News Service | February 28, 2017

The most powerful 3 words? Not 'I love you'
Our faith traditions promote authentic healing and restoration – even (and especially) when a passionate, magical Valentine’s Day feels very far off.
Religion News Service | February 14, 2017


2016

Be honest about what you're celebrating Dec. 25
We cannot take Christ out of Christmas. But we can ignore him. Many of us will, leaving it to others to adore the baby in the manger.
Religion News Service | December 23, 2016

Reframing Religious Liberty
To the greatest extent possible, people and institutions should be free to live and operate in accordance with their religious beliefs about marriage, abortion, and contraception.
Commonweal | November 22, 2016

The last hurrah of white, Christian America
For many Trump supporters belief persists long after Christian worship, sacraments and ethics are abandoned.
Religion News Service | November 14, 2016

Does the Reformation still matter?
"I wanted my Protestantism to mean something. But I found little evidence that it really mattered — to me or to anyone else."
Religion News Service | October 30, 2016

No handshake and nomiddle ground
The missing handshake symbolized an icy and intensifying disdain between the candidates and the American public during the presidential debate, now a rite of America’s civil religion.
Religion News Service | October 20, 2016

No Ken Ham, whites are not colored people
Substituting the term ‘people groups’ for ‘race’ is not going to rectify the manifold injustices of a nation that was founded on the enslavement of millions of Africans.
Religion News Service | October 6, 2016

Why Donal Trump is losing Catholic voters
Politics and demographics aside, it seems altogether sensible that even Republican Catholics, enlivened by the liturgy and nourished by the sacraments, would reject the current nominee’s rhetoric and platform.
Religion & Politics | September 20, 2016

The Christian intellectual tradition is alive and well Religion News Service, August 31, 2016 So why have commentators bemoaned the absence of Christian thinkers as authoritative voices in American public debates? [ link | pdf ]

Religious traditionalists and LGBT activists should check their passions and compromise Religion News Service, August 24, 2016 A California bill to protect LBGT rights on college campuses has sparked a raucous debate. [ link | pdf ]

Clinton probably won’t court evangelicals. Here’s why she should Religion News Service, July 29, 2016 Politically, she has little to gain and a great deal to lose. But from the standpoint of democratic discourse, the time may be ripe to challenge evangelicals’ loyalty to Republican politicians. [ link | pdf ]

Why NARAL's new video is ethically vapid Religion News Service, July 21, 2016 Unable to abide any consideration of the fetus at all, NARAL portrays abortion as an easy fix for women who do not wish to “incubate a person.” [ link | pdf ]

How 'A Prairie Home Companion' made American religion real Religion News Service, July 6, 2016 Over four decades, Garrison Keillor showed what is good, endearing and enduring about his brand of Protestantism. [ link | pdf ]

On Issues of Race, Southern Baptists Must Move From Gestures to Action Religion News Service, June 16, 2016 Without moral clarity and leadership on substantive issues that matter deeply to African-Americans and other minorities, the SBC’s awakened conscience will start to ring hollow. [ link | pdf ]

Religious Americans Should Take Up Obama’s Call for a Moral Awakening Religion News Service, May 27, 2016 The first visit of an American president to Hiroshima occasions a broader and ongoing debate about the ethics and strategic value of nuclear weapons. [ link | pdf ]

Why United Methodists' Chaos on Sexuality Issues Will Continue Religion News Service, May 23, 2016 United Methodists had a chance to confront reality and begin to chart a way forward. Instead, they ratified the status quo, appointed a committee, and kicked the can down the road. In other words, they did the most Methodist thing ever. [ link | pdf ]

Evangelicals Must Confront the Ethical Dilemma of Partisanship Religion News Service, May 2, 2016 Political parties need vigorous moral and philosophical debate, and that will not happen if evangelicals oppose all Democrats as a matter of course. [ link | pdf ]

How Georgetown Fosters a Civil Debate on Abortion Religion News Service, April 14, 2016 I find the conservative critique that “Georgetown is not Catholic enough” to be weak and misinformed. [ link | pdf ]

Why Doubting the Bible Is Good for Christians The Washington Post, March 25, 2016 I would prefer a faith that can withstand the most stringent intellectual scrutiny, even as I am skeptical that such a thing exists. [ link | pdf ]

On Ash Wednesday, I Remember: I Am a Sinner. I Wil Die Religion News Service, February 10, 2016 Ash Wednesday reminds us we are dead in our sins and, soon enough, dead in fact. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. [ link | pdf ]

Is Wheaton Reconciled with Doc Hawk or with Conservative Evangelicals? Religion News Service, February 9, 2016 If separating from a tenured professor under a confidential agreement is “reconciliation,” then surely the word has no meaning. [ link | pdf ]

Is Wheaton Reconciled with Doc Hawk or with Conservative Evangelicals? Religion News Service, February 9, 2016 If separating from a tenured professor under a confidential agreement is “reconciliation,” then surely the word has no meaning. [ link | pdf ]

Evangelicals, It's Time for a Gut Check on Trump Religion News Service, January 28, 2016 The Christian right faces a critical choice: It can be small and have integrity, or it can be “yuge” and disastrous. [ link | pdf ]

Anglican-Episcopal Clash May Spell Theological Revision Religion News Service, January 22, 2016 The censure of the Episcopal Church raises vital questions about whether divergent teachings on marriage and sexuality constitute minor differences of interpretation or major theological revisions. [ link | pdf ]


2015

‘Spotlight’ Movie Explores Journalists’ Catholic Abuse Coverage, Loss of Faith Religion News Service, November 20, 2015 I moved to Boston the week Cardinal Bernard Law resigned. As I read those chilling Globe reports, I sensed that the darkness and an unusually cold winter were apt metaphors for the heartbreak and pain the scandal caused. [ link | pdf ]

Don't Change Catholic Teaching on Marriage, Says Remarried Protestant Religion News Service, November 13, 2015 The Church that Christ founded on Peter should avoid becoming a loose confederacy of warring regional ecclesial jurisdictions. [ link | pdf ]

Why Richard Dawkins' New Book Won't Win Him Many Converts Religion News Service, October 16, 2015 The dialogue between faith and science will continue, but it is doubtful that Richard Dawkins will show interest in contributing meaningfully to it. [ link | pdf ]

In Meeting Kim Davis, Pope Francis Confounds and Challenges Religion News Service, September 30, 2015 Conservative Catholics often complain that Pope Francis, especially in his unscripted moments, sows confusion. Now, for a change, progressives are grappling with that frustration. [ link | pdf ]

Kim Davis' Indefensible Position Puts Traditionalists on the Spot Religion News Service, September 11, 2015 Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has hindered the public debate about religious liberty for traditionalist believers at a time when it needs serious arguments, not circus-tent theatrics. [ link | pdf ]

The Bible Ties Freedom to Debt Relief. Americans Should Too Religion News Service, September 1, 2015 Debt relief would improve prospects for political and economic flourishing for millions of people in dozens of countries. It is literally a life-and-death issue. [ link | pdf ]

For Conservative Christian Colleges, No Middle Ground on Gay Rights Religion News Service, August 14, 2015 After two member schools affirm faculty in same-sex marriages, Tennessee's Union University withdraws from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. [ link | pdf ]

Faith Groups Adding Urgency to Calls for Prison Reform Religion News Service, July 30, 2015 Criminal justice reform is not just an issue. It is essential to the gospel: Redeemed sinners proclaiming mercy in the name of Christ. [ link | pdf ]

Why the Culture War's Losers Shouldn't Retreat from Public Life Religion News Service, July 1, 2015 A critique of Rod Dreher's "Benedict Option" [ link | pdf ]

Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, and Little Empathetic Listening Religion News Service, June 26, 2015 Most people of faith are either elated or devastated by the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage. Is it possible to sympathize with both? [ link | pdf ]

Why a 'Yes' to Gays Is Often a 'No' to Evangelicalism Religion News Service, June 10, 2015 Can evangelical elites afford to maintain rigid boundary issues around sexual ethics? Can they afford not to? [ link | pdf ]

Are Churches Failing the Poor? Yes and No Religion News Service, May 21, 2015 What do Christians owe the poor? Surely comfortable churchgoers must do more than say, “Be more like me.” [ link | pdf ]

What Catholics Can Teach America about Polarized Politics Religion News Service, May 4, 2015 Compared with secular ideologies and other churches’ political pronouncements, Catholic social teaching offers the most comprehensively and authentically Christian ethic. [ link | pdf ]

Conservative Evangelicalism's Gender Role Rift: Whither Women? Religion Dispatches, April 14, 2015 While most observers wait for evangelicals to shift on marriage, the more salient debates taking place within conservative Protestantism concern women’s roles. [ link | pdf ]

Affirmation Is Not a Civil Right, and It Cannot Be Coerced Religion News Service, April 14, 2015 If traditionalists eventually abandon their religious opposition to homosexuality, it will be because of persuasion, not coercion. [ link | pdf ]

The Southern Baptists' Challenge On Race Religion News Service, March 27, 2015 If Southern Baptists’ public posture remains primarily a catalog of concerns of aggrieved white conservatives, they shouldn’t be surprised if few black folks come along. [ link | pdf ]

Religion Won't Save Cruz's White House Bid The Daily Beast, March 24, 2015 The Texas senator is about to learn that evangelical appeal only takes you so far in the GOP. [ link | pdf ]

Americans of Faith Must Recondsider Stands On Nuclear Weapons Religion News Service, March 16, 2015 The global concern about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons invites Americans of faith to engage a vital issue after years of complacency. [ link | pdf ]

Theological Purity Tests Will Ruin Presidents and the Presidency Religion News Service, February 24, 2015 The trouble with making presidents’ religiosity just another weapon in our ongoing ideological war is that we may have ruined religion for presidents themselves. [ link | pdf ]

The Religious Politics of Abortion Are More Nuanced Than We Think Religion News Service, January 22, 2015 The absolutism of polarized abortion activists on both sides betrays the more ambivalent views of rank-and-file Americans. [ link | pdf ]


2014

In Defense of Christmas and Easter Christians The Atlantic, December 24, 2014 Rather than judging their lapsed brethren, observant Christians may want to think about how, on Christmas Eve of all days, he might be born in their hearts again. [ link | pdf ]

Before Pronouncing Fido In Heaven, Let's Consider Human Creatures Religion News Service, December 22, 2014 It is at the supermarket, not the pearly gates, where we grapple with pressing ethical and theological dilemmas about nonhuman animals. [ link | pdf ]