Research

(Dissertation article) Territory and the Divine: The Intersection of Religion and National Identity

2021. West European Politics (Online first). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402382.2021.1884458?journalCode=fwep20

Despite patterns of secularization across Europe, religion continues to exert influence. Besides theological belief, religion is deeply integrated into daily life as a social institution and marker of who belongs in a community and who does not. Linear mixed effects analysis of the 2016 European Social Survey (ESS) demonstrates that secular individuals and those in minority religious groups have weaker national identity than individuals in the country’s historically majority religion. The effect of affiliation with the majority religion on national identity also holds for secular individuals who grew up in the majority religion. Overall influence of religious importance is waning, except among Muslims, which suggests that religion’s socio-political power lies in its social identities more than devout practice in the contemporary European context. The findings of this study further advance understandings of the ways that religion reinforces or conditions national identity in so-called ‘secularizing societies’.

(Dissertation article) Religion Policy and Subnational Identities

Previous scholarship has challenged the utility of broad national church-state models (state church, concordatarian, secular) for understanding religion policy, and this literature includes valuable single-case studies and ethnographies. I extend this work with a paired comparison of subnational communities with distinctive religion policies—Catalonia in Spain and Alsace-Lorraine in France—in order to generate a testable theory of the conditions under which subnational governments utilize religion to construct (sub)national identities. The case studies trace the development of church-government relations at the national and subnational levels over the 20th and 21st centuries, and I complement this historical analysis with contemporary survey data to place religious practices and attitudes in conversation with these policies. I plan to follow up this hypothesis-generating study by testing the hypotheses in a broader set of cases as part of my post-PhD research.

(Dissertation article) Competing Christian Frames: Explaining Variation Among Christians in Immigration Attitudes in the United States

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in….” –Matthew 25:34-35 (New International Version)

In a 2020 presidential campaign event in New Jersey, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) quoted the Biblical parable above as she pointed to the United States’ moral responsibility to treat immigrants with compassion. Indeed, compassion and humanitarianism are central tenets of a Christian moral code. Yet American Christians do not unanimously support immigrant groups in need of humanitarian assistance, such as refugees, in the US. Why do American Christians hold diverse attitudes towards immigrants and immigration policies? The boundaries of humanitarianism vary across contexts. I argue that American Christian attitudes towards refugees are a function of who the refugees are, how refugee policy is framed, and the religious characteristics of the perceiver. Denominational context and religious behavior, in combination with partisan identity, influence the extent to which humanitarianism considerations are available and accessible to the perceiver. Competing with these humanitarian considerations is a powerful vein of nationalism tied to a politicized interpretation of Christianity; about half of Americans either advocate for or accommodate elements of this Christian nationalist ideology (Whitehead and Perry 2020, 25-26). Some Christians are more receptive than others to Christian nationalist considerations, which will mitigate the positive effects of humanitarian framing on attitudes towards refugees. I test the implications of this theory using an original survey experiment.