I hold the Pastor Gerhard A. and Marion Poehlmann Professorship in Theology at Texas Lutheran University, where I’ve been since 1999. I teach courses in theology, philosophy, and especially in ethics, which is my area of specialization. Every year I enjoy taking students to the Ethics Bowl. If you’re a student and would like to come along, stop by my office or send me an email. New team members are always welcome!
Much of my research focuses on religion in Eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary. The first time I visited Eastern Europe was in 1992, a few years after the fall of Berlin Wall. No one expected communism to collapse, and the people of Eastern Europe, after decades of oppression, were suddenly free. Between 1995 and 1998 I lived in Hungary, where I researched the history of Hungary’s churches during the Cold War. Later I published a book, The Struggle of Hungarian Lutherans under Communism, which examines the different strategies employed by Hungarian Lutherans to cope with political oppression. I returned to Hungary in 2007, thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship, and taught for a semester at Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church. In 2013-2014 I returned once again to Hungary, this time with the support of an IREX Fellowship, to study the state of religious freedom. The unsettling results of my research were published in a bilingual, English-Hungarian book titled Essays in Defense of Religious Freedom / A vallásszabadság védelmében. Those who are interested can read an edited version of the book’s preface here.
Religious freedom is not simply a research topic for me, it’s also a matter of advocacy. When states are free to discriminate against “undesirable” religious groups and manipulate religious conscience, they will generally offend against other aspects of human dignity, too. Because I care about religious freedom I joined the executive board of Forum for Religious Freedom Europe. In 2014, I founded my own nonprofit, Christians Associated for Democracy, which is dedicated to enhancing awareness of the role religion can play in enriching and strengthening democracy. Christians Associated for Democracy also publishes an English-Hungarian journal dedicated to issues of public life, called Principium.
In addition to my work on religious freedom, I often write on just war theory and the ethics of peace. I deeply believe in the importance of peacemaking, but that doesn’t mean I’m a pacifist! I believe that in this sinful world the work of peacemaking depends upon the responsible exercise of power. I’ve written about my views on war and peace in various articles, and in my book Recovering Christian Realism: Just War Theory as a Political Ethic.