I have engaged religion from multiple perspectives. Initially, after high school graduation, I enlisted with the United States Navy as a Religious Program Specialist (RPS). As a RPS, I was given instruction regarding various religious traditions and was tasked with ensuring adequate resources for devotees to worship on our base. After my military term, I served as an associate minister in a Christian church and established an ecumenical sports program that included twelve churches from various denominations. My full-time ministry position was followed by an opportunity to work as the Executive Director of a local parachurch nonprofit that was completely supported by local religious adherents and faith organizations. All of these experiences were formative in convincing me of the essentiality of religious institutions as locations for community organizing, the necessity of interfaith cooperation for civic vitality, and the need for academic research focusing on the interactions between religious organizations and their broader community.
My experiences have fueled my academic interest in the attempts of religious traditions to socially and politically shape their national and local communities and the inverse—how the broader culture shapes religious traditions.