How do you disagree with substance, respect, and a spot of laughter? Is it possible for deep difference to be the uncanny glue of a free society, and not the spark for its conflagration? What does good-faith persuasion look like anymore?
Zealots at the Gate from Comment explores these questions through the friendship of two men: Muslim political thinker Shadi Hamid and Christian theologian Matthew Kaemingk. Through frank, unapologetic dialogue interrogating the future of democracy and the role of religion in North American cultural life, this is a conversation bent on charting out a new paradigm for navigating philosophical and even tribal difference with openness, good humour, and convicted humility.
Gaza: A Political and Spiritual Reckoning
We’re failing. The Israel-Hamas war is barely two weeks old and we are witnessing a collective religious failure. Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike are failing to live up to their own principles. The moral and ethical “rules of engagement” have been thrown out the window—be it on the battlefield or in public discourse. How should religious people of good faith interpret and respond to this political and religious cataclysm? Join Shadi Hamid and Matthew Kaemingk for a special episode of Zealots at the Gate. Together they discuss the war and the many ways in which the faithful are (mis)interpreting the underlying dynamics at play.
Shadi Hamid’s article on humility amid the war:
Reinhold Niebuhr’s book Moral Man and Immoral Society:
How to Exorcise Your Political Demons
Political demons? Really? While everyone can agree that there’s something terribly wrong with America’s political culture, should we really describe it as “demonic” or even “demon-possessed”? Muslims and Christians have long recognized the presence and power of evil, but what does a belief in the “demonic” actually look like in modern political life? Join Shadi and Matt as they speak to Laura Fabrycky, a political theologian who is researching the ways in which citizens might begin to resist the temptations of both demonic politics and the politics of demonization.
Laura Fabrycky’s articles for Comment magazine:
Islamic Feminism: An Oxymoron?
Can Muslims be feminists? Should they be? This week, we speak with Hadia Mubarak, a self-described Muslim feminist, about the role and place of women in Islam. Professor Mubarak is the author of a groundbreaking new book titled Rebellious Wives and Neglectful Husbands. She fields a variety of tough questions from Shadi and Matthew: As a Muslim feminist, how do you interpret difficult texts about women in the Qur’an and the Hadith? How do you respond to sexism in the mosque? What is it like to wear the headscarf in a secular society? And how might your Islamic feminism differ from secular feminism? Mubarak also shares some of her own fascinating story of how she was shaped by the local Muslim community in an unlikely place—Panama City, Florida.
Hadia Mubarak’s new book Rebellious Wives, Neglectful Husbands:
Matthew Kaemingk’s article on how headscarves are Islam’s gift to Western democracy:
Jessica Crispin’s book Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto:
A Catholic Socialist in a Secular World
Can the American Left make space for deep religious commitment? Elizabeth Bruenig, a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist, is one of the most prominent—and controversial—Catholic socialists in America today. In this episode, she joins Matt and Shadi to discuss how people of faith can contribute to secular politics while maintaining their rather “strange” religious identity. Matt asks both her and Shadi to reflect on what it was like to be committed Bernie Sanders supporters while also remaining committed to their Catholic and Islamic faiths. Together they each discuss a future where the Democratic Party could (re)learn how to embrace people of faith, including those who bring their religion to bear on abortion, sexuality, and the death penalty.
Elizabeth Bruenig’s reflection on Lent in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/03/catholic-lent-sacrifice-reflection/673353/
Bruenig’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated features on capital punishment in Alabama: https://www.pulitzer.org/finalists/elizabeth-bruenig-atlantic
Tim Alberta on why Hispanics are leaving the Democratic Party: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/11/hispanic-voters-fleeing-democratic-party/671851/
How to Fight Political Burnout
Americans are politically exhausted. Shadi happens to be one of them. But he’s taking action. In this special episode, our venerable co-host opens up about burnout, finitude, and his own struggles with meaning. In society more broadly, politically induced fatigue and even depression are spreading. Is there a way to find that meaning without religion—or is religion the only way?
The episode where Matt discusses thoughts and prayers:
Shadi on tying one's camel:
Shadi’s essay in The Atlantic on breaking up with the news: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/03/information-news-addiction-liberal-depression/673351/
2022 study on political depression:
Tinder and the Gods of Modern Sex
Welcome to a frank and thought-provoking discussion of the modern sexual marketplace and its discontents. Our guest and guide is Washington Post columnist Christine Emba. Author of the widely acclaimed book Rethinking Sex: A Provocation, Emba argues that while the sexual revolution and the MeToo movement brought much good to the world, there is a growing suspicion that there is something profoundly unsatisfying about the modern sexual ethic. Do we need more religion to get sex right, after everything?
Christine Emba’s book Rethinking Sex: A Provocation
Christine Emba’s article “Consent is not Enough”
Honor and respect
I am grateful for their dialogue; not necessarily agreeing, and yet, honoring each other by listening, and when speaking, showing respect for their friend. The guest have been great! Thanks for sharing with us.
Shadi and Matt’s interfaith dialogue podcast beautifully demonstrates a way of unlocking the power of religious traditions while providing inspiration in all sorts of surprising ways
A robust invitation to generous curiosity
Pluralism in the US is a particularly difficult conversation. As Matt and Shadi model generous curiosity from particular beliefs, they make an argument for imagining a better culture. That kind of imagination is a powerful gift listeners can bring in our individual circles.
Folks who hold particular beliefs can do better than defensive us/them postures, and these guys are inviting us to—with the same generosity they extend to each other. Fantastic fodder for better conversations.