The Politics of Christian Hospitality

Fighting for religious freedom
Kaemingk 2019

From the perspective of ethicist and theologian Rev. Dr. Matthew Kaemingk, MDiv ’08, Christians have a long history of fighting for their own religious freedom, but are less practiced in fighting for the religious freedom of others. In his new book, Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear (Eerdmans, 2018), Kaemingk offers Christians a way to live vulnerably and peaceably alongside those with deep religious differences.

Kaemingk earned his MDiv in public theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2008 and received a Fulbright award to study in the Netherlands from 2011 to 2012. Through his Fulbright work, Kaemingk noted a 20-year growth of right-wing nationalism across Europe while globalization was bringing religious difference ever closer.

“Islamophobia is rampant across the political spectrum,” says Kaemingk. “With the hard right wing, Muslims tend to be framed as a threat to Western culture, a threat to national integrity, a crime threat. Those on the hard left frame Muslims as those in need—poor Muslims need our help, our education, our enlightenment, our culture.”

Christians tend to respond to religious difference in one of these ways:

  • Attempt to dominate those seen as “other”
  • Distance themselves from difference and form tighter subcultures
  • Moderate their own faith
  • Assimilate into other religions

In the Netherlands, with its theological history of religious freedom, Kaemingk says, “…a curious fifth tradition sprang up. I call it Christian pluralism. It’s a refusal to assimilate, run away, or dominate. It’s a decision to be distinctly Christian and yet make generous public and political space for faiths that are different, not out of a denial of one’s Christian identity, but precisely because one is a Christian, you feel an ethical obligation to provide justice to others.”

Kaemingk emphasizes, “The core of my argument rests in my understanding of the cross as an event of hospitality, of God making space for us, and that hospitality having public and political implications….hospitality towards Muslims is not an ancillary Christian act. It’s absolutely central to the cross.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

PhD Student

Isaac Kim, Class of 2015

“One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be charitable to views other than my own. Christian charity was shown to me, not just in the readings for class, but from the professors, and the Seminary community.”