A Forum for Faith and Politics

Tenety

August 12, 2013—As the editor for the Washington Post’s blog On Faith, Elizabeth Tenety (C’07) combines her passion for religion and politics to create a forum for the day’s most popular debates.

Growing up, Tenety was captivated by the discussions she had on values and religion with her family. “The fact that people have radically different views about the world [when seen] through the lens of their own values became really fascinating to me,” she continued. It wasn’t until she enrolled in Religion in America with Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology Lauve Steenhuisen that she discovered her academic interests could be a career.

“She was the first person to tell me I could have a career in religion and that had never crossed my mind. That you could have a job in this field in some way,” Tenety explained.

In 2006, the government and theology major became a research assistant for Professor of Government Thomas Banchoff, and was one of the first students to work at the newly formed Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. “I got started at the Post really through Georgetown,” Tenety said. As a senior, Tenety garnered a spot as a blogger for On Faith, when the blog partnered with the Berkley Center. After completing a master’s in journalism, Tenety became the blog's editor.

“We do news and commentary on religion, culture, and politics,” she explained. In addition to writing her own stories and managing On Faith’s website and social media, Tenety edits and solicits articles from contributing writers.

“The goal everyday is to be a home for the conversation happening around religion. I think of religion as broadly defined, how people make moral decisions about their lives, politics, and culture,” she said.

On Faith gives Tenety the opportunity to explore perennial questions about morals and values and to discuss how religion is shaping current events. “[Recently,] we covered abortion issues in Texas and Ramadan. So it’s really the full spectrum, not only of religious traditions but of ideologies within those traditions,” she explained.

Tenety sees herself as a “translator of these issues,” finding ways to thoughtfully and accurately discuss popular debates, such as the decline of religion for people under 30. “It doesn’t mean they don’t believe in God. [Because] their practices are not affiliated with an institution or denomination, they all believe and do different things,” she said. “How do you make generalizations about a generation, [many of whom] are taking their own path to spirituality?”

For current students hoping to follow her career path, Tenety encourages would-be writers to delve into a few topics while at Georgetown. “I studied religion and politics, and there’s not a clear path to a job from that,” she said. “[But] I’m a person who thinks there’s a real value, if you’re interested in journalism, to get an area of expertise, instead of just studying journalism,” she continued.

To gain work experience as she studied government and theology, Tenety capitalized on living in Washington, DC, working at the Berkley Center and interning for journalist and author George Will. “I wanted to work; I wanted my education to be more experiential,” she said. “My biggest advice would be to take advantage of the working, networking, and internship opportunities that Washington has to offer.”

Tenety acknowledges that the job market is difficult for writers and journalists, but she believes there are more opportunities than ever to be published. “I wrote for free for years before I had a paid journalism job. Unfortunately that’s just the reality,” she said. “You have to be willing to put a lot in without an obvious reward sometimes.”

She still encourages students and young alumni to gain whatever experience they can. “I really believe in raising your hand and saying, ‘Could I work here?’ Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to say yes when people ask things of you.”

As she continues at On Faith, Tenety sees no shortage of topics to discuss. “I definitely want to stay in religious journalism. For me, the topics I’m interested in are not just topics about marriage, sexuality, and children. I’m very interested in how tradition is meeting the modern world and how much and how quickly it’s changing.”

—Elizabeth Wilson