(Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here)
Okay so can a Christian benefit from sociology? I like to think so. It is my chosen discipline. I do not want to think that what I study has little meaning to my faith.
So how can sociology inform my Christianity? When I first became a Christian I was surrounded by a lot of wonderful people. They were incredibly kind and loving. But they were also very politically conservative and I just did not agree with them on all of those issues. Naturally, I had to wonder if I was wrong and just needed to accept their perspectives.
But then I started studying sociology. I began to see what was happening. My Christian friends tended to have a very individualistic way of looking at the world. I am not saying that the way they looked at the world is wrong. I rather state that it is incomplete. My studies as a sociologist showed me the importance of social structures in shaping our social reality. I tend to look to both individuals’ volition and social structures to understand why things happen in our society. My Christian friends tended to only look at our volition, or free will, to explain social actions. My differences with them on the importance of social structures often shaped our social and political disagreements.
The best way to illustrate this is with my expertise in race and ethnicity. My Christian friends tend to look at racism as something individuals perpetuate. I know that racism is something that individuals can engage in but that institutional racism is a problem as well. Institutional racism creates problems for people of color even if individuals are not personally racist. Institutional racism requires institutional solutions such as laws or governmental regulations. Those are the solutions that many of my friends tend to ignore since they only see racism as a problem due to individual sin.
I think of my sociology as something that helps to complete my Christianity. It gives me a more holistic approach to my faith. I am not arrogant enough to state that all Christians need an appreciation of sociology to complete their faith. But I do wish that more Christians would gain a greater appreciation of social structures and the ways they impact us. I guess I am enough of a sociologist to believe that we can all benefit from the ideas in sociology, even if we all do not need a doctorate in it.
So my Christian faith is informed, and I think made better, by my sociology. But the opposite is true as well. My sociology is also informed by my Christianity.