I describe myself as “Just a Christian black sociologist trying to make his way in the world.” Well the black part is pretty clear but one might wonder about the Christian sociologist part. I mean can a person be a sociologist and a Christian at the same time? If not then am I just an walking living contradiction. Is my existence just a joke on rationality? Whoa. That is too heavy. Let me just look at the Christian and sociology mixture.
Now on the surface there does not seem to be a contradiction between a religious belief and an occupation. I mean as a Christian can I not be any occupation I want as long as it is legal? (I did try being a Christian drug dealer once but that just did not work out). Of course I can. So there should not be a contradiction between being a Christian who works and a sociology researcher and teacher.
Furthermore, can not a sociology have any religious belief he wants. There is not a religious test for being a sociologist is there. (Well not an official religious test. Read my book “Compromising Scholarship” for unofficial ways there may be a religious test in academia). So if there is no religious expectations upon being a sociology then where is the contradiction?
The contradiction seems to have developed because of the way sociology has historically developed. The institution of sociology developed in concert with what has been called the Enlightenment movement. This movement marshaled a great deal of resistance to the religious institutions of its day. (This is bit of an oversimplification, but hey this is a blog, not a term paper.) The early sociologist understood the social conflict between those claiming science and those claiming religion and understandably they choose to support the forces claiming science.
One has to be naive not to think that such an origin would not effect the way sociology is practiced today. The materialist groundings in much of sociology works in opposition to the otherworldly assumptions of Christianity and other religious ideologies. I felt this many times in graduate school with my fellow graduate student friends. I loved my friends but had to conceptually deal with their ideologies that operated to counter my religious beliefs. Likewise I often had to hear ideas from my Christian friends that did not comport with my understanding of sociological knowledge.
Then a funny thing happened on my way to professorship. I learned how to use my sociology to make my Christianity better and my Christianity to make my sociology better. In doing so I did become what I am today – a Christian sociologist. I do not think that Christianity and sociology are like oil and water. They can mix and even strengthen each other. My sociology can inform my Christianity and my Christianity can inform my sociology. Maybe because I allow them to inform each other is why I have become the trouble-maker that I am today. Anyway in the remaining blogs in this series I will try to illustrate how they can and do inform each other. Until then.