Race, Culture and Character: Seeing Jesus

Recently painter Thomas Kinkade, “painter of light” passed away at the early age of 54. While many viewers have decided views of what they think about this art, whether it suits them or not, one thing is certain: his work was decidedly informed by his faith. Kinkade had a particular theology about his art work and tried to convey his understanding of his faith through his art.

Kinkade’s passing coincided with my preparation for a class session on understanding religion and race. One of the themes I begin with is to ask students what Jesus and Mary look like. To this day, many students might remember seeing a Thomas Kinkade painting at a doctor’s office or in the hall of some academic or religious building.  

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Time to be present

In the rush of the spring semester some professors (ok maybe it’s just me) reach a point of exhaustion. We see the mountain of research analyses that have yet to be completed and shipped to academic journals or to book presses, the ungraded papers, the unmodified lecture notes created back in 2007 (can you believe that was 5 years ago now?). It’s tiring to even think about what’s left to do and what little time we have to do it. It’s times like this that I seriously contemplate new approaches to minimizing sleep that Thomas Edison and other famous types have been known to employ. Just think: 30 minutes of sleep every 3 hours would result in something like 3.5 hours of sleep instead of my usual 7!  [Read more...]

Trayvon Martin and the implicit prejudice of faith

By now many readers of this blog are probably at least slightly aware of the Trayvon Martin killing. As the news reports continue to come in, certain characteristics of the incident remain stable: George Zimmerman, a 20-something half-white, half-Latino neighborhood watch member in the gated community of Sanford, FL, identified Trayvon, a 17-year-old unarmed African American teenager who was visiting relatives in the same community. Zimmerman put a bullet in him after calling police (who told him not to pursue Trayvon) and reporting Trayvon as a suspicious-looking individual. Some disagreement is now in the newsfeed over whether there was physical conflict or not between Zimmerman and Martin, but it’s clear that most of the organized voices have sided with Trayvon’s family who are asking for justice. Part of the complication here is that Zimmerman has not been arrested for this shooting. And part of the defense for Zimmerman’s innocence rests on responding to Trayvon’s manner of dress, particularly donning a hoodie with the hood covering his head. This has sparked national-level concern over well-worn territory that we’re familiar with: was Trayvon killed because Zimmerman made an association between racial blackness and criminal behavior when he saw Trayvon with his hood covering his head? Could racism have somehow played a subtle or overt role in Zimmerman’s decision to pull that trigger? If so, our President’s comment that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon has a sad and chilling ring; we still harbor a reflexive animosity toward black Americans.  In a split second a young teen’s life is lost, a family is forever changed, and those of us who identify as black are left wondering if this can happen again, especially if one is a young man[Read more...]

Faith and the Duty Work of Fathering

When I teach sociology I usually think about daily life examples to stress the value of concepts in sociology, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy blogging here, to test these examples and connect them to concepts. One of the big draws to sociology for me was the importance that good concepts can have in rethinking how our daily lives function. This is actually a key matter when we think about religion. Religion as a way to view reality, a worldview, changes the way we think about how we live life. As many a religious leader has noted, religious people make real decisions that radically alter the way their lives run. We’re invited to reconsider our priorities in life and how they mesh (or fail to mesh) with our lived reality. In the world of evangelicals they use phrases like “walk like you talk” or “having a consistent witness.”

Sociologist Mark Chaves noted however that this is a bad assumption to start with regarding the personal lives of religious people. We’re highly inconsistent or “incongruous” when it comes to what we believe and what we do. At its worst it’s popularly defined as hypocrisy and at best it’s being a “goody-goody” at some things but not others.  [Read more...]