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...]

Small Enough to Hate: Anti-Muslim American Behavior

I teach at a faith-based university, one that identifies itself as particularly Baptist and broadly Judeo-Christian. What this means exactly is often the subject of much debate, but it’s been clear to me after 8 years of teaching that this identity is not a requirement of the students. Based on student self-report this past Fall there were 74 Buddhist, 98 Hindu, and 117 Muslim students out of 12,575 undergrads. It’s not much but these numbers are large enough for student groups to function and provide support for one another in an environment that may seem somewhat alienating depending on how often they are exposed to the rhetoric of being in a Christian university. As someone who studies race and ethnic relations, the experience of being a minority whether racial or religious often carries with it certain patterns of experience. One doesn’t quite feel fully a part of one’s social surroundings, one is aware that he or she stands out in some ways. (I can say this in particular as a non-white faculty person where all of us account for 11% of 935 fulltimers).

But one of the serious challenges that one faces as a minority is the threat of violence from those who harbor ill feelings toward one’s core identity. This was the case back in 2006, when one of our Muslim students was assaulted on campus. The incident reached major news outlets and became the topic of a televised pseudo-experiment called What Would You Do. (Back then there were 66 Buddhists, 76 Hindus, and 114 Muslims out of 11,831 undergrads in case you were wondering). Perhaps it seems obvious but when one is part of a minority, one is more susceptible to discrimination. But the way this works at least with respect to the 0.6% of Americans who identify themselves as Muslims is a little more complicated.

One of the “most requested” research studies [Read more...]


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