Want to Fight the Man? Reform is Hard Work

In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brooks sent a clear message to many would-be reformers: if you desire reform, you are better off joining a movement tied to a tradition.

Tradition is hardly a word we hear anymore. When it is evoked, it is often used negatively. Many people distrust institutions that symbolize traditions, such as the government and religion. The free market–which can be considered a tradition in that it refers to a set of  principles on which our economy is based– has also come under fire. Change Washington, Occupy Wall Street, and give me Jesus without the church may be catchy phrases, but Brooks’s column leads us to ask: with what will you replace those traditions?

Although many critiques of government, markets, and religion may be right on, Brooks poses a challenge, which I paraphrase as: If you don’t like the tradition you see, look around for another tradition to which you would give authority. If you try to reform what you don’t like without knowing much about alternatives, you probably won’t persuade anyone to join you.

Brooks writes: [Read more…]

Valentine’s Day and Social Exchange Theory

By Jeremy Rhodes

If you watched the commercials during the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen this commercial.  If you don’t want to watch it, here’s a synopsis:  A beautiful woman is getting ready to go out, presumably for a night on the town.  As she finishes, she looks at the camera and says, “guys, Valentine’s Day is not that complicated.  Give, and you shall receive.”  Cut to a bouquet of flowers.YouTube Preview Image

Really? [Read more…]

If rescue dogs are the only legitimate dogs today, are rescue humans next?

Apparently we now own a rescue dog, a term I was entirely unfamiliar with a mere 5-10 years ago. The Regnerus family was not, so far as I knew, in the market for a dog, although cute canines calculatingly kenneled in front of PetSmart, Petco, or some other such big box brand never failed to attract my children’s attention on the way to the grocery store. And that is how we eventually wound up with a dog, my first since a nine-year stint with a beloved dachshund that ended in 1989, when he was put down. He needed expensive back surgery (to walk), and well, people just didn’t do that for dogs back then like they seem to today.

Be that as it may, I find myself mulling over this rescue dog phenomenon. It seems to be a cultural badge of honor for the owner (or master, or whatever we’re called today—but please, not “mommy” or “daddy”). Dogs acquired the old-fashioned way, by a breeder, have become passé, somehow inferior. In 1980, my parents acquired Cinnamon, the family dachshund, for 50 bucks from a breeder in rural Sumner, Iowa. It seemed like a good deal at the time, and certainly in hindsight. Perhaps AKC-registered dogs are much more expensive today—I don’t know. But our rescue dog, a mostly lab, part hound mix, cost more than that just to acquire her from a rescue organization planted in front of PetSmart. I realize Austin is weird, and that we’re supposed to keep it that way, but the legitimacy issue here is striking [Read more…]

Just How Overweight are Americans?

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has made it his mission to help his congregation to lose weight using something he’s termed the Daniel Plan.  From an article about the plan: “Warren, 58, says that with the plan, “we were trying to get people to eat healthier, fresher and more natural foods. The line we use is: ‘If it grows on a plant, it’s healthy. If it’s made in a plant, don’t eat it.’ My rule is no snacks, no sweets, no seconds.”

To demonstrate just how many Americans need to lose weight, here’s a powerful chart that illustrates how many people in different countries have a body mass index of over 30. Based on this, we can only hope that more pastors follow Warren’s lead in this…

Can Sociology and Christianity Mix? Part 4

By George Yancey
(Part 4 in a series. Part 1, 2, and 3)

If we are holistic beings then all parts of who we are must interact together as we strive to understand our world. I am not just a sociologist. I am not just a Christian. I am not just black. I am all of those things. This is not to say that all of those things are equal in their importance to me but all of them, and other identities I have, matter in how I approach my life and understand my world.

You might guess that as an African-American that I would have special concern about the racial issues in the United States. You would be right in that assumption. In fact, for most of my academic career I have published in the area of race and ethnicity. I have done work on topics such as interracial romance, racial identity, residential segregation and racial diversity in religious settings. Like most people of color, I have had to think about racial issue seriously from an early age and so when I gained the methodological tools to understand those issues more deeply I used them to the best of my ability.

With such an effort at understanding the social scientific literature on racial issues you would think that I would have found a lot of fantastic answers to the question of how we overcome the perilous effects of our racialized society. However, I have been dissatisfied with the answers I found in my reading of the current literature. As I have established in previous blogs my sociological training is great for helping me to see what is happening in society, but less useful for helping me to understand the nature of humans. The idea that we are perfectible and that education will eliminate racism is not sufficient. [Read more…]