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…]

The End of Expressing Faith in Public Spaces?

As a young college student, one of the appeals of participating in an evangelical group was the fairly humble settings that often accompanied the singing and praying and fellowshipping (it’s one of those terms I heard first among evangelicals, and I think it’s another way of saying “socializing.”). For those us that grew up Christian, I think most of us are familiar with the interiors of traditional church structures, some have steeples, stained glass, pews, some are even shaped like a cross.  

In traditional church structures you’re invited into a space that is set apart, another word for “holy.” But for many Christians, such holy spaces are not feasible or even desirable. The church is not a building, it’s a people. The location, the space is of little relevance.


Some evangelical Christians in college (and perhaps other groups too) embody this by setting up temporary gathering spaces in places like classrooms and auditoriums at public and private universities. For someone like me, somewhat unaware of what evangelical Christianity was enjoyed this experience because it seemed authentic. [Read more…]

John Frum and Jesus

February 15th will be John Frum day, a high holiday in one of the South Pacific’s cargo cults. In this cargo cult, adherents wait for the return of a religious figure named John Frum, an American, who will bring prosperity and wealth to those who follow him. (It appears that his name comes from a service man saying he was “John, from (some state or city).”
My first reaction to reading about it was to feel sorry for the adherents… here they are waiting for a divine being to return in glory after having visited them in person, but, at least my perspective, their beliefs have no basis in objective reality, and, if so, they are rather misguided.
My second reaction was to notice the similarities between cargo cults and Christianity. (Not necessarily a prosperity gospel, though one could make that parallel too). I profess to follow someone who came to world in rather humble circumstances, has promised to return, and, in the meantime, we should follow him. This is no more far-fetched than the cargo cults. Furthermore, their faith is, presumably, as real to them as mine is to me.