Research on religion podcasts

Do you know about Research on Religion podcasts?  If not, you should.  Anthony Gill, a political scientist puts together a fascinating array of speakers about many aspects of religion.  He’s also a talented, funny interviewer.

His recent podcasts include how to start a church really fast, anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney, and religion and Haitian immigrants, with our own Margarita Mooney.

Check it out!

Remembering Prophetic Faith in American Politics

Recently, several news outlets have made a modest effort at remembering significant contributors, namely Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Professor Derrick Bell to the Civil Rights Movement who passed away at around the same time as Steve Jobs. Their passing reminds me that while the label “Christian” appears more often in association with conservative politics, a persistent voice remains on the progressive end of the spectrum as well, that of the Black Church. For those who are less familiar, the Black Church consists of several Protestant denominations that are predominantly constituted and led by African American Christians such as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the National Baptist Convention and the Church of God in Christ. Through these churches the Southern Christian Leadership Conference emerged and helped galvanize an effective and non-violent effort to bring racial justice for African Americans especially for those in the South who dealt with systemic inequalities codified under Jim Crow laws.

Having taught the sociology of race, class, and gender at a faith-based university, I am continually confronted with the reality that education and awareness about racial inequality is [Read more...]

The Ring Makes All the Difference, by Glenn Stanton

Here’s an interview in Christianity Today with Glenn Stanton on his book ‘The Ring Makes All the Difference.’  In it he “explores the many downsides” of living together.  I think this book will make a solid contribution to the discussion of living together for Christians.

Christian love and deservingness

As I understand the Bible, we’re supposed to love others unconditionally.  I understand this to mean not only regardless of what others might have done to us, but also regardless of who they are.  I’ve heard countless sermons on this, and, frankly, I probably need to hear–and enact–many more.

Social psychologists have studied altruism–helping other people in need–and it turns out that there is systematic variation in who we are willing to help.  One of the factors has been termed “deservingness.”  That is, are people worth our assistance.  Already, from the language of the concept of deservingness alone, we can tell that it’s at odds with the Christian definition of love.

The impact of deservingness on helping others has been documented in various studies, and a classic study was conducted by my Ph.D. mentor, the late Irving Piliavin, and his wife Jane, in 1969.  In a very clever design,  four researchers would ride the subway in New York, and one of them would stagger and fall down while the other three would [Read more...]

Who is a Convert?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal opinion page on September 16, 2011, Religion News Service journalist David Gibson asked, who is stronger in the faith, Converts vs. ‘Cradle Catholics?’ This question is one that often comes up in ordinary conversation among Catholics and sometimes among sociologists. Many prominent sociologists of religion of the last half century, such as Peter Berger and Rodney Stark, have emphasized that choice of a faith rather than ascription makes one more sure of one’s beliefs, and hence more committed.  Although there is much truth in the idea that using one’s free will to adhere to a faith likely strengthens one’s commitment to that faith, we should nonetheless ask, why can’t Catholics born into the faith also “choose” to be Catholic?

Much writing on conversion seems to equate choosing one’s faith with switching faiths. For example, part of the evidence Gibson gives that converts to Catholicism are likely stronger in the faith than cradle Catholics comes from a Pew Forum on Religious Life survey that asked about switching religions. But is switching religions—let’s say from Southern Baptist to Presbyterian—the only type of conversion experience one can have?

My experience interviewing mostly cradle Catholics for my book Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora showed me that [Read more...]


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