What Do We Pray For?

Recently I was talking with a colleague about how to interpret a survey item on a major sociology study which asks respondents “How often do you pray?”  He said that, as a person who doesn’t hold supernatural beliefs, he sometimes finds it hard to deal with life’s difficulties. However, since has nonetheless made it through many challenges without becoming a religious person, people who pray a lot must be people who are biologically more prone to anxiety and hence need to pray when life gets tough.

His hypothesis that people pray because they are biologically prone to anxiety and find comfort in prayer rests on a particular idea of what people are praying for. I must admit that when I started my fieldwork among Haitian Catholics some years ago, I also thought people must be praying to deal with anxieties and challenges, but my interviews taught me otherwise.

One day about a month into my fieldwork at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church in Miami, I was feeling frustrated that, despite my warm acceptance into the community, [Read more...]

Steven Colbert on Christian love, deservingness, and politics

As a follow-up to my post last week on Christian love and deservingness, here’s a video in which Steven Colbert takes aim at how these themes are used in politics. Political differences revolve around who is deserving of aid (and how that aid should be given), and in this clip it’s explicitly linked to Christian values.

A great quote from Colbert: “Jesus was always flapping his gums about the poor, but not once did he call for tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Romans.”

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Thanks Emma and Ed!

Originally found at Tony Campolo’s site

Shifting evangelical ideas about sex

Clearly the Atlantic Monthly is onto something in its coverage of men, women, and relationships. First it was “The End of Men,” the provocative cover-story article by Hanna Rosin back in July 2010. And now it’s “All the Single Ladies,” the November cover splash by Kate Bolick that’s gone stratospheric in reader attention before we’re even halfway through October. I argued last February in a Slate article that if the former title holds true, the second one will no doubt follow in its footsteps.

Basically, floundering men enable the flourishing men around them to become pickier about their romantic relationships and how they transpire, all the more in a world wherein women don’t really even need men anymore in order to live fruitful, satisfying, economically-secure lives. (But they still want men, which is always nice to hear.) Ergo, we should see less marrying going on, and at later ages. And voila, that is what we have.

We could argue the wisdom of this till we’re hoarse, but a piece of new research I saw recently reinforced the idea that marriage can shape how or what religious people think. In a fascinating article in the September issue [Read more...]

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...]


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