Why It’s Difficult to Derive Political Affiliation from the Bible or Why I’m a “Political Agnostic”

With presidential elections coming up, we’ll hear a lot more about every aspect of politics, including its link to religion—especially Christianity.  I would like to step back and ask a very simple question: Is it possible to derive a distinct political position or affiliation from the tenets of the Bible?  My answer is “probably not.”

Trying to fit Christian beliefs into a specific political stance seems to be putting a square peg into a round hole—it just doesn’t fit.  There are two major problems in trying to translate Christian faith into politics.

The first problem is which aspect of the faith do you want to emphasize? [Read more...]

The Media and Research on Religion

Well, it looks like there is a ranking for everything. A USA today report recently ranked colleges for how well they use social media.

The report is informative, yet focused mostly on social media as outreach, rather than social media as a research tool. In the several years I  have taught undergraduate sociology of religion, I have realized that students get most of their information–including information about religion–from the internet. Although it is my job as a scholar to lead them to scholarly books and articles on religion, how can I as a scholar learn to embrace social media as a research tool for my students?  How can I teach my students about the strengths and weaknesses of using the media–including social media–as a research tool?

This year, for the first time ever, I will allow students to include newspapers, magazines, and online media in their research papers. To do so, however, they must follow several strict guidelines. First, they must only use [Read more...]

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer for Scholars

Ineffable Creator,

You who are the true source of life and wisdom and the Principle on which everything depends, be so kind as to infuse in my obscure intelligence a ray of your splendor that may take away the darkness of sin and ignorance.

Grant me keenness of understanding, ability to remember, measure and easiness of learning, discernment of what I read, rich grace with words.

Grant me strength to begin well my studies; guide me along the path of my efforts; give them a happy ending.

You who are true God and true Man, Jesus my Savior, who lives and reigns forever.

Amen

***

When I was in graduate school, Davy Carozza, father of my brother-in-law, gave me this prayer from Thomas Aquinas.  It helped a lot, getting through grad school, and it’s still a moving prayer.

 

Here’s to Bad Divorces?

Now that I have your attention (or not), this subject has been on my mind of late. If divorce is going to happen—and I’m not crazy about the passive tone but they do happen out there—just how “good” should a divorce be? Is amicable an aim? I have a friend—and no, that’s not code for me—who appears to be facing one soon, against his will and despite his willingness to work at his marriage. My late UT colleague Norval Glenn was quoted several years back as saying that “good” divorces can have surprisingly negative consequences, over and above the simple fact that divorcing can cause problems. He noted, “If the parents whose marriage failed are obviously good people who could cooperate and avoid destructive behaviors after the divorce, their offspring may be more inclined to lose confidence in the institution of marriage itself.” In other words, a good divorce can be confusing to children, who are more apt to thereafter wonder if marriage is a feasible thing at all, apart from some spectacular soul-mate connection that few ever realize. There are, of course, lots of other variables to consider when evaluating the consequences of divorce on the participants themselves and their children. This one—the children’s own perceptions about marriage and sense of the institution—is only one of them.

But it reminded me of a piece of data I share with my Intro-to-Sociology course: the probability of getting a divorce in the year after you married is already doubled for [Read more...]

A Christian Economist’s Response to Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street protest has dominated the news over the past month, and it’s raising plenty of issues about financial governance, inequality, and fairness.  It is spreading beyond NYC to other cities and college campuses.  (There’s even an Occupy UConn).

Bruce Wydick is an economist at the University of San Francisco, and he is a friend of mine from college.  He has written a very thoughtful piece about the Occupy Movement for Christianity Today, and in it he diagnoses what he sees as the source of the crisis.  Here are some excerpts from Bruce’s essay.

“Part of the power of the protest lies in its ambiguity. Americans are angry about many issues today. In such a climate it may be more strategic to focus on the common anger than on specificities.”

“The crisis has spiritual roots. Jesus warns his followers, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15, NIV). But a syncretistic form of Christianity has emerged in our country, a syncretism that mingles genuine New Testament Christianity with the consumer materialism of the American Dream.”

“This spirit of entitlement in America also lies at the root of our national debt problem, a crisis exacerbated by the housing and finance meltdowns. Make no mistake: our national debt problem is a moral problem.”

Thanks Adrienne for the link!


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