Friday, October 31, 2008

Red sex, blue sex

Here's an interesting article in the New Yorker about Mark Regnerus' book about Christian youth and sex. It's entitled Red Sex, Blue Sex. Wow, politics, religion, and sex all together in one book--should be a bestseller.

From the article: "Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical."

It will be interesting to see how big the differences in sexual behavior are, especially when controlling for other factors such as race & class.

Thank you John, Ben and Gary for the link.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Review of Willow Creek's Follow Me (Reveal): Summary of findings

(Part II in a series)

Follow Me uses about the same methodology as the original Reveal, just more widely applied. The data were collected from a convenience sample of about 200 churches with 80,000 respondents. The respondents filled out an on-line survey with hundreds of questions. It turns out that I attend one of the churches selected for the study, and so I am one of its respondents. This gave me the chance to read through the survey instrument itself and get a better feel for how Follow Me measures its concepts.

Follow Me shares many of the same concepts as Reveal. It focuses on what it terms a spiritual continuum, which is a four-stage progression of spiritual maturity from exploring Christ to being Christ-centered. It also links this continuum to various spiritual attitudes and behaviors such as reading the Bible, praying, attending church services, and theological beliefs.

Follow Me adds a couple of new concepts to the discussion. One is what it terms movements (p. 28), and basically these are the spiritual beliefs and attitudes that move a person from one stage in the spiritual continuum to the next. So, for example, the things that move a person from Stage 1 (exploring Christ) to Stage 2 (growing in Christ) are termed Movement 1. Follow Me also emphasizes what it terms the “gap”, which is the difference between what believers want from their church and how satisfied they are with what they have.

Follow Me identifies a variety of factors that catalyze spiritual growth. These include having orthodox spiritual beliefs and attitudes, attending organized church activities, having spiritual practices such as prayer and Bible reading, and doing spiritual activities outside of the church. Conversely, the respondents who reported being spiritually stalled measured as having low levels of various spiritual practices.

Follow Me is about 50% longer than Reveal. Also, whereas Reveal was focused almost solely on data, Follow Me makes use of poetry and extended metaphors, such as the lead author’s efforts at weight loss, Michael Jordan’s basketball skills, and the various instruments in an orchestra.

Next: Strengths of Follow Me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Review of Willow Creek’s Follow Me: What’s Next for You? (Reveal II) by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson

(Part 1 in a 13 series)

Earlier this year, the Reveal team at Willow Creek Church put out their second book, Follow Me: What’s Next for You? I wrote a rather extensive review of their original book, Reveal, and so I thought I would follow it up by reviewing their second book as well.

Once again, let me summarize my approach to reviews like this. I’m not an expert in church growth, but it seems to me that Willow Creek is doing a fine job at being a church. I’ve had a chance to visit the church, read books by their pastors, and attend their annual Leadership Conference, and these have left me impressed with the good work that they are doing. I know that Willow Creek has its share of critics, but I don’t count myself as one of them. Rather, I write this review to help readers of Follow Me to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of this book as well as to think through some of the issues that arise when we use survey data in advancing the Church’s work.

It’s my impression that more-and-more church-related books are coming out that use empirical data. This probably results from the increasingly easy use of survey methods via the internet. Also, high-profile work by groups such as Reveal, The Barna Group, and Lifeway Research have been widely received, perhaps inspiring even more people to take an empirical approach to writing for the church. As a result, the average pastor who wants to stay current on the church-growth literature will need to have a working knowledge of the basic of social research. This doesn’t necessarily mean knowing high-end statistics, but rather issues of cause and effect, research design, and measurement. Much of this is rather intuitive, so I am hoping that my raising the issues with Follow Me will help church leaders to see them in other work as well.

Lots of people have commented on the Reveal Series. Some of the links that you might want to read include:

Andy Rowell
Christian Post
Random musings
Directions to Orthodoxy

Next: Summary of findings

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Witnessing the Flynn effect firsthand

Floyd has joined a local swim club, which means twice a week he has 1.5 hour swim practices. After practice recently he started talking with another little guy, and they discovered that they both played the violin (through the local Susuki program--which we love). They then said which songs they were playing (allegro something or another) and which notes they had trouble with.

I'm pretty sure that the Flynn Effect is happening in my family. This effect is the observation that IQ scores have been steadily increasing over time--about 3 points a decade. It appears that children are getting smarter over time.

I can guarantee you that I wasn't doing anything as ambitious as organized sports or violin-playing when I was in second grade. I think that I watched television the whole year, and maybe went to Cub Scouts (which Floyd does too).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Upcoming review of Reveal: Follow Me

FYI: Starting Wednesday I will be posting an extended review of Follow Me, the follow up book to Reveal. I think it will weigh in at about a dozen posts.

Faith in public life survey

Here's an interesting survey of young people's attitudes toward politics by their religious beliefs. It's called the Faith in Public Life Survey, and here are some highlights from its executive summary:

  • Monthly worship attenders swing to Obama in 2008.
  • More Americans think Obama is friendly to religion than McCain.
  • Young first-time voters are heavily supporting Obama.
  • Younger Catholics more strongly support Obama, abortion rights, and more active government than older Catholics.
  • Younger white evangelicals strongly oppose abortion rights but are less conservative and more supportive of same-sex marriage than older evangelicals.
  • Younger white evangelicals are more pluralistic and more supportive of active government at home and of diplomacy abroad.
  • Americans rank abortion and same-sex marriage as the least important issues in 2008.
  • Americans see room for common ground in abortion debate.
  • Generation gap on same-sex marriage is large and increasing.
  • Support for same-sex marriage is significant among young religious Americans.
  • Addressing religious liberty concerns strongly increases support for same-sex marriage.
  • Young adults prefer larger government that provides increased services.
Thanks David!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

So much for nostalgia

Gus in on a couple of sports teams at his high school, so about once a week he has to wear a dress shirt and tie to school in anticipation of a meet later that day. For these days, he borrows one of my ties (I certainly don't use them), and he looks really nice all dressed up.

Somehow he got a hold of a tie that used to belong to my grandfather. It's gray, narrow, and has a cool retro-look (is something retro if it really is old). The tie is from the 1950s, and I've always liked it.

So, last week when Gus put it on for school, I told him the history of it and how it reflected his great-grandfather. I thought it was one of those cool father-son moments, he probably thought it was vaguely interesting, but he was running late for school.

While, this morning, I was folding laundry and found the tie, ruined from going through the wash. I suppose that instead of telling him the history of the tie, I should have just explained that we don't put silk ties into washing machines.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Moonrise over a cemetery (pic)

I think that my wife might be a little worried that I get excited about full moons over cemeteries, but there are some really cool cemeteries here in New England. This one is about 300 years old.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Disco music good for the heart?

This may be the only advantage to having grown up in the 1970s... It certainly isn't the prom pictures with long hair and baby-blue tuxedos!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alcohol on campus (video)

I show this video to my criminology class when we get to the section on alcohol, drugs, and crime. It's a hilarious prank.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A random field experiment of parachuting

A good friend sent me this article that calls for proper scientific analysis of the beneficial effects of using parachutes when falling.

Here's the introduction: "The parachute is used in recreational, voluntary sector, and military settings to reduce the risk of orthopaedic, head, and soft tissue injury after gravitational challenge, typically in the context of jumping from an aircraft. The perception that parachutes are a successful intervention is based largely on anecdotal evidence. Observational data have shown that their use is associated with morbidity and mortality, due to both failure of the intervention and iatrogenic complications. In addition, "natural history" studies of free fall indicate that failure to take or deploy a parachute does not inevitably result in an adverse outcome. We therefore undertook a systematic review of randomised controlled trials of parachutes."

Too funny.

Thanks Gary!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What, Americans are happy?

Apropos of nothing, I came across this statistic that truly surprised me. I'm so used to hearing about American angst and worry, that I would have guessed that other countries have people much more satisfied with their lives. Well, according to a 2002 Pew Study, this isn't the case. Americans express more satisfaction with their lives than the citizens of any other country except for Canada and Guatemala. (Once again we can blame Canada.) We're only moderately satisfied with our country, and even less so about the world itself. Hm-m-m, maybe this me-first thing is working!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Barak Obama & pie

I usually have no idea how to translate my religious beliefs into election-time decisions (and I'm usually unconvinced by people who say they can). There are, however, some things that do sway me.  Here's a video of Barak Obama that might just be a "game-changer" for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The plural of anecdote is not data

I came across this expression: "The plural of anecdote is not data." I was astounded that in just a few words, it conveyed what takes me a couple of lectures in my social research methods class. It also summarizes concerns I have with various pieces of research about Christianity.

So much in short sentence. Maybe it will become a t-shirt slogan popular with sociologists.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Self-presentation in the presidential race

This week was the 63rd annual Alfred Smith dinner. Both McCain and Obama were there, and, as per tradition, it was a light, funny evening. John McCain, in particular, was hilarious. Here's the clip:

Here's what I don't get. In the debates and speaking, John McCain often comes across as mean and cranky--his personal style in the debates has been commonly critiqued. I thought that's who he was, but it's clear that when he loosens up he's funny, intelligent, and charming. Why doesn't he put this forward in his presidential campaign.

Obama, in contrast, was funny (by not as funny as McCain), but he seemed to be the same person as on the campaign trail.

Maybe it's a republican thing, for I remember thinking the same thing about Bob Dole when he ran against Clinton. After he lost, he did a Visa commercial (and other things) that presented him in an entirely differently light.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wishing well in pond (pic)

I'm just now getting around to processing some of the pictures that I took in spring. Here's a fun reflection in a pond.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Pope on the financial crisis

From a story in the London Times, the Pope casts the financial crisis in terms of the gospel.

"Pope Benedict XVI today said that the global credit crisis shows that the world's financial systems are "built on sand" and that only the works of God have "solid reality".

Opening a Synod of Bishops in the Vatican the Pope referred to a passage from St Matthew's Gospel on false prophets, saying ''He who builds only on visible and tangible things like success, career and money builds the house of his life on sand''."


Have American pastors being saying things like this? If so, I've missed it (but I do miss a lot). It's almost unAmerican to see any good in people losing money.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monet in a Connecticut pond (pic)

Here's a picture that a friend took. Isn't it beautiful! The colors and shapes work so well that I asked if I could post it here. I've been tramping in the woods a lot this past week or two, and I haven't found anything close to this nice. Wow.

Thanks Susie Huang!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feeling and display rules for pastors

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on feeling and display rules, it occurs to me that being a pastor with a lot of these rules.

Feeling rules are emotions that pastors are supposed to feel. Maybe joy? Love for the lost?

Display rules: Emotions that pastors are supposed to display, even if they are not feeling them. Maybe interest in people telling them about their lives?

What do you think? Do pastors have a lot of these rules? If so, what are they?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Feeling and display rules of emotion

When most of us think of work, we think of things like trading our time for money or maybe doing something physically difficult. It turns out, according to a large body of social psychological literature, that work can also involve emotions. That’s right, what you feel, and how you show it is “work” that is just as much of your life as your job at the local fast food restaurant.

Here’s how it works (pun intended). When we weren’t looking, society made up a bunch of rules about our emotions. Some of these rules, called feeling rules, govern what we’re supposed to feel in a given situation. For example, when you get married or graduate from college, you’re supposed to be happy, and people will be concerned if you’re otherwise. What if your wedding pictures all show you wide-eyed in terror? (Oh, wait, that was me). Other rules, called display rules, regard what emotions you present to others. With these rules, it doesn’t matter what you’re really feeling, you just have to show the right emotions. For example, when I teach, I don’t mind knowing that some of the students are bored out of their skulls, but I don’t want them showing it with loud yawns and constant eye-rolling.

Once you start thinking about it, it’s remarkable how many roles in society require serious emotion work. Most jobs, for example, pay you not just to do the official work, but they also pay you to do it with the right emotions. A classic example is being a physician. Part of being a doctor is poking, prodding, cutting, and doing all sorts of things to people that is very uncomfortable. In doing it, doctors have to maintain an emotionally-neutral, professional demeanor. What if the doctor is doing something that’s very uncomfortable for you, and they start laughing. Or, maybe they say “oh gross.” My guess is that doctor will start losing patients really quickly.

Likewise, in another example, a study of flight attendants found that they were explicitly trained in the emotions they are supposed to show to airline passengers. Despite being jammed in with hundreds of cranky people, packed together for hours with the same recycled air (you can tell I’m not a big fan of commercial airlines), flight attendants are supposed to be pleasant and cheerful. That’s their job, to smile with each passenger’s request, and if they can’t do the emotions well enough, they might be fired.

An event last summer illustrates the power of emotion work, as it defined an international news story. In Southern Italy, two cousins, aged 12 and 13, went for a swim. They got caught up in a dangerous riptide, and they drowned. This was a tragedy, as any death of a child is, but what made it newsworthy was clip_image002the reaction of people on the beach. When the bodies were brought ashore, they covered them with a blanket, with the girls’ feet sticking out, waiting for the girls’ family and authorities. At first a crowd gathered around, but after not too long, the crowd dispersed and went back to their activities—sun bathing, talking on their cell-phones, having lunch and frolicking in the water—all this just a few meters away from the bodies. Eventually police officers carried away the girls’ bodies on stretchers, walking past sun bathers enjoying the nice day.

There are strong emotion rules in a situation like this. When young people are harmed, we are supposed to feel sadness, even grief. This is a feeling rule. At the very least, we’re to show proper respect and be solemn, a display rule. What we’re not supposed to do, however, is to just go about our business. The crowd violated these rules, and even though it caused no material or physical harm, their perceived indifference caused an international outcry. “The incident also attracted condemnation from the Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crecenzio Seppe. ‘Indifference is not an emotion for human beings,’ Seppe wrote in his parish blog. ‘To turn the other way or to mind your own business can sometimes be more devastating than the events that occur.’”

To complicate matters, the girls were Roma (formerly termed “gypsies”) and the surrounding beach-goers were Italian. There is considerably tension between the Italian authorities and the Roma minority, with the authorities accusing the Roma of increasing levels of street crime, and the Roma charging discrimination. The situation of these two girls, and the crowd’s reaction, exacerbated these tensions.

This event, and the furor it caused, illustrates the power of emotion rules. Society holds us accountable not just for what we say and do, but for how we feel as well.

Originally posted on

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Use vs. utilize

A good friend is in the English department here at UConn, and she's English as well which I think means that she really knows the language. In a discussion about something else, she brought up this gem...that the words "use" and "utilize" have different meanings.

To "use" an object employs it for its intended purpose.

To "utilize" an object is to employ it for an unintended purpose.

Her example: you use a lampshade to cover a light. You utilize it as a party hat on your head.

As I get older, I think I'm more interested in the meanings of words (though, not that I use them any better), so this was cool. However, part of me wonders if everyone else already knows stuff like this, and I'm just catching up.

Do you already know how to properly utilize the word use?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A precious parenting moment--not

Last week I took 8-year-old Floyd to join the local swim club. Gus, his older brother, did it for years, so we're pretty familiar with it. Other than parents having to sit and watch the practice, it's a good deal.

Well, Floyd decided that he did not want to go because he was feeling shy and he was sure that he'd be the worse swimmer there. I tried to finesse the situation, but that got no where fast. So, I explained to him that he had to try it ("why!") and that he'd probably really like it ("no I won't!"). So, I pretty took him there, and he alternated between tears and pouting.

We get to the pool, and I introduce myself to the coach. Floyd is sort of hiding behind me, and I explain that the coach that Floyd was interested in taking swim lessons. At that point, Floyd stepped out from behind me, pointed at me, and with a loud, very indignant voice, said, "no I don't, he's forcing me to."

The coach gave me a polite, embarrassed smile, and I started trying to figure out it takes the state Department of Children and Families to respond to these kinds of situations.

(Floyd ended up loving it and has since forgiven me).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall in Mansfield (pic)

Why, yes it is fall here in New England. How could you tell?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gender & religion in the US

Last week I posted a table regarding wealth and religion from a Pew Study. Here's an interesting table from the same study regarding gender. Men and women differ in their assessment of the importance of religion more in the US than any other country measured. Here are the nine countries with the biggest gender gap.

I'm so used to U.S. Christianity involving more women than men that I'm surprised that it's different elsewhere.

Why, do you think, the US has such a big gender gap?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Today is my birthday!

Today is my birthday--I turn the big "46". I'm okay being in my 40s, but I think 50 is going to be a bear.

A good birthday story: In our courtship, Cathy threw me a surprise birthday party. She got me out of the house by saying we were going out for ribs (my favorite), and then she "forgot" her billfold at my house, so we had to go back. I walked in the door, and a dozen+ people shouted birthday greetings. My response... I turned to Cathy asked "does this mean I don' t get ribs."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

My new favorite election site

For whatever reason, I'm following this election much more closely than I have previous presidential elections. Usually this means reading and, but I've recently discovered another website,, that makes the other sites look overly simplistic.

538 not only averages across polls, but it weights them by their sample size and accuracy in predicting previous votes.

It also runs various simulations using a variety of projections on what will happen in the election. Based on these (10,000!) simulations, here is what 538 currently predicts for the electoral college vote:

Thanks Richard for the link!

Monday, October 06, 2008

What, a neutral presentation of Christianity?

I recently attended a talk here on campus where a professor discussed his/her fieldwork about Christianity in an aboriginal community. His/her talk took a nicely neutral tone--talking about what happened but not passing judgment on the validity of Christianity--and the Christians involved were evangelicals (gasp). I appreciated this because most the discussions of Christianity that I hear on campus include some form of eye-rolling or judgment.

Well... that was just the speaker, and the other professors in the audience didn't go along with his/her neutrality. One audience member asked her why she didn't "problematize" the issue by casting it as bad Christianity (boo!) pushing aside the indigenous beliefs (yeah).

Another faculty member was even more dramatic. S/he expressed bewilderment that so many of the people in this indigenous group turned to Christianity when it was clearly a "dumbass religion" (his/her words) that everyone new was wrong.

What was the groups reaction to his judgment? None, really. Imagine, though, if he had cast the indigenous religion in those terms. It would have been a front-page story in the campus newspaper.

I'm not arguing for equal vulgarity for all, rather I'm rolling my eyes at the lack of objectivity and moral neutrality among so many academics when it comes to Christianity.

Here's a question. Am I off-the-mark wanting academics to be neutral in discussions like this?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bitten by karma

Awhile ago, I was talking to a family member, and he had just returned from an 8-mile bicycle ride and was feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Me being the supportive family member, in a give-them-crap sort of way, commented that Floyd too is proud when he bicycles that distance--Floyd being my 7-year old son.

Well, this zinger came back to haunt me last week. I was talking to my sister, who is the real athlete in the family, and I was telling her that I am planning to ride a metric century (i.e., a 64 mile ride), and I hoped that I could finish it. Susie also being very nice, got excited about it and commented that she had been on one herself a couple of years ago and really enjoyed. As we talked about her ride, it came to light that she did it with two of her children, who were in elementary and middle school at the time. Ouch... You would think that I would learn.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Verbification run amok

Last week I attended a talk given in one of our humanities departments. About halfway through, I realized that the talk and the questions from the gallery contained an inordinate amount of verbs that used to be only nouns. For example, we don't cast an issue as a problem, rather we problematize it.

Now I wanted to be snarky (now that's a good word!) and tell them that I enjoyed lunchifying while they were lecturizing, but I make up so many words out of ignorance that I'm not in a place to criticize others.

Here's my question: why? What purpose does this serve? My guess is that it's a way of showing expertise, sort of like hypercorrections.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A youngest child's birthday wish

Floyd turned the big "08" on Sunday, and when we asked him what he wanted for his birthday, the first thing that he said was something we had never even considered.

You see, he has mentioned more than once that he's tired of being bossed around by everyone. (Cathy, me, and Gus--who is 7 years older than Floyd).

As such, he decided that he wanted to be boss of the family this one day, so... on Sunday, he got to make all the decisions. He decided when we'd eat and what we'd eat. What constituted appropriate table manners (just about everything), and a bunch of other decisions.

Once when Gus asked him to get off the computer, Floyd yelled: "you can't tell me what to do, I'm the birthday boss!"

He was very, very happy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Relgion and global wealth

Here's an interesting table from a Pew study (and found in this article). This graph shows a strong linear trend such that the richer the country, the less importance its citizens place on religion except for--you guessed it--the U.S.

In terms of religious importance, we're pretty much middle-of-the-pack among the countries that they studied, but we're very high for our high economic level.

Any thoughts about why?