Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The media, politics, and religion

Here's an interesting article from Rod Dreher, of the Dallas Morning News. He writes about how the mainstream media, e.g., New York Times and Washington Post, selectively covers the role of religion in American politics with the result that:

"It is fair to say that our news media, through heavily biased reporting and analysis, are turning significant numbers of American voters against religious conservatives and are delegitimizing the place believers have made for themselves at the table."

What do you think? Is he on to something?

Thanks Jeff!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mormon missionaries

I bring in guest speakers for my sociology of religion class, and so I started trying to get a hold of some Mormon missionaries. Well, it took me the better part of the week and numerous phone calls before I could get a hold of any. Just like the old saying... you can never find a Mormon missionary when you need one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clergy and sexual misconduct

On Monday's post, I asked what would be a natural comparison group for clergy when it comes to sexual misconduct, and, lo and behold, the General Social Survey module that asks about clergy sexual harassment starts off with a question about sexual harassment from workplace bosses and supervisors.

Here are the data about that question and the question about sexual harassment from clergy. They show the percentage of women from different religious traditions who have experienced sexual advances from clergy or their work supervisors.

How would you interpret these data?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is 3% of sexual misconduct a lot or a little?

A recent study found that about 3% of women who attend a religious service have had sexual advances made by by a religious leader. From an article in the Washington Post:

"One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.

The study, by Baylor University researchers, found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.

"It certainly is prevalent, and clearly the problem is more than simply a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers," said Diana Garland, dean of Baylor's School of Social Work, who co-authored the study.

It found that more than two-thirds of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance."

This raises an interesting question--is 3% a little or a lot? Obviously from a Christian perspective any is too much, but this question raises the issue of how we make comparisons about Christian's morality.

My guiding principle is something that I heard Charles Colson say--that Christianity makes people better, not necessarily good. Applied here, it suggests that Christian faith will make its leaders less likely to cross boundaries of ministry and marriage, but some still will (though, presumably, not as often as they would were they not Christians).

This suggests that we need a contrast group, somebody in a situation similar to church leaders. Maybe we should compare rates of church-leader-propositioning with those of bosses or teachers or other people in authority. That's the kind of information that we'd need to really answer, is this a lot or a little.

Thanks Jay!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The doughut-bacon-cheeseburger

The big fair in New England each year is called the Big E. As with any fair, it has its share of unhealthy foods, but now it's really gone all the way. Yes, the junk-food-meter goes up to "11" with the doughnut-bacon-cheeseburger. Slice a glazed doughnut in half, add cheeseburger and several slices of bacon, and you're good to go.

Since I would like to make it to my 48th birthday, I think that I'll pass, but I might dare Floyd or Gus to eat one... Then I'll put them on a rollercoaster right away (before DCF hauls me off).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Michael Duran on the "Bash the Church" Bandwagon

Here are some interesting posts (here, here, and here) by blogger Michael Duran about what he calls the "Bash the Church" Bandwagon. He starts: "Bashing the Christian Church is en vogue these days," and he gives his ideas as to why this is happening and why it shouldn't.

I'm glad to see people writing about this because church-bashing seems epidemic at times (though maybe I just see it a lot because I'm very aware of it). I suppose, though, that this won't change anytime soon because it's profitable for those who do it. It helps sell books, magazines, conferences, and new visions of Christianity.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to apologize like a celebrity

Singer Kanye West made a fool of himself at an awards show last weekend. In response, he gave a prototypical celebrity apology--one that works to make its giver look contrite and gain sympathy without taking full responsibility for his/her actions.

West said: he has to "deal with hurt" and he "never takes time off" and that he's "just ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt."

I guess that we really should be feeling bad for Kanye West in all of this. The poor young man is propelled by hurt to act like a raging jackass.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Photo entries for an juried art show (pics)

Our town has a festival this weekend, and as part of it they host a juried art show. I submitted four photos, and they accepted three. I surprisingly nervous about the whole thing, but it should be interesting. Here are three of them. (I've posted them here before--now I've touched them up some).

Our town has a festival this weekend, and as part of it they host a juried art show. I submitted four photos, and they accepted three. I surprisingly nervous about the whole thing, but it should be interesting. Here are two of them. (This one is probably my favorite--I've posted them here before--now I've touched them up some).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Religion in Connecticut

In preparing for a class lecture, I created this graph based on data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study. As you can see, relative to the national population, we have more Catholics and more religiously unaffiliated people. I would have guessed that, but I would have thought we'd have more mainline Protestants--with each town having a prominent Congregational church in it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BBC Interactive Map of World Religion History

I really like maps, especially ones that document change over time. So, I have spent a lot of time at the BBC Civilizations website, for they have an interactive map where you select the religion and the year, and then it plays a slide show of that religion's growth over time.

Check it out here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tools/civilisations/civlaunch.shtml

Warning: It can be addictive.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Breaking emotion rules with the police

A big story last week was the freeing of an 18-year kidnap victim in California. Apparently the kidnapper and the victim's children to UC Berkeley, and a police officer noticed that the girls weren't acting "normally." They were "non-responsive and exuded no energy." Now, obviously, this was out of school because it is the normal response of college students in the classroom. The police officer followed up, and they unraveled this terrible crime.

This reminds me of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The police officer who arrested him did so, according to the officer, because Gates was acting badly--not breaking any specific laws. (Whether it was this, racism, or both has been hotly debated).

I suppose my interest in this aspect of these events is why I have studied the social psychology of deviance, but it always amazes me how varied and broad are social norms on how to behave.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Confession (joke)

A joke from the local paper:

Irish guy goes into the confessional box and notices on one wall a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest Cuban cigars. Then the priest comes in.

"Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must say the confessional box is much more inviting these days."

The priest replies, "Get out, you idiot. You're on my side."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Financial Peace University

I'm starting to read up on Dave Ramsey's financial plan entitled Financial Peace University? Once I got over the dumb name, I think that I like his ideas. He has a very simple approach to $, which is good because I'm so bad at managing it that I need something uncomplicated. Also, I appreciate his approach that financial mismanagement is more doing the wrong thing rather than not knowing enough.

Has anyone had experience with FPU? Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Religion and health around the World

Here's a very interesting article about the relationship between religion and health in 140 countries worldwide using 300,000 observations. The authors finds a strong religious effect in terms of health. He summarizes:

"It is almost universally true that the elderly and women are more religious, and I find evidence in favor of a genuine aging effect, not simply a cohort effect associated with secularization. As in previous studies, it is not clear why women are so much more religious than men. In most countries, religious people report better health; they say they have more energy, that their health is better, and that they experience less pain. Their social lives and personal behaviors are also healthier; they are more likely to be married, to have supportive friends, they are more likely to report being treated with respect, they have greater confidence in the healthcare and medical system and they are less likely to smoke. But these effects do not all hold in all countries, and they tend to be stronger for men than for women."

Lots of studies have found this type of finding in the U.S. and Europe, but this project broadens the findings considerably.

Thanks David!