Being a Contemplative Academic

I’m a contemplative academic. But what exactly does that mean? I have spent nearly two and a half decades in a university setting, either as a student or a professor. But it was only recently that I realized that my vocation, my particular way of being a professor, is...

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What do you Teach? Sociology and Theology

Whenever I tell people I teach sociology and theology, I get a puzzled look. For people who know little about either field, I often get questions like: What is that exactly? What kinds of courses do you teach? Who takes your courses? For those who know more about the...

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Seeking the Sacred?

Original post published April 1, 2016 on Black, White, & Gray. How do people seek the sacred? For a recent project, I interviewed 26 young adults in 10 different states about hardships they had faced. I asked how those hardships influenced their close relationships...

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Why Positive Sociology Needs Tragic Sociology

How might positive psychology and positive sociology benefit from greater engagement with theological views of suffering? At a the 2015 meetings of the American Sociological Association (ASA), I explained why I think positive psychology, and the nascent field of...

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Critical Realist Research Methods

What might critical realist research methods look like? At the 2015 Annual Meetings of the International Association of Critical Realism, I discussed some common problems I saw in syllabi and textbooks used to teach sociological methods. With the help of Cameron Yick,...

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Virtue and Vulnerability

Is Viktor Frankl's life a story of resilience or vulnerability? It's both, I think. Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camps and went on to an influential career as a psychiatrist and writer. Yet, he never forgot how his experiences of pain and suffering formed...

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Happiness at Yale

On September 16, 2014, I published this article in Public Discourse. College students, like everyone else, want to be happy. Educators should help them ground this desire for happiness in acts of virtue. Students at a one-week seminar on happiness I co-taught recently...

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The Calhoun Happiness Project at Yale

I originally published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos on October 10, 2013. "How can Yale undergraduates learn and apply principles from positive psychology and positive sociology? More than 20 students jointed the Calhoun Happiness...

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Goodbye, Robert Bellah

I originally published this post on July 31, 2013, on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos. Click here to read that post. Robert Bellah once wrote: "Because good social science is always morally serious, we can transpose Weber's saying that only a mature...

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Flow: Let’s Get Serious about Leisure

I originally published this blog post on June 5, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post.  "Do you take your leisure seriously? If not, you aren’t going to get flow which I described last week. Contrary to popular...

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Flow: Order in Consciousness

I originally published this blog post on May 29, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post. "Did you know that you can actually increase your ability to enjoy the things in life that produce the greatest satisfaction?...

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“No More Choices, Please!”

I originally published this blog post on May 1, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post. "Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the number of choices to buy a salad dressing at the grocery store? Have you ever failed to...

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Is Tocqueville Still Relevant?

I originally published this blog post on March 20, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post. "It is with a bit of trepidation that I begin discussing with my students in positive sociology this week Alexis de...

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Conversations with Robert Bellah

I originally published this blog post on March 13, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post. "Sitting in his office perched above the hills in Berkeley, California, yesterday I got to meet one of the legends of...

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Positive Sociology in the Classroom

I originally published this blog post on February 20, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos. Click here to read the full post. "Reflective Best Student Self and Reflective Best Classroom Exercise, written by Margarita Mooney My recent visit with Jane...

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My Happiness Project

I originally published this blog post on February 6, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos. Click here to read the full post. "When I first started read Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling book, The Happiness Project, I thought, “Wow, she does a great job...

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Starting Points for Positive Sociology

On January 9, 2012, I posted this blog on the Black, White and Gray blog, hosted by Patheos. Click here to read the full post. "Ever since I met Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, at his home near Philadelphia last fall to discuss what...

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What Two Deaths Taught Me about Doing Fieldwork

On November 7, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos. "On this day 16 years ago—November 7, 1996—I walked in to my office at the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in San Jose, Costa Rica, to find out that my boss,...

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Sayer’s “Why Things Matter to People”

On October 23, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White & Gray blog hosted by Patheos. "Recently, while reading Andrew Sayer’s book “Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life,” I was captivated by the question of which of these two...

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Women Can’t Have it All, and It’s Better That Way

On July 4, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos. It is the second post in a series on Women at Work, in response to Anne Marie Slaughter’s piece. "When I was in graduate school, I played in Princeton University’s summer...

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Women Can’t Have it All, but We Could Have it Better

On June 27, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the first post in a series on Women and Work. "I congratulate Princeton Professor and former Dean Anne Marie Slaughter for her frank piece published in the Atlantic entitled...

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Here’s to My Students: You Make Teaching a Joy

On June 20, 2012, I published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the fifth and final post in a series about teaching Sociology of Religion Online. "Yesterday I finished teaching a 5-week online course in sociology of religion. As I remarked...

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The Ups and Downs of Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

On May 18, 2012 I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the second post in a series about teaching Sociology of Religion Online. "I’ve just finished my first week of a hybrid in-person/online course in sociology of religion to...

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Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

On May 11, 2012, I published this post on theBlack, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos, the first post in a series about Teaching Sociology of Religion Online. "Next week, I start my first online course in sociology of religion at the University of North Carolina,...

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Are Religious Organizations Like Firms?

I initially published this post on March 21, 2012, on on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos. "Can ideas from economics, such as that monopolies are lazy and that competition leads to better products, be applied to understand religion? Every year I teach...

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Want to Fight the Man? Reform is Hard Work

Published on February, 15, 2012, on the Black, White, and Gray blog. Click here to read the full post. "In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brookssent a clear message to many...

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My Conversation with Islamic Reform Scholar Mohsen Kadivar

Published on February 1, 2012, on the Black, White and Gray blog, my post on Islamic reform scholar Mohsen Kadivar. Click here to read the full post. "Although he is known by many as a political dissident, Islamic scholar Mohsen Kadivar emphasized to me over lunch...

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Religious Freedom: An Endangered Liberty in the U.S.?

Posted on January 25, 2012, on the Black, White and Gray Blog, my thoughts on religious freedom. Click here to see the full article. "In December, Georgetown scholars Tom Farr and Tim Shah organized an online debate through the New York Times that asked if religious...

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Leisure and Worship: A Christmas Message

Published on December 21, 2011, on the Black White and Gray blog. Click here to see the full post. "Until recently, I thought leisure was what I do when I'm too tired to work. After much prodding, I finally read Josef Pieper's Leisure the Basis of Culture. While...

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Why I Love Teaching Sociology of Religion

Published on the Black, White and Gray blog on December 14, 2011. Click here to see the full post. "Unlike other sociology classes I teach at UNC, students who come to this class are not (for the most part) sociology majors. Many are religious studies majors, some are...

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Women’s Dignity in the Workplace

Published on November, 16, 2011, on the Black, White and Gray blog, my thoughts on what Edith Stein insights offer to women in the professions. "Although she points out that women's temperament will likely lead them in greater proportion to certain professions like...

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Civil Religion in America then and Now

Published November 9, 2011, on the Black White and Gray blog. "Yesterday, I discussed with my class Robert Bellah's famous 1967 essay entitled 'Civil Religion in America.' In a time when news commentators and some scholars express concern that there is too much...

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Best Selling Books in Sociology of Religion, SSSR 2011

Posted on the Black, White and Gray blog on November 6, 2011, my thoughts on recent bestsellers in sociology of religion this year. "Last weekend at the meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, I perused the book sale, wondering "What are other...

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The Media and Research on Religion

On October 26, 2011, I wrote on the Black, White and Gray blog about how I am teaching students to integrate peer-reviewed research on religion with what they read in the media (newspapers, magazines, and online).Here's part of what I had to say. To see the full post,...

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What do We Pray For?

On October 19, 2011, I published a piece for Patheos on the Black, White and Gray blog entitled:  What Do we Pray for? "So one day, I finally asked a woman I had been helping tutor English to, who I call Julia in my book, “Julia, what do you ask for when you pray?”...

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Who is a a Convert?

My October 12, 2011, entry for the Patheos blog Black, White and Gray asked: 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....

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Talking with the Research on Religion podcast

Under "Press," there's a new podcast-interview between me and Anthony Gill (who runs the Research on Religion Podcast). From the description: "Although the 2010 earthquake in Haiti generated a great deal of media attention to the plight of individuals living in that...

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Review of My Book Published in the Miami Herald

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, Marifeli Perez-Stable, Professor of Sociology at Florida International University, published a review of my book in The Miami Herald. Click here to see the review. Her review shows a great appreciation for both the ethnographic and the...

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Thomas G. Wenski named Archbishop of Miami

The priest I wrote about in Faith Makes Us Live, Thomas G. Wenski, was named the new Archbishop of Miami on April 20, 2010. For more on Wenski and his appointment to lead the Miami Archdiocese, click here. As he founded the Haitian Catholic Mission of Miami (Notre...

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Theodicy at Notre Dame d’Haiti, Miami, March 2010

In March 2010, I visited Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami's neighborhood called Little Haiti, where I did fieldwork for my book. I had the opportunity to attend Mass at Notre Dame with other academics who are members of the Congregational Studies Team...

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Review of my book in Books and Culture

A review of my book appeared in the March/April edition of Books and Culture. It mentions how my book is especially relevant now that so much international attention is on Haiti after the January 2010...

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Carolina Population Center features my research on Haiti

The Carolina Population Center has featured my research on Haiti on their website. You can see the website by clicking here. The website also contains testimonials I received about relief work in Haiti. Father Mario Serrano wrote about setting up an aid distribution...

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