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?

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. How can Yale undergraduates learn and apply principles from positive psychology and positive sociology? More than 20 students jointed the Calhoun Happiness Project which I started in one of Yale’s 12...

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Goodbye, Robert Bellah

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Robert Bellah Robert Bellah once wrote: “Because good social science is always morally serious, we can transpose Weber’s saying that only a mature man can have the calling for politics into the statement...

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Flow: Let’s Get Serious about Leisure

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Do you take your leisure seriously? If not, you aren’t going to get flow which I described last week. Contrary to popular belief, flow is not the easy-peasy feeling you get when plopping down on the couch...

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Flow: Order in Consciousness

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Did you know that you can actually increase your ability to enjoy the things in life that produce the greatest satisfaction? When I read Martin Seligman’s PERMA concept of human flourishing (Positive...

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“No More Choices, Please!”

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the number of choices to buy a salad dressing at the grocery store? Have you ever failed to choose a health care or retirement option just because, well, there were so...

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Is Tocqueville Still Relevant?

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. It is with a bit of trepidation that I begin discussing with my students in positive sociology this weekAlexis de Tocqueville’sDemocracy in America. Is a work written in the 1830s relevant nearly 200...

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Conversations with Robert Bellah

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Sitting in his office perched above the hills in Berkeley, California, yesterday I got to meet one of the legends of sociology: Robert Bellah. Among other accomplishments, Bellah’s co-authored book Habits...

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Positive Sociology in the Classroom

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. My recent visit with Jane Dutton of theUniversity of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarshipinspired me to adapt some of their practical exercises for building leadership and thriving...

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My Happiness Project

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. When I first started read Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling book, The Happiness Project, I thought, “Wow, she does a great job of summarizing tons on research on positive psychology in a way that is...

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Starting Points for Positive Sociology

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. With Martin Seligman Ever since I met Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology, at his home near Philadelphia last fall to discuss what movement for positive sociology might look like,...

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What Two Deaths Taught Me about Doing Fieldwork

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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, Joaquin Tacsan, had boarded a...

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Sayer’s “Why Things Matter to People”

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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 sentences sounds like a more...

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

  This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. It's 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 softball league for a team named...

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

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. It's 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 “Why Women Can’t Have it...

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

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. It is 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 in earlier posts in...

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The Ups and Downs of Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. It is 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 undergraduates at the...

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Teaching Sociology of Religion Online

This post originally appeared on the the Black, White, & Gray blog. It is 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, and I’m about as...

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Are Religious Organizations Like Firms?

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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 my students–both those in my class on...

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Want to Fight the Man? Reform is Hard Work

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brooks sent a clear message to many would-be reformers: if you desire...

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My Conversation with Islamic Reform Scholar Mohsen Kadivar

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Although he is known by many as a political dissident, Islamic scholar Mohsen Kadivaremphasized to me over lunch recently, “I never wanted to get involved in politics. I just wanted to be a scholar of...

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

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. In December, Georgetown scholars Tom Farr and Tim Shah organized an online debate through the New York Timesthat asked if religious freedom is under threat in the U.S.  was particular struck by the...

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Leisure and Worship: A Christmas Message

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. For much of my adult life, leisure has been something of a bad word. Isn’t what I learned in my years studying at Ivy League schools followed by joining the ranks of university professors that I’m made to...

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Why I Love Teaching Sociology of Religion

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Today after my students in Sociology of Religion took their final exam, I headed to Starbucks to read their evaluations. Just in case I needed a stiff one to get me through their comments, I ordered a...

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Women’s Dignity in the Workplace

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. The person who has most helped me to ponder this question is Edith Stein: an intellectual and a woman of deep faith who worked in philosophy and education. Stein was raised Jewish in Germany, became...

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Civil Religion in America then and Now

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & 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

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. Last weekend at the meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, I perused the book sale, wondering “What are other people buying? What should I be reading?” On the last day of the...

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The Media and Research on Religion

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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...

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What do We Pray For?

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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...

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Who is a Convert?

This post originally appeared on the Black, White, & Gray blog. 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. ‘Cradle Catholics?’ This question is...

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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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