Friday, February 3, 2012

Sociologist Q & A

Two prominent sociologists, Dr. Stan Gaede, President of the Christian College Consortium, and Dr. Brad Wright, author of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites. . .and Other Lies You've Been Told, shared the stage this week for a unique question and answer session of the Faith Seeking Understanding Lecture Series.

Wright, a sociologist and researcher from the University of Connecticut, fielded questions about his latest two books, the nature of his work in religious sociology, and why American Christians are inclined to believe negative accounts of their faith. When asked to describe his research, Wright said, “I act as a kind of mythbuster. I say, here is what people are saying, what is really going on? Let’s take a look at the facts.” As an example, Wright says that while there is a cottage industry of scaring us about the youth, or that we are losing the young, it is far from the truth. “Compared to the 80s and 90s, we see about the same numbers, with some variation across denominations.”

Dr. Gaede, a Scholar in Residence at Gordon College, pressed Wright to explain the reasoning behind this overly negative or pessimistic take American Christians have on their own faith. In response, Wright laughed and said, “Well, there seems to be an ecumenical acceptance of the negative view. We all have disagreements, but we all agree that things are going wrong.”
Wright suggested that negative language is used because it is useful, rather than because it is accurate or significant. “A good way to gain attendance at a seminar, or a sermon, is to sell the scare.”

When Dr. Gaede asked about the problem of Christians loving their neighbors outside racial, economic and other kinds of barriers, Wright responded with energy. “Let’s do better. By understanding what the problems are, we will have the energy and resources to combat them. There are definitely things that could be better,” Wright said, leaning forward. “But we’re not a sinking ship. We’re not the Titanic, maybe we’re going at 2/3 or ¾ speed now, and we could go faster. But generally, things are going well.” 

To watch this special segment on the Gordon YouTube Channel, click here.

The talk was part of the Faith Seeking Understanding Lecture Series at Gordon College and sponsored by the Center for Christian Studies. This ongoing lecture series brings first-rate guest speakers to Gordon to address various topics related to Christian thought and practice, the theology of vocation, intellectual commitment, ethics, and more.

Story by Gordon student Hillary Sherratt '12, a Pike Scholar from Rowley, Mass, and student writer for the Office of College Communications.

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