Sociology and Spirituality

From Jay MacLeod Ain’t No Makin’ It, third edition, p 504 (the last paragraph of the methodological appendix):

When I visited Chris in prison and he asked me about my faith, I suggested that spirituality can arrest our inertial drift into self-deception.  My faith in a forgiving god allows me to face up to the truth about myself and to deal constructively with my sin.  The United States is even more prone to self-deception than I am.  We are in the grip of denial and resistance to the reality of our social sin, and sociology can help the world work through its ignorance of itself.  Spirituality and sociology have parallel vocations. Spirituality reveals the truth about ourselves. Sociology reveals the truth about our society. Both spur us to struggle for justice, for in the end my redemption is linked to yours.

This resonates for me.

Bibliographic note: MacLeod wrote what became the first edition of Ain’t No Makin’ It as an undergraduate thesis; he went on to be a community organizer and then an Anglican priest.  In case you don’t know the book, the first edition was based on observation and interviews with poor White and Black boys in 1983, the second edition caught up with how they were doing in 1991, and the third edition finds them in 2007.    The popular hook in the first edition was that the “Hallway Hangers” whose lives centered on substance abuse and crime were mostly White, while the “Brothers” who avoided misbehavior and tried hard in school were mostly Black, so the discussion of the impact of class and structural constraints ran against some of the usual grains. The “where are they now” follow ups pull this book apart from most in the genre.  It would be a good book to teach from. Probably the most useful policy implication is MacLeod’s argument that poor youths — and adults — should know the structural constraints they are up against if they are to avoid self-blame, despair, and self-destructive behavior.

Update:  Here is the publisher’s page for the book.  Most of the “hits” for this title in Google are to term paper vendors. Watch out.

symbolic dominance, culture and religion

When the war of the yard signs was at its peak several years ago, I wanted to put three popular signs in my yard, all together:
Let Your Light Shine: Fight Racism
We Support Gays and Lesbians
Keep Christ in Christmas
My state celebrates the winter season with the war of the symbols.  Nativity scenes on public property justly spark lawsuits by those who are not Christian.  Menorahs and “separate church and state” banners flank the decorated evergreen tree whose very name is subject of debate in the legislature.  Proposals to include Wiccan pentacles and Festivus poles add to the fun.  Some Christians have decided that “their” holiday has been ruined by any acknowledgment of others, Continue reading “symbolic dominance, culture and religion”