A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

I have built up numerous cheesy but memorable “mottos” for the academic study of religion, which I use in my teaching. Perhaps I’ll write about more of them later, but meanwhile today's topic is the motto, “our class is not a paint-by-number kit, but a workshop for critical thought.” I wrote up a short and … Continue reading A Workshop for Critical Thought about U.S. Religion—with Silly Putty and a Carved Lion

Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)

“Many evangelicals are likely to switch their loyalties to the Democrats [in the coming election]—and the exact numbers will depend partly on whether they perceive that mainstream liberals are treating them with nuance and respect, as opposed to stereotypes and contempt.” I wrote that in 2008, in a context I will discuss shortly. Because of … Continue reading Don’t Deem a Melting Glacier Irrelevant (Just Because the Rest of the Glacier is Still Cold and You Really Hate Cold Things)

I Watched Kanye’s Christmas Pageant So You Don’t Have To

…Or… if you want to watch, or already did—if you are into that sort of thing—it’s not a problem, we can compare notes. This production is interesting in several ways— especially if you care about the cultural politics of religion in US popular music, or are the sort of person who was turned on by … Continue reading I Watched Kanye’s Christmas Pageant So You Don’t Have To

The “Least Resistant Personality Profile” and Factory Farms

While studying rural communities that face significant poverty, shocking rates of cancer, and poisoned fishing waters from industrial pollution, sociologist Arlie Hochschild learned about a disturbing money making scheme. A “waste-to-energy conversion” company wanted to build plants that burn highly toxic and noxious smelling waste—representing “locally undesirable land use.” So this corporation paid half a … Continue reading The “Least Resistant Personality Profile” and Factory Farms

Terrible Jobs (With Thoughts About Race and Remembering)

My aunt Carolyn retired from a college teaching career and moved into our family’s historic farmhouse in northern Wisconsin. When the St. Paul Pioneer Press asked readers to describe “the worst jobs they ever had” for a Labor Day feature, she wrote about working at a local resort with fishing cabins, where she cleaned latrines … Continue reading Terrible Jobs (With Thoughts About Race and Remembering)

Remembering

The Arlie Hochschild book that I have been pondering this summer includes passages about the Areno family, whose formerly lovely and ecologically rich land—which sustained them both with beauty and food—was turned into a poisoned wasteland by industrial pollution. They talk of their role as “rememberers,” or witnesses to how it used to be. Interestingly, … Continue reading Remembering