Monthly Archives: December 2011

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 clearly upholding the material and spiritual value of all work, Pieper critiques the modern view of life as “total work.” Although no one really works 24/7, the ideological commitment to “total work”, subscribing to the idea that hard work defines the good life, can be just as harmful as (almost) never taking a break from work.

Why? Because, Pieper masterfully explains, the view that the highest good is found in hard work emphasizes reason and cognition as the only path to knowing. As an intellectual, I rightly prize knowledge. But Pieper challenges us: is knowledge only acquired through arduous mental labor? Pieper asserts:

“The essence of knowledge does not consist in the effort for which it calls, but in grasping existing things and in unveiling reality. Moreover, just as the highest form of virtue knows nothing of ‘difficulty,’ so too the highest form of knowledge comes to man like a gift–the sudden illumination, a stroke of genius, true contemplation; it comes effortlessly, and without trouble.” (p. 34)”

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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 in biology, and many in English. All come because they are curious about religion, but not necessarily sociology of religion.

So I start them off with difficult readings from Daniel Pals’ Eight Theories of Religion on Weber and Marx, along with Karen Fields’ introduction to Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life. I mix more contemporary readings for those weeks to show why those theories are still relevant. Then I have them go out and observe a religious service and apply one of those theories to what they observed.

Undergraduates are very skilled observers of the social world, and I always look forward to reading their observations about Mormon congregations, megachurches, Bob Jones University chapel, and a whole host of religious organizations I have never heard of but are right under my nose.”

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