Sociology of Christianity
Both by training and interest, I view the world through a social psychological lens--how the person interacts with and is shaped by society. In my research, I apply this approach to the study of religion, Christianity in particular. Here are some of the projects that I am currently working on.:
Creating moral fear
This project examines how Christians create a climate of fear about their own morality and the future of the church in order to prompt Christians to do better. Examining statistics about Christian divorce rates, we conduct a case study of how Christian leaders, teachers, and critics emphasize statistics that portray Christianity in a negative light.:
Deconversion from Christianity
Why do Christians leave the faith? This project analyses narratives from 50+ deconverts, and it identifies common themes in how they explain their departures from the Christian faith.
Education and Christian faith
Many studies have looked at the relationship between social class and religion. This paper adds to this literature by examining the effect of educational attainment on religious behavior and we find that the effect of education varies by denomination. Specifically, education has a significantly less secularizing effect among evangelicals than it does among mainline Protestants.
Self-presentation in the church service
We take Goffman's ideas about self-presentation, and we apply them to church services. We visited a couple of dozen church services, and we observed how the social order is maintained during them, and order is restored when there is a break in someone's self-presentation.:
Understanding Christian research for church leaders
Most church leaders in American Christianity have little background in social research, and yet much of the information they receive about the church is in this form. To help pastors make sense of the research about Christianity to which they are exposed, we are writing this primer about how to understand and critique social research about Christianity.