MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE
People ask me all the time what I do for a living, or when I'll get "a real job." Most of them understand that what I do has something to do with religion and culture and a lot of reading -- but that's about it. There are two main aspects to it:
1. As of June 2016, I am the Director of Social Research for Docent Research Group, which is a non-profit Christian research group based in Austin, Texas. I do many things in that capacity, but the bulk of it involves leading small teams of researchers to produce (or sometimes just summarize) social science research and theorizing for Christian organizations, most often churches. I think it's important for Christian leaders and organizations to understand information and ideas from mainstream academic disciplines, and my work with Docent is one of the main ways I pursue that.
2. More broadly, I am what's called an "independent scholar." This means I participate in writing and speaking as a professor would, but I'm not affiliated with any university. In this capacity, I'm a generalist and something of a cultural critic. I'm interested in how persons' backgrounds and assumptions influence their ability to live a good human life, to flourish. With that end in view, all of my work is ultimately motivated by bigger questions in the areas of philosophical anthropology and moral philosophy -- like what is a person and what does it mean to flourish as a person and as a society.
MY RECENT BACKGROUND
In the Spring of 2008, I finished my B.A. in sociology with a minor in philosophy at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. That Fall, I moved down to South Bend, Indiana, to begin graduate school at University of Notre Dame. I earned my M.A. in sociology from Notre Dame in Fall of 2010. I spent the next year and a half reading, and I passed my comprehensive exams in sociology of religion and sociological theory.
In the Fall of 2012 -- the beginning of my fifth year in graduate school -- I started my dissertation project on the New Calvinist movement, or Reformed resurgence. This project took me to Seattle, Manhattan, and Minneapolis. In the Fall of 2013, I got married and relocated back to Ann Arbor, where I continued to write my dissertation and participated as a visiting graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan. I completed my Ph.D. in sociology from Notre Dame in the Spring of 2016.
My primary institutional home within the sociology department at Notre Dame -- even when I was out of town -- was its Center for the Study of Religion and Society, where Christian Smith was the director. I have also presented my research and writing most years (although less so recently) at the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association and those of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
MY INTELLECTUAL APPROACH
I think relativism, empiricism, radical social constructionism, existentialism, exclusive scientism, identity politics, and certain forms of feminism are fundamentally mistaken, and so I reject them. Instead, I embrace an approach consisting of ontological realism, epistemic perspectivalism, rational adjudication, basic human goods, teleology, virtue ethics, and attention to human biology and cognition. A shorter way of saying some of this is that I work from a neo-Aristotelian and critical realist philosophy of (social) science. I also think there is much to gain from the natural law tradition.
I've learned that not all intellectual traditions and worldviews make good sense of life and promote human well-being. In fact, there is an incredible dullness and darkness to human life when things are approached from certain wrong starting points. In response to this observation, I've realized that anyone who wants to richly and fully understand how to be human (along with things like meaning, significance, dignity, marriage, work, family, economics, sexuality, beauty, suffering, and more) needs to view things through the lens of traditional Christianity. In short, I'm convinced that traditional Christianity is not only true but also good and beautiful.
My thinking (as far as sociology goes) has been shaped most heavily by sociologists such as Christian Smith, Omar Lizardo, John Levi Martin, Margaret Archer, Steve Vaisey, and Phil Gorski. Other influences on me (again, at least in the discipline of sociology) include, in alphabetical order: Gabriel Abend, Jeffrey Alexander, Nancy Ammerman, Will Atkinson, Pierre Bourdieu, Wayne Brekhus, Rogers Brubaker, Craig Calhoun, Charles Camic, Mark Chaves, Randall Collins, Matthew Desmond, Paul DiMaggio, Dave Elder-Vass, and Michael Emerson...
...as well as (still sociologists): Gary Alan Fine, Erving Goffman, Neil Gross, James Davison Hunter, Gabe Ignatow, Hans Joas, Shamus Khan, Michèle Lamont, Vanina Leschziner, Michael Lindsay, Gerardo Marti, Doug McAdam, Ashley Mears, Doug Porpora, Isaac Reed, Lauren Rivera, Saskia Sassen, William Sewell Jr., Philip Smith, Iddo Tavory, David Voas, Loïc Wacquant, Brad Wilcox, Robert Wuthnow, Eviatar Zerubavel, Phil Zuckerman, and Sharon Zukin.
Outside of sociology, I have also been influenced by contemporary writers and scholars such as Sohrab Ahmari, Ryan Anderson, Greg Bahnsen, David Bebbington, Francis Beckwith, Arthur Brooks, David Brooks, J. Budziszewski, Patrick Deneen, Alexandra DeSanctis, Kevin DeYoung, Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher, Mary Eberstadt, John Finnis, Philippa Foot, Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon, Ruth Groff, Jonathan Haidt, John Inazu, Tim Keller, and Robert Koons...
...along with: Patrick Lee, Yuval Levin, Alasdair MacIntyre, George Marsden, Russell McCutcheon, Russell Moore, Melissa Moschella, Mark Noll, Martha Nussbaum, Chad Pecknold, Alvin Plantinga, Vern Poythress, Roger Scruton, Lawrence Sklar, James K. A. Smith, R. C. Sproul, Charles Taylor, Carl Trueman, Kevin Vanhoozer, Adrian Vermeule, and Peter Wehner. Also, I subscribe pretty much entirely to Catholic social teaching.
MY PERSONAL LIFE
I got married in the Fall of 2013, and now live with my wife and young daughter near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I don't have many hobbies, but I enjoy a good book, an occasional bourbon, and observing the liturgical calendar. On matters of theology and ethics, I’m influenced broadly by the Reformed and Catholic traditions. I've also recently taken up hosting documentary nights with friends at my family's home on topics related to religion and society.
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