Archive for February, 2009

Department of Homeland Jesus



Faith Based Services in Action

Faith Based Services in Action

I now remember why conservative Christians used to like me–because I detest sappy idealistic religious liberals almost as much as I dislike fundies. Oh sure, at least religious liberals mean well; yet, while they’d like to help,  they couldn’t prep for a small picnic, much less feed, clothe, and house the homeless, abused, mentally ill citizens of our great country who need care and attention. Religious liberals love to emphasize good works, and they try to be helpful. But, you know, sometimes problems are just a tad too big for a bunch of well meaning but undertrained part time volunteers. But the liberal religious activist don’t get that, and they’re just as enthusiastic about the United States Department of Homeland Jesus as are the “evangelicals.” Hell, Mark Chaves shows that the liberals will probably soak up the bulk of the funds since they provide the bulk of the services.

     I had a joint appointment in the Graduate Department of Religion at Vanderbilt, and several “faith based” social service programs were closely connected with Vanderbilt Div, and it was painful to see who got placed into those programs. Yeah. just what the HIV- positive homeless population needs, a program based in a dead church run by some goofball trustfunder who quit his/her job at daddy’s bank to go to Divinity School!  Those experiences should be really helpful when one of your HIV positive clients is picked up for a sexual assault on a relative, eh? Oh, and then there’s all that coordination with clients with multiple ill-behaved children, and cleaning up when a sick clients vomit or shit their pants, and dealing with REAL welfare agencies so your clients  can get healthcare and maybe a place to stay, or even a job. These people can’t even do  graduate school registration on their own!!! How on earth are they going to deal with real bureaucracies?!!..None of the students I encountered at the GDR or Div School were in any way qualified to help people in need. They were idealists looking to escape from the real world. Sure, they mean well, but they are not helpful. Religious people with their simplistic, idealistic “solutions” are not going to solve real problems.

What has “faith based” social services brought us? Well, even if we ignore the fact that it is blatantly unconstitutional to use tax dollars to further religious missions, what it has done is to create inferior social services for the most needy citizens of our country. Instead of providing people with dignified and reliable food,  housing, medical care, mental health, and other social services, we give them part time volunteers with no training. Or, paid staff with no training!! Great. Any screening of these people? Apparently not. The only concern seems to be about whether they can discriminate based on religion in hiring. How about discriminating based on training and ability?!!! If they did that, we wouldn’t have faith based social services. I shouldn’t complain too much about the religious liberals, at least they aren’t as bad as our conservative Christians. How many kids have been killed and molested in conservative Christian faith based alternative to prison work camps? Ted Haggard and his buddies are really into those…Can you imagine what a bunch of fundies tell some poor abused woman with three kids who lands in their homeless shelter?  Why are my taxes paying to further fuck up the lives of our nation’s neediest people?

It’s way past time to end this faith based nonsense and provide genuine comprehensive social services to the people in need.  That requires hiring real professionals–social workers, nurses, and physicians–and giving them real resources; not jesus freaks with bibles or div students with Foucault.

Ass-sessing Assessment

Assess this, morons....

Assess this, morons....

I sure wish Laurie Fendrich was Chancellor of my university. One of the most noxious contemporary academic fads is “assessment” which is supposed to justify our existence, at least in the very small minds of a bunch of minor league administrators who dream of becoming associate deans. None of these advocates even knows of the existence of the journal Evaluation Review, nor could they come up with the formula for a simple bivariate correlation if they were handed an undergraduate statistics book. Worse yet, this nonsense has worked its way into “accreditation” of various colleges and programs. Great. So, now we’re supposed to spend huge amounts of time standardizing our courses, coordinating with other professors and departments, and constructing “assessment reports” and even “assessments of assessments”, and indeed, “assessments of assessments of assessments” (no shit, I’m not making that up).  All of this goes to some craven permanent associate professor in the humanities who wouldn’t know how to do a real assessment if his or her life depended on it. But, they get course release and extra money, and can act like big shots–and apply for every permanent administrative post they can find, after all, they’re the assessment expert!! The measure of our product is our students’  future careers, not whether or not they can recall tidbits from Durkheim or Marx.

Fendrich nails it in the Chronicle of Higher Ed (full link above):

“The best way to assess a college education is to measure what students do with their professional and intellectual lives three, five, 10, 15, and 25 years after graduation. (Several institutions, my alma mater among them, have been doing this for years.) If we want real outcomes assessment, we should close the doors on outcomes assessment and fire the outcomes-assessment consultants. Then we should triple the staff in the Alumni Office. That staff should conduct careful surveys of graduates’ opinions, professional accomplishments, civic involvement and intellectual activities. Make the results easy to read and make how the data were gathered transparent. Post everything on a Web site, for all to see. Only then will we know how well a college is doing its job, and how it could improve itself.”

Dumb all over…again.


Mean Verbal Test Score by Beliefs in the Bible: General Social Surveys




% of Sample

Bible is Word of God



Bible is Inspired by God



Bible is Book of Fables



Bible is Other







a —difference from word of god significant at .05 alpha level.

b —difference from inspired by god significant at .05 alpha level.


Because of conservative Christian hostility towards science, I’m having a little difficulty getting some of my work published. The sociology of religion is crawling with conservative Christian activists who only want to see positive things about their religion in social scientific journals. No worries. I’m a big boy. In the end, I could publish this stuff in fourth tier journals and it will still pick up more citations than the latest paper proving that Jesus–not Allah nor Vishnu–cures cancer.

Jim Wright, editor of Social Science Research, sent around a media clip to the editorial board the other day, detailing a Washington Post article featuring research from Min-Hsiung Huang’s recent SSR paper on race of interviewer effects on racial differences in vocabulary. It got me thinking a bit about my own findings regarding fundamentalist Christians. The verbal ability gap between fundamentalist Christians and persons who think that the Bible is a wacko storybook written by ancient goatfuckers is very substantial–much larger than the black-white gap examined by Huang. And, it’s more important. While conservative Christians like to act as if all Americans are nutjob Christians like themselves, in fact a large proportion of the American population—16 percent—think that the sacred texts of the Abrahamic tradition are a bunch of malarky. Notably, these realists are more numerous than African Americans, and the fundamentalists are about a third of the U.S. Population.  And, the gap is larger. The black-white gap is 5.49-6.33, less than a point. The wacko fundamentalist – normal realist person gap is 5.18 – 6.74–more than a point and a half.

Huang shows that race of interviewer effects wipe out the racial gap in verbal ability. I’ve not found anything–including their low levels of educational attainment, shallow incomes, and rural and southern backgrounds—which makes a dent on the fundy – non-fundy gap. Maybe the fundies would do better if they were only interviewed by other fundamentalist wackjobs…