Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Contributions to a New Blog for Patheos: Black, White and Gray

Starting in October 2011, I will be writing a weekly entry for a new collaborative blog hosted by Patheos. It's entitled Black, White and Gray: Where Sociology Meets Christianity. Please read my posts and feel free to leave comments.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Haitians' Gratitude Reminds us of the Meaning of Thanksgiving

It is appropriate Anne Barnard’s excellent coverage of Haitian Catholicism, entitled “Suffering, Haitians Turn to Charismatic Prayer,” should appear on the front page of the New York Times on Thanksgiving Day, for one of the strongest themes of Haitian Catholic Charismatic movement is gratitude. During the nearly two years of fieldwork I conducted in Haiti and the Haitian Catholic communities of Miami, Montreal and Paris, published as  Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora  (University of California Press 2009) I was struck by how Haitian Catholics, no matter how desperate their circumstances might seem like to outsiders, always expressed a profound sense of gratefulness for God’s gifts. During this holiday season, we can learn from Haitians how living in gratitude for the gifts we have received opens up our lives to be a gift to others.

To read my full comment on this article, visit the University of Notre Dame's Contending Modernities blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review of My Book Published in the Canadian Journal of Sociology

Philippe Couton of the University Ottawa published a review of my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving the Haitian Diaspora, in the fall edition of the Canadian Journal of Sociology. This is an open-access journal, so all should be able to access it by clicking here.
Professor Couton summarizes the main points of my book and states that “the result is an original, richly detailed study of one the world’s great diasporas, and one that makes a clear, well-supported argument about the role of ethnic and mainstream religious institutions in the lives and adaptation of immigrants in three very different social settings.”

After pointing out the book’s merits, he then critiques the book because it “often seems biased in favour of Catholic organizations and quick to dismiss or at least ignore their potential problems (of which the current spate of scandals is only one). It has been widely known that religion is a very common lifeline for immigrants (particularly refugees, illegals, and others who face difficult situations), but organized religion has almost as often been a crutch or worse.”

In response to Couton’s review, Brian McDonough, the director of the Social Action Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal wrote to me in an email, “I'm not sure that I agree with Couton's assertion that organized religion has been ‘a crutch or worse’ for immigrants. On what grounds does he make this assertion? Also his reference to the ‘current spate of scandals’ is a cheap shot that is hardly relevant to the role the institutional Church play in welcoming and assisting in the integration of persons who have just arrived [in Canada].” As a lawyer and a member in good standing of the Québec Bar, a former board member of Montreal’s United Way ("Centraide du Grand Montréal) and the founding president of Community Chaplaincy of Montreal (a prison ministry program), McDonough’s reply provides an expert voice questioning Couton’s assertions.

In early November 2010, I presented the findings of my book to a group of scholars who participated in a seminar on Religion and Public Life in Canada organized by Solange Lefebvre from the University of Montreal. In that presentation, I stated that, as evidenced by Couton’s review, the dominant perception in Canada (and particularly in Quebec) is that organized religion is a crutch for weak members of society and that the personal failures of members of Catholic Church impede its institutional work for the poor. This popularly accepted narrative portrays religion as a problem in society rather than as part of the solution to society’s problems. In contrast, my book portrays the power of Haitians’ faith—lived through organized religious communities—to transform their lives. Furthermore, I show how Catholic social service institutions—another expression of organized religion—were once crucial to the successful integration of Haitians in Montreal. The soon-to-be-published scholarship from the November 2010 conference at the University of Montreal will provide further information on the long-overlooked contributions of religion to public life in Canada.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review of My Book Published in the Miami Herald

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, Marifeli Perez-Stable, Professor of Sociology at Florida International University, published a review of my book in The Miami Herald. Click here to see the review. Her review shows a great appreciation for both the ethnographic and the comparative arguments of my book.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Book Review of Liogier's "Legitimate’Laicité: France and its State Religions"

The May volume of the American Sociological Association's journal of book reviews, Contemporary Sociology, published my review of Raphael Lioger's book " 'Legitimate' Laicite: France and its State Religions" (Paris: Entrelacs, 2006). Liogier heads the World Religion Watch at the French University Sciences Po in Aix-en-Provence, France, which aims to spark dialogue between French and English speaking scholars of religion, such as by translating works from French to English and vice-versa. Click here to read about Liogier's work, much of which has been published in French. As he writes more in English and presents his work to English-speaking audiences, I hope my book review sparks a wide audience for his work.

A selection of the book review is below. Please click here to see the full review (for subscribers to Contemporary Sociology) or email me for the full review (for non-subscribers).

Raphaël Liogier’s book is a provocative argument about French discourse and practice regarding laïcité, a term generally translated as secularism. Liogier correctly points out that scholars should interrogate how well actual practices reflect the discourse and common understandings of terms such as secularism and laïcité. Liogier makes a powerful and convincing argument that French laïcité is not what many inside and outside of France believe it to be, the separation of church and state, but rather an organized and hierarchical system of state intervention in religion.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Interview Published by the NY-based National Center for Haitian Apostolate

On June 23, 2010, the National Center for Haitian Apostolate, based in New York, published an extensive interview with me where I talk about my book and its implications for post-earthquake Haiti and Haitian-Americans. Click here to read the article.

Article Published on Religion, College Achievement and Satisfaction

In June, my article entitled "Religion, College Grades, and Satisfaction among Students at Elite Colleges and Universities" was published by the journal Sociology of Religion. Advance Access published on June 2, 2010. Sociology of Religion 2010 71: 197-215; doi:10.1093/socrel/srq035

To see the abstract (full public) and full text (individual or institutional subscribers only), click here.

Abstract: Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, a sample of nearly 3,924 students at 28 of the most selective college and universities in the United States, this paper tests hypotheses about religion, academic performance, and satisfaction at college. Two measures of religiosity—attending religious services every week or more and a 1 to 10 scale of observance of one's religious traditions and customs—increase the amount of hours students report spending on academic work and extracurricular activities, as well as reduce the hours students report going to parties. Even when controlling for time spent partying, studying and in extracurricular activities, regular attendance at religious services increases academic achievement. Finally, students who attend religious services weekly and those who are more observant of their religious traditions also report being more satisfied at college.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thomas G. Wenski named Arcbhishop of Miami

The priest I wrote about in Faith Makes Us Live, Thomas G. Wenski, was named the new Archbishop of Miami on April 20, 2010. For more on Wenski and his appointment to lead the Miami Archdiocese, click here. As he founded the Haitian Catholic Mission of Miami (Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church and the Pierre Toussaint Center), I interviewed Wenski several times for my book. He led those two institutions for two decades before serving as Auxiliary Bishop of Miami and then Bishop of Orlando. I remember Wenski for his great enthusiasm and agility for both pastoral and social work. My interviews with him challenged my presumption that the church's social work is its most important contribution to immigrant assimilation. "Remember," he told me, "I built the community starting with the Eucharist. The social programs came later." He also insisted that rather than sharing a parish with other English-speaking or Spanish-speaking Catholics in Miami, the Haitian Catholic community of Miami needed a place of its own. He moved quickly to find a home for Haitian Catholics and founded Notre Dame and the Toussaint Center in the geographic center of Miami's neighborhood called Little Haiti. As I argue in my book, Notre Dame and the Toussaint Center have welcomed thousands of Haitians in Miami and helped them successfully integrate in Miami, all the while helping them maintain their devout Catholic faith. Wenski's return to Miami as Archbishop means, among other things, that his pastoral and social work on behalf of the Haitian community of Miami is greatly valued.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Miami Herald Easter Sunday Article on Faith and Social Action at Notre Dame d'Haiti in Miami

Click here to read an article published on Easter Sunday in the Miami Herald about the faith and social activities at Notre Dame d'Haiti in Miami (one of the sites of my fieldwork) in response to the earthquake.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Theodicy at Notre Dame d'Haiti, Miami, March 2010

In March 2010, I visited Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami's neighborhood called Little Haiti, where I did fieldwork for my book. I had the opportunity to attend Mass at Notre Dame with other academics who are members of the Congregational Studies Team (pictured here from left to right are Steve Warner, University of Illinois-Chicago; Nancy Ammerman, Boston University; Omar McRoberts, University of Chicago; Fritz Armand, Notre Dame d'Haiti; myself; Larry Mamiya, Vassar College). Given the enormous damage caused by the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, how have the leaders at Notre Dame interpreted the earthquake in the light of faith? At Mass on Sunday March 7, Father Jean Jadotte reminded those present that Jesus clearly stated in the Gospel that those who suffer greatly are not bigger sinners than anyone else. When Father Jadotte asked rhetorically during his homily, “Are we better than those who died in the earthquake?” many members of the congregation said “no” under their breath. Father Jadotte then specifically mentioned he disagreed with Pat Robertson’s claim that Haitians have suffered because they made a pact with the devil. However, Father Jadotte added that all Haitians have some responsibility for the death caused by the earthquake, pointing out that no so many people would have died from the earthquake if Haitians had organized their country better. When he said that some Haitians also bear responsibility for interrupting the aid distribution by stealing and creating disorder, many of the faithful at Notre Dame responded “mm hmm,” signaling their agreement this criticism. To conclude his message, Father Jadotte pointed out that St. Paul wrote that all people, not just some, are in need of conversion. God has given those who survived the earthquake a second chance, during which they have to work harder than before to rebuild their country. Rather than attributing a natural disaster to an individual’s sins or the collective sins of a people, Father Jadotte’s homily emphasized a recurring theme in Catholic social and moral teaching: the people of God are called to build a just world, achieved through a constant conversion that obliges them to keep improving this world even when tremendous obstacles arise. This homily extends the “theology of grace and hope” I wrote about in Faith Makes Us Live to the latest and probably greatest tragedy in Haitian history. This recent theodicy of grace and hope is powerfully illustrated by the picture placed on the altar of Notre Dame, which shows a man in Haiti gazing at the ruins of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. A crucifix remains standing, and at the foot of the crucifix is an image that looks remarkably like the Virgin Mary. The stained glass window behind the picture depicts the Virgin Mary and says in Creole "Mother Mary, you always come to our rescue."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review of my book in Books and Culture

A review of my book appeared in the March/April edition of Books and Culture. It mentions how my book is especially relevant now that so much international attention is on Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Article Published on Disaster, Religion, and Resilience in Haiti

On Wednesday, February 24th, I published an online article at "The Immanent Frame", a web forum sponsored by Social Science Research Council, in which I argue that disaster relief efforts in Haiti can be bolstered by building on the resilience of the Haitian people. Click here to see the story.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Article in America magazine on Faith, Suffering and Resilience

I published an article in the Jesuit magazine America where I discuss faith, suffering, and resilience in Haiti. Click here to see a link to that article. For now, the full article is only available online to subscribers, but if the full article is made available to all at a later date, I will post that on my blog as well. In the meantime, you can see the beginning of the article and a photo.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carolina Population Center features my research on Haiti

The Carolina Population Center has featured my research on Haiti on their website. You can see the website by clicking here.

The website also contains testimonials I received about relief work in Haiti. Father Mario Serrano wrote about setting up an aid distribution center in Port-au-Prince. My uncle Walter Mooney wrote to me about his trip to Haiti with the U.S. Geological Survey. Teresa Gonzalez of Amor en Accion wrote about the relief efforts being organized in Miami, and Carlo Dade wrote about the the role of the Haitian disapora in rebuilding Haiti.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Letter to the Editor Published in the Miami Herald, January 24, 2010

The letter to the editor I submitted to the Miami Herald about its coverage of the Haitian earthquake was published on January 24, 2010. Click here to see the article. It is a slightly edited version of my blog entry from a few days ago.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How We Can Transform Disorder into Cooperation in Haiti

Op-Ed Submitted to the Wall Street Journal by Margarita A. Mooney. Although disorder, looting, and sometimes even mobs threaten the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, I suggest that we need more than force to establish order in Haiti—we need the active cooperation of the Haitian people. As I argue in my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora (University of California Press, 2009), Haitians are often to be so poor that they are incorrectly assumed to be helpless. As a sociologist of international development, a veteran working in development projects in Latin America, and having spent extensive time in Haiti and among Haitian immigrants to the United States, Canada and France, I saw time and again that too many social projects reflect a paternalistic attitude by which “we” come to “their” aid. An email I received on Monday from Mario Serrano Marte, a Jesuit priest who works in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, illustrates how even people in the most desperate circumstances can be transformed from passive recipients into agents. After the earthquake, Father Mario quickly mobilized resources and drove in a caravan with relief supplies from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The military accompanied them on the journey and they arrived safely at nighttime. The next day, however, residents of the neighborhood threatened to disrupt their relief efforts. Father Mario, a priest who has worked in the poorest areas of New York City, India, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, has never told me he felt scared in his work, but when a mob began to pound on the door yelling and demanding help, he felt terrified. Even after they called the police to help them, the people refused to leave and kept angrily demanding help. The crowd finally dispersed when Father Mario gave everyone in the crowd a bottle of water and when he promised to meet with them to discuss how the aid would be distributed. That afternoon, he met with neighborhood residents, and humbly confessed he was scared by their angry behavior. If he was able to organize his distribution center first, he explained he would then be in a better position to help them and many others. Most importantly, he pleaded for their cooperation in carrying out his mission. Once the group understood both that they would receive emergency relief and that their cooperation was indispensable to the operation’s success, they helped Father Mario unload the trucks full of supplies and they now provide security as he runs the distribution. Elated at this turn of events, Father Mario wrote in his email, “Now we have stronger security and protection than what the army can give us. We have the active participation of the same people we came here to help.” The more than 1 million residents of Port-au-Prince who survived the earthquake are understandably hungry, thirsty, and fearful for their survival. In this emergency situation, we must certainly be concerned for order and security. However, let us not forget that a basic rule of sustainable development also applies to emergency relief: we need to turn the beneficiaries of our assistance into cooperative actors in our programs. In these desperate circumstances, let us not only heed Haitians’ call for humanitarian aid, let us also remember that inviting their active cooperation both affirms their dignity and furthers our work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Can We Learn from Haitians' Resilience?

Margarita A. Mooney's response to: “A Celebration of Faith, Even Among Church Ruins.” By Fred Grimm. Published in the Miami Herald, January 18, 2010. Accessed on January 18th, 2010. Click here to read Grimm's column.

I congratulate Fred Grimm for his passionate writing and insightful interpretation of what it means to worship God amidst the current ruinous state of Haiti. He both presents the worldview of the Haitians he observed at Sunday services in Haiti—one based on God’s goodness and ability to bring new life from ashes—and he lays bare what I dare say is the worldview of most American commentators on the situation in Haiti (including Mr. Grimm)—namely, that God, if he exists at all, would not have let such a terrible thing happen. As I write about in my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora (University of California Press, 2009), because Haiti is so poor, others often interpret Haitians’ boundless faith in God as simply a crutch to rely on. However, as I found in my research in three Haitian Catholic communities of the diaspora (Miami, Montreal and Paris), the expressions of faith such as those Mr. Grimm describes— people coming together to pray, to ask for forgiveness, to thank God for miracles—help communities renew from within. Clearly the Haitian people need all the material and logistical help they can get right now. But let us not forget that this inward renewal and community strength will greatly magnify any external help we send to Haiti. The Haitian people will not and should not be the passive recipients of external aid. The Haitian people are the greatest resource Haiti has to rebuild itself. Their resilience in the face of disaster forms a foundation upon which all organizations rushing to aid Haiti can build upon. I hope that all of those who help Haiti open their hearts, as Mr. Grimm did, to the possibility that maybe we have something to learn from the Haitian people’s response to the disaster that has struck them. Although Mr. Grimm starts off his column clearly disheartened by the “random, awful, incalculable cruelty” that has occurred in Haiti, he concludes by admitting that it does indeed appear miraculous that people buried under rubble for several days could be rescued alive and recover. If we don’t believe we will see miracles as we rush to help Haiti, why would we expend so much effort looking for life under rubble? If we don’t believe that the faith of Haitian people presents Haiti’s greatest resource as we move forward, with what purpose will we expend millions of dollars in effort and send thousands of relief workers? Regardless of one’s personal worldview or religious faith, we cannot deny that communities of faith provide a tremendous resource to further the hard work that must be done for Haiti’s recovery.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Visit to Montreal for the American Academy of Religion, November 2009

From November 6-10, 2009, I traveled to Montreal, Quebec, Canada to attend the Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). In addition to presenting my book on a panel about World Christianity, I also visited the community in Montreal where I did my research, Notre Dame d'Haiti. At the AAR, I attended many sessions, including one on the history of religion in Quebec, one on inter-faith dialogue in Canada, one on the Bouchard-Taylor commission (a study of accommodating immigrants' ethnic and religious diversity in Quebec) and one on understanding secularism today (which included presentations by Charles Taylor, Jose Casanova, Craig Calhoun, and Saba Mahmood). The picture here is from the altar of the Basilica of Notre Dame in Old Montreal. Due to Quebec's rapid secularization since the 1960s, there is growing concern about preserving the cultural heritage of churches such as this one that have many fewer parishoners than before.

Manuel Vasquez's Comments

Manuel Vazquez, Associate Professor of Religion at the University of Florida (Vazquez is on the left of this picture and Terry Rey, Professor of Religion at Temple University, is on the right), called my book a good example of post-functionalist sociology of religion. Functionalism enters into sociology of religion when scholars talks about religion in terms of what religion does for people in terms of “cash value.” Vasquez commended that although I don’t ignore that religion does things for Haitian immigrants, including connecting them to social networks and social services, I also talk extensively about hope, resilience, and generosity—or the substantive and meaning-making side of religion. In other words, he said I talk about what religion does for people while also talking about what religion means for people. Furthermore, he liked how I embed Haitians’ religious faith within specific institutions without falling into functionalism. He called my use of multiple levels of analysis a non-reductive type of materialism. He cautioned me not to over-generalize the three models of church-state cooperation that I describe. In the U.S., he thinks there may be more conflict between immigrants and the state than I acknowledge in my book. In response, I think that as Milton Gordon said about earlier immigrants to the U.S., American society did not become a melting pot without conflict. Gordon said, and I agree, that what is interesting about the U.S. is that despite some conflict, over time most immigrants and their descendants joined the American middle class mainstream. Similarly, when Haitians first began settling in Miami, there was some conflict with the state. But through the advocacy of Father Wenski and others Catholic Church leaders, the state slowly began to cooperate more with Haitian institutions. Using the term “cooperation” to describe the U.S. model of interacting with immigrant organizations, including faith-based ones, does not mean that conflict is totally absent. Rather, over time in the U.S. and when compared to France and Quebec, the U.S. is remarkably adaptable to new immigrants and new religious groups.

Gerardo Marti's Comments

Gerardo Marti, Associate Professor of Sociology at Davidson College (pictured here with me), said he thinks my book's greatest contribution is the cross-national comparative research design, which allows me to highlight the importance of the nation-state’s relationships to immigrant communities. Although much work has been done on immigrant religious communities in the U.S., my work highlights how different national contexts contribute to shaping the institutions which immigrants rely on succeed in their new societies. I agree with Gerardo that most scholars in the U.S. find the cross-national comparative research design to be the greatest strength of my book. However, visiting Quebec for the AAR reminded me that the national context also influences what readers think my book's most important contribution will be. In the last 40 years, Quebec has become one of the most secular societies in the world. Many intellectuals and members of the general public in Quebec tend to look upon religious piety as an escape from worldly probelms and they generally view religious institutions as oppressive. Hence, in Quebec, my book may be most cited for demonstrating how religous faith can give people agency and how religious institutions can empower the poor. In Quebec, it is generally known that the American people are generally pro-religious and the American government works extensively with faith-based and other types of private associations in delivering social services. If Americans sometimes forget that our national context is generally pro-religious, then the parallel is that Quebeckers sometimes forget that religion can be liberating and that their state does not perfectly meet all social needs.

Presenting My Book at Notre Dame d'Haiti in Montreal

On Sunday, November 8, 2009, I returned to Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic mission in Montreal, where I had done part of my fieldwork for Faith Makes Us Live several years earlier. I must admit that I was nervous when I returned to my fieldsite. Would people remember me? Would they appreciate what I have written? As soon as I walked through the door and saw old friends, all my fears went away. I showed many people the book, including where I had quoted them. I gave out flyers about the book with the link to the website. I saw many people who sang with me in the choir and who I interviewed for the book, including this family pictured here. At the end of Mass, I spoke to the congregation in Creole, telling them about the major argument of the book and thanking them for their hospitality and generosity while I was doing research in Montreal. Sitting in the front row of the church next to one of my friends from the community and singing in Creole reminded me of how much I loved doing the fieldwork for my book. Although I hardly get the opportunity to speak Haitian Creole or even French now, I was amazed at how fast these languages came back to me. In fact, walking around Montreal for 5 days speaking French and Haitian Creole almost feels like speaking in tongues--I am truly amazed that I can communicate in these languages that I practice so rarely!

Mass at Notre Dame d'Haiti in Montreal

The readings during Mass at Notre Dame echoed two of the themes from my book--keeping the faith in the middle of struggling to survive and being generous even when one is poor. In the first reading, from Kings 17, the prophet Elijah asks a woman for water and then for bread. At first the woman replies that she doesn't have any bread to give him, but Elijah tells her to go bake something, give some to him, and then he promises her that she'll have plenty left. She believes the prophet and obeys him, and her family is saved from starvation because of her faith. During his homily, the priest pointed out that often times God asks us to put our faith in him, to give every last thing we have, and then he will come and save us. The woman I am pictured with here was one of many people who told me that God requires them to be generous even when they wonder how they will pay their bills or find their next meal. The sharing of the bread from this Old Testament passage is analogous to the sharing of the Eucharist at communion--this sacrament signifies both a vertical covenant between Christ and his people and a horizontal covenant among the people of God. The Gospel reading was from Mark 12 and recounted the story of the proud Pharisees who made a big show of donating money a large sum of money at the temple, whereas the poor widow humbly gave a few cents, which was all she had left. During his homily, the priest used this Gospel passage to highlight how God asks us to "give what we have", not to "give what we don't have" or to "give what we don't need." One of the themes of my book was how faith communities turn poor people into givers, not just recipients. These readings and this homily once again emphasized this message: God asks everyone to give, and to give generously, even when they are struggling to survive, not just to give from their abundance. The priest also emphasized the importance of how we give to others. Often times, we give with pride. We want other people to see what we give, or we show disrespect to the person we are giving to. He forcefully stated that when we are in a position to give, we should not show off. Furthermore, he cautioned not to treat the recipients of our generosity like dogs, but rather we should treat all people, not matter how destitute they are, with dignity. Sometimes, he said, it is easy to see God in the beautiful people of this world, but we have to remember that God is in everyone, even those who don't treat us well or who don't share our faith. As I argue in my book, even though many Haitian immigrants are very poor, their religious communities provide them with a way to become givers--both materially and spiritually--and seeing oneself as a giver helps them to then be able to receive with dignity the help they may need from others.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Author-Meets-Critics Panel at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

In October 2009, Kevin Christiano of Notre Dame convened an author-meets-critics panel on my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora, at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. The three panelists were Michael Emerson of Rice University, Melissa Wilde of the University of Pennsylvania, and Richard Wood of the University of New Mexico. All three panelists were extremely complementary about the ambitious three-country research design, the large amount of ethnographic work done, and the passionate writing. In blogs below, I address some of the questions raised by each of the panelists. I would like to thank Kevin Christiano for convening the panel and offering his insights on the Quebec case, with which he is very familiar. When we were talking about whether voluntary organizations, including faith-based ones, are necessary to complement state provided social services, Kevin described to the audience how for many Quebecois, the state is ipso facto better than the church at providing social services. Because the Catholic Church dominated social life for nearly 200 years while French Quebecois were under the rule of Anglophone Quebecois and Canadians, since the 1960s Quiet Revolution many Quebecois have held firmly to the opinion that they need to be liberated from traditional control of the church. Although I agree with this statement, in a discussion after the panel, I told Kevin that it seemed to me that Quebec was still strongly culturally Catholic, even nearly 50 years after the Quiet Revolution begun. In my work with Haitian immigrants, I found that Catholic leaders and organizations--both Haitians and Quebecois--were instrumental in assisting the settlement and adaptation of Haitians who arrived in Quebec from the 1960s-1990s. These Catholic leaders and associations had many connections to the Quebecois state that helped them in their work with Haitians. It was only when large numbers of non-Catholic immigrants began arriving in Quebec and their religious leaders sought to engage the public sphere that the people of Quebec began to really question cooperation between religious organizations and the state. Thus, although the Quiet Revolution clearly altered the social position of the Catholic Church in Quebec, this change occurred slowly and many connections still exist.

Michael Emerson's Comments

All of the panelists commented that they enjoyed my use of theological concepts in the book, something that is not very common among sociologists who study religion. Michael Emerson asked me to expand on what I meant when I wrote at the end of the introduction that, in my book, a theological imagination accompanies the sociological imagination. In the course of my fieldwork, I experienced the shortcomings of the position from where I started my inquiry. What I saw again and again in my fieldwork was: I was trying to bracket out their faith, move past it quickly, and get to what “really” mattered from the position where I started: immigrants need social services, legal papers, health care and I thought the church helped them get there. But I realized that something was wrong with the position from which I started my inquiry. Over and over again, my interviewees wanted to talk to me first about their faith in God. I came to realize that their theological imagination—their understanding of who God is and how they relate to God—profoundly influences their social struggles. So in writing Faith Makes us Live, I invite my readers to leave behind their position from which they would look into this situation and take seriously the position from which the people I interviewed began their inquiry. I realized that for the people I interviewed just the fact that someone from a very different position in the world was trying to understand their position in the world itself was a powerful healing force for all the suffering they had experience. From their position, using a theological imagination, I am also a child of God, thus I could understand their suffering and console them even though I am from a different social background. My interviewees didn’t see me as simply the product of social forces that have made me a light-skinned, highly educated Cuban-American. They saw me as another human being capable of entering not only their material world, but their symbolical world. I genuinely trying to understand their meaning, I reinforced their belief that faith can triumph over suffering and that faith can trump differences in class, race, and power. In sharing their suffering with me, we met on a level deeper than that of social class, skin color, money. We met as human persons. By entering into their world personally, I learned better what was going on at these faith communities more generally: communion with others relieves suffering. Eucharistic communion as celebrated in Catholic communities is not just about a one-on-one encounter with Jesus, it is about a community coming together to heal, fortify and build strength. Thus, the theological imagination leads us to transcendence, to the concept of the person as a gift and in relationship to others through his or her relationship to God.