It’s Columbus Day! In 1492 he sailed the ocean blue and—well—historians, sociologists, and even web comic artists have been reminding us for a while now that he didn’t really “discover” America, so much as find the native peoples who were already living there. So, how does the narrative of Columbus day (or any other story in our history textbooks) keep coming up the same way year after year?
In a recent report from Al Jazeera America on his first major interview, Pope Francis raises concerns that the Catholic Church needs to change its political priorities if it doesn’t want to “fall like a house of cards.” He argues that the church is focusing too heavily on “narrow” issues like gay marriage and abortion when it should be fostering a more inclusive message. Is this a new and necessary direction for Catholic politics in the United States, or just a flash in the pan?
Pope Francis may be right about church collapse. Many Americans choose not to affiliate with religion for political reasons.
- Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer, “Why More Americans Have No Religious Preference: Politics and Generations,” 2002.
It also isn’t just political. Narrow theological views on issues like gender and sexuality have an effect on who comes to Mass every week.
- Andrew M. Greeley and Mary G. Durkin, Angry Catholic Women: A Sociological Investigation, a Theological Reflection, 1984.
This isn’t the first shift, though, new leaders and changes in society have a long history of altering the church’s politics.
Plenty of organization for change can emerge from the church’s membership as well. Not all the discontented leave!
A recent report from the New York Times tells us that Washington may be loosening the leash on mortgage lenders, but a range of research from sociologists over the last five years suggests that there were actually multiple problems that led to the 2008 housing crash, and they weren’t all about financial regulation alone.
Modern mortgages arose when homeownership was politically popular.
- Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam’s A Theory of Fields
Politicians often used economic policy to “punt” unpopular political conflict.
- Greta Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis, 2011.
- Thomas Ferguson and Robert Johnson, Too Big to Bail: The “Paulson Put,” Presidential Politics, and the Global Financial Meltdown (Part 1 and Part 2) 2009.
Subprime lending didn’t just take advantage of the poor—it was also a racial problem.
- Jacob Faber, Racial Dynamics of Subprime Mortgage Lending at the Peak, 2013.