Meet the 2019-22 Sociology of Religion Cohort
Fr. John Coleman, S.J.
Senior Scholar and Mentor
Fr. John Coleman, S.J. is a leading scholar in the sociology of religion and ethics, who has taught at institutions ranging from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley to Louvain University in Belgium and Fu Jen University in Taiwan. A native Californian, he is currently an associate pastor at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco.
Fr. Coleman’s publications include Globalization and Catholic Social Teaching (Orbis, 2005) and Christian Political Ethics (Princeton, 2007). He has also contributed over eighty chapters in books on topics ranging from Catholic Social Teaching to globalization. Two of Coleman’s most recent chapters are “The Future of Catholic Social Thought” in Modern Catholic Social Teaching: Commentaries and Interpretations (Kenneth Himes, ed., Georgetown, 2018) and “Faith Based Organizations: Social Service and Advocacy” in Faith-Based Organizations and Homelessness (Manuel Mejido, ed., Fordham, forthcoming.)
My current research focuses on the subject of martyrdom. It can be usefully understood in terms of collective commemoration and is a particularly powerful form of bereavement in which a commemorative community develops new understandings of life, death and sacrifice. Most of my historical research has focused on Christian martyrs, with much attention given to Catholic martyrs like Thomas Becket and Thomas More. Researching Christian history brought me into contact with the Catholic intellectual tradition which has encouraged me to consider the body as a much more fundamental aspect of social life. It has also—through its example and its teaching—discouraged me from thinking about faith and reason as conceptual opposites. Finally, general themes in Catholic thinking, like the dignity of the human person and the role of virtue in human conduct, have inspired me to rethink my assumptions about core sociological concerns like secularization and modernization.”
Jane Louise Lankes, Ph.D.
My main research interests are family, religion, and gender. The overarching theme of my dissertation is “intensive mothering,” a cultural model of parenting that expects copious amounts of time, energy, and material resources invested in children. I am interested in how women respond to these cultural demands and the corresponding implications for their childbearing decisions and own well-being. It is important to me to view this topic through a Catholic lens—that having children is an actively good and holy pursuit, but that the Church may need to find new ways to support parents as these cultural demands become even more salient.
Through the spirit of Catholic intellectualism, I hope that my research can integrate a longstanding tradition of prayer, action, and critical reflection into the study of modern sociological and cultural problems. Christian morals and dogma significantly influence how I view sociological processes, and they often push me to pursue deeper solutions to social problems. Theology and science are mutually enlightening, and each has the power to reveal the sacred. It is important to me that Catholic morality be incorporated into my work not only for this reason, but for personal reasons as well. I feel called to be a sociologist, and I believe that my research skills can and should be a tool for Christ’s mission for us.
Andrew Paul Lynn, Ph.D.
My work investigates the intersection of economics, ethical frameworks, and visions of the good life. In employing a cultural-historical focus, I typically focus on cultural settings or discourse outside formal economics, instead exploring the ways actors incorporate their understandings of economic forces and entities as a baseline by which they pursue particular projects or visions of the good. I have completed a project around how American Conservative Protestants approach questions of work and economics and have now turned to the realm of managerial scholars and practitioners. Here I primarily investigate the ways managerialism has become a central moral source for producing frameworks that allow busy, career-minded professionals the means to affix their life’s work to particular goods and ends deemed significant and worthwhile.
My work is informed by the Catholic intellectual tradition in its orientation toward personalist ethics and an appreciation for the irreducibility of the human experience. I seek to connect qualitative sociology with the storytelling approach implemented by Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor, who saw the the rich development of her characters as a means of battling reductionist explanations of human action and the flattening of nature and experience. Thus, my work typically attempts to bring out the lived experiences and meaning-making of actors as they navigate different cultural frameworks, moral vocabularies, and meaning systems that allow them to understand their day-to-day reality. In approaching the more theoretical questions of ethics, economics, and the good life, I have also leaned heavily notions of human dignity and the common good which flow through a number of Catholic philosophers and theologians.
Tia Noelle Pratt, Ph.D.
Tia Noelle Pratt, PhD is a sociologist of religion specializing in systemic racism in the Catholic Church. For twenty years, Dr. Pratt has researched and written about how systemic racism impacts African-American Catholic identity. She is currently working on a book project with funding from the Louisville Institute and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Her book, Faithful and Devoted: Racism and Identity in the African-American Catholic Experience, incorporates participant observations and in-depth interviews to analyze how systemic racism in the Catholic Church has resulted in the small number of African-American Catholics and how such racism continues to impact African-American Catholics’ identity and experience of parish life. Her research confronts the long-standing conventional wisdom that being both African-American and Catholic form a disparate identity. As a sociologist, Dr. Pratt’s work is rooted in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.
Brad Vermurlen, Ph.D.
Working primarily with Prof. Mark Regnerus
My research interests center around culture, sociological theory, movements, and American religion. I earned my Ph.D. in sociology at University of Notre Dame in 2016. My dissertation used qualitative methods to explain the “New Calvinist” or “neo-Reformed” movement within American evangelicalism, showing how religious leaders vie strategically for their own institutional vitality, all while the broader field of evangelical Protestantism fragments into theological and moral incoherence. A revised version of my dissertation was published in 2020 by Oxford University Press under the title Reformed Resurgence: The New Calvinist Movement and the Battle Over American Evangelicalism. Most recently, I’ve begun a second book manuscript tentatively titled Is a Christian Sociology Possible? which examines — in a non-confessional manner — what sociology could look like if it were informed by the Christian intellectual and moral tradition. I’m convinced sociology deals with such consequential matters that drawing from Catholic thought has the potential to be a lifegiving influence in a discipline which otherwise has notable tendencies toward radical social constructionism, ideological activism, and nihilism. Further details on my background and my work, including a full CV, are available at www.bradvermurlen.com.