Untroubled Waters
Bustin' Out

Ain't Got Time for Sociology

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.”  (Harold C. Goodard)

I was a sociology major in college. So was my wife. When we were dating we used to have animated discussions about Emile Durkheim, Peter Berger, and Auguste Comte. Or we discussed how we know what we know, that is, the sociology of knowledge. Or the various “isms,” like positivism, or the causes of anomie ( a much loved favorite of sociologists in the 70s). Kind of like C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidian talking. High level stuff.

I’m kidding. We never talked about that. I ate chocolate chip cookies and talked about my problems, and she listened, kind of a sociology of one: Me.

Usually, when I tell people I majored in Sociology, an answer which I mumble, hoping they don’t hear me and think it some other “ology,” like psychology, which might have some utility, I detect a bit of mental head wagging. They’re wondering how I could waste time and money (my parents’ hard-earned money) on a dead end path of study like sociology. All I can say is it was interesting, I did well in it, and I didn’t have to crunch any numbers or do any calculus, write code, or decipher poetry. Topically, I liked the thoughtfulness of a discipline that believed in an examined life. Most of my peers weren’t leading that kind of life. They were looking at life filtered through a beer can and under the table, or through a haze of smoke, one toke over the line. Sociologists were thinking about culture and life, descriptively if not prescriptively. Thinking, at least.

On the other hand, some sociologists were (and remain) insufferable. In Sociology 101, in the first chapter of the book I have long since rid my home of, the first thesis was that “all morals are the product of agreement and thus relative.” And yet that statement itself was not relatively true but pronounced as absolutely true. From Day One, I knew something was wrong, and yet my self-assured and authoritative professor was intimidating, as were my peers (those few who cared), so I dissented silently. I bought a book called Christianity and Sociology and began working on an antithesis to the thesis: morality is revealed by God and discovered, not relative but absolute. And so every course I took in sociology found me a silent dissenter, imperiled by a cognitive dissonance, increasingly amazed by the absolute claims made by what some regarded once as the “queen of the sciences.”

I wish I had been braver. I wish I had done more than silently dissent. Because for all the perceptiveness that sociologists had, most were blind to their own presuppositions.

I couldn’t figure out what to do with sociology, so I went to law school. Now, I figure out the shortest distance between two points and try and get there as best I can. In law, I am technician, not philosopher. And while the judge might occasionally wax eloquent on philosophy, I can’t. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” In the end somebody wins and somebody loses, and on the best days justice is more or less done.

Yet, on the rare quiet day, when the phone doesn’t ring, when the fires are out, I have time to consider if I have done justice that day. I go home and talk to my wife. We discuss the facts of cases, legal theories, theories of justice, and the presuppositions of our adversarial system of justice.

I’m kidding. We never talk about that. What we talk about is far more mundane and far more important: the stories of our day, the stories we believe in, echoes of the One Story of Grace. I love those stories.

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