An Interview with Dr. Stephen Merino,
Assistant Professor of Sociology at Colorado Mesa University
By Darren M. Slade, PhD
As Director of Research for the FaithX Project, Darren Slade contributes regular posts the FaithXperimental blog curating recent research relevant to the future of faith and faith-based communities as they are published.
In a recently published sociological article entitled, “Religious Involvement and Bridging Social Ties,” Dr. Stephen Merino sought to investigate whether religious involvement in church ministry, beyond the typical Sunday worship service, was a meaningful predictor for creating “social capital” (i.e. social resources, relationships, shared values and norms, and a sense of trust and reciprocity) between church-going Christians and marginalized groups in society. He also explored whether this involvement resulted in Christians having a connection to different people groups, such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, people on welfare, people of color, Muslims, and atheists.
What Dr. Merino found was that the majority of white Christians surveyed do not participate in civic engagement or other ministries outside of attending Sunday worship services. Furthermore, Dr. Merino found that the majority of church-going Christians do not have regular or meaningful contact with these marginalized groups, which has significant social and political implications for how Christians cooperate with and tolerate those who are different from themselves.
This blog post conducts an interview with Dr. Merino about his findings and asks him to explore the implications of his study beyond what was written in his article. The interview concludes with this question: “As a result of your study, is it fair to say that on average, the majority of Christians do not have meaningful contact with atheists, Muslims, or members of the LGBTQ+ community on a regular basis?” Dr. Merino’s response: “I think that’s fairly safe to say. It’s probably also likely that evangelical Christians have the least contact with members of these groups.”[Read more…]