Networking Grant Recipients

Planning Grants

Hope in the Face of Climate Change

Patricia Bruininks
Project Director
Associate Professor of Psychology
Whitworth University

Randy Haluza-DeLay
Associate Professor of Sociology
The King’s University

Charlotte VanOyen-Witvliet
Professor of Psychology
Hope College

Leanne Wilson
Associate Professor of Psychology
The King’s University

Abstract

Decelerating, halting, or even repairing environmental destruction is dependent on changes made at both the individual and institutional level; therefore, understanding how people maintain hope for themselves and future generations in the face of ecological apocalypse is critical. Thus, as informed by psychology and sociology, we seek to explore the following questions: (1) How do people respond when they encounter news reports about climate instability?  (2) How do religious identities affect hope for ecological well-being at personal, collective, and societal levels? and (3) What are the ways that eschatological hope relates to earthly hope for ecological well-being, and how do earthly and eschatological hope affect the emotions and actions of individuals as they relate to society, future generations, or the earth itself? We propose to answer these questions by examining participants’ engagement with and beliefs about climate change, their temporal hope for earthly outcomes, and their eschatological hope via survey measures.  Our goals are to bridge the gap between our disciplines’ conceptualizations of hope and advance knowledge regarding psychological and sociological responses to climate change.  This will potentially lead to interventions for maintaining engagement in and action toward restoring God’s creation.

 

Informed Compassion: the Interplay of Faith Perspectives and Humanitarian Logistics

Michael Veatch
Project Director
Professor of Mathematics
Gordon College

Jarrod Goentzel
Director, MIT Humanitarian Response Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Paul Isihara
Professor of Mathematics
Wheaton College

Abstract

Relief operations have grown in number, size, and complexity. There is an increased reliance on faith-based organizations (FBOs), as seen in expanded governmental funding and widened collaboration with secular organizations. While the motivations of FBOs have been examined from many perspectives, and longer-term development is recognized as thoroughly values-based and supporting different agendas, how to respond to a disaster may be viewed as a technical issue.  Our thesis is that the decisions made in planning and implementing disaster relief projects reflect many values, some of which depend on faith/secular perspectives. Can FBOs and secular organizations benefit by learning more about the other’s operational methods, or are they fundamentally different and inseparable from convictions? An evaluative framework will be created, interviews conducted, and policy statements reviewed to identify areas where faith perspectives appear linked to differences in operations. Theological justifications for these differences will be sought, both from practitioners and through our evangelical tradition. The project is unique in that it asks how faith may encourage, inform or restrict the use of quantitative methods which seek to optimize the goals, decision process and support tools used by relief organizations.

 

Christian Ecumenical Cooperation and Church-and Nation-Building in Post-Soviet Europe

Telford Work
Project Director
Professor of Theology
Westmont College

Scott Neumann
Director, Program of International Relations and Development
LCC International University

Thomas Boone
Associate Professor of Theology
LCC International University

Oleh Kindiy
Assistant Dean for International Relations
Faculty of Philosophy/Theology
Ukrainian Catholic University

Roman Soloviy
Senior research fellow, Сenter of the Studies of Religion
National Pedagogical Dragomanov University

 

Abstract

This project will explore the results of Christian inter-institutional cooperation, especially across denominational lines, for both nation-building and church-building in post-Soviet European contexts. A spirit of positive regard and cooperation has been growing in post-Soviet Europe among Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, and Pentecostal Christians. Our team’s interest is in studying the effects of specific efforts and attitudes toward cooperation on post-Soviet political nation-building, and how these compare with less ecumenical Russian Orthodox approaches. Rival perspectives on practice, ecclesiology, ministry, and social ethics limit what Christians can do together. Yet in an extraordinary situation, Christian cooperation and practice can break new ground (such as communion and penance offered to non-Catholics during the Maidan protest). Events since 2014 have confirmed to audiences worldwide that this region is critically important and post-Soviet nations are eager to learn strategies and outcomes of such efforts.

 

Initiative Grants

The Impact of Religiosity and Spirituality Among Members of the Adoptive Kinship Network
[Note: This proposal won a 2015 Planning Grant award.]

Elisha Marr
Project Director
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Calvin College

Emily Helder
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Calvin College

Gretchen Miller Wrobel
Project Director
Professor of Psychology
Bethel University

Harold D. Grotevant
Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

The adoptive kinship network (including the birth family, the adopted individual, and the adoptive family) is formed and continues to change over time in response to a variety of factors.  This project examines the role of religious motivation to adopt and the use of religious or spiritual themes to provide meaning to the adoptive experience. The impact of these motivations on later adjustment for members of the network will be examined in the context of multiple adoption types, both international and domestic. 

 

Very little systematic research exists on this topic, though there is increased interest in the academy on the impact of religiosity in family life general. Through using two existing longitudinal data sets (Calvin Adoption Study and Minnesota-Texas Adoption Research Project) and a nationally representative data set (National Survey of Family Growth), the project team will advance the understanding of the role of religiosity and spirituality in adoption for both academic and lay audiences. Team members will make presentations at conferences designed for researchers and practitioners/adoptive families, submit manuscripts to scholarly journals, and develop a book proposal geared toward a wider audience. The project has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of the role that churches can play in adoption, by identifying protective factors and mitigating risk factors for adoption professionals, and in understanding the way that religion intersects with family life.

 

 

Christian Meaning-Making, Suffering and the Flourishing Life

Elizabeth Allen Hall
Project Director
Professor of Psychology
Biola University

Jamie Aten
Rech Endowed Chair
Associate Professor of Psychology
Wheaton College

Eric Silverman
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Christopher Newport University

Jason McMartin
Associate Professor of Theology
Biola University

 

Abstract

This project examines Christian meaning-making and flourishing in the context of suffering.  Our main hypothesis is that the specific religious content of meaning-making in response to suffering is related to differential outcomes with respect to human flourishing. Meaning-making holds a privileged position in the new and growing area of positive psychology because of its connection to well-being, the central notion of positive psychology according to its founder, Martin Seligman (2011).  In Seligman’s conceptualization, well-being consists of five measurable elements:  positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and purpose, and accomplishment. While meaning-making is central to well-being in general, its importance is most clearly seen in the context of human suffering.  The presence of suffering reliably distinguishes between eudaimonic and hedonic versions of well-being, largely because of the meaning-making that occurs in the context of coping with suffering.

 

Meaning-making in suffering has been studied for decades under various names, including adversarial growth, benefit-finding, stress-related growth, and post-traumatic growth. Much of this research has focused on the importance of religious variables in facilitating meaning-making, given that religions are the most comprehensive meaning-making systems available.  While meaning-making in suffering has been studied for decades, these approaches have been hampered by their attempts to avoid value-laden topics such as the theological content of religions. This is unfortunate, given the promise and potential clinical relevance of an investigation of beliefs. 

 

This project is the first part of a larger mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative) study, which will examine three central questions: (a) What kinds of theological resources do people undergoing suffering bring to bear on their meaning-making process?  Are these limited to questions regarding theodicy, or are they (as we suspect) broader in scope?  How do their theological resources influence their conception of the good life?; (b) What outcomes relevant to human flourishing are associated with different kinds of theological meaning-making?; and (c) Does the theological content of meaning-making add predictive validity to flourishing outcomes above and beyond those of already-identified aspects of religiosity relevant to outcomes (e.g., religious coping, intrinsic spirituality)? This research has the potential to impact the larger academy by suggesting new avenues of study for researchers in post-traumatic growth, deepening an understanding of the role of meaning-making in human flourishing, demonstrating the promise of studying specific religious beliefs in the psychology of religion, and contributing to the development of diversity-sensitive approaches in the applied areas of psychology.