Connecting Work and Faith
Dr. Breems had a major impact
on another Trinity graduate who has made a name for himself in the Lone
Star state. Indirectly, he helped steer Mark Regnerus '93 toward a career
in sociology; Regnerus teaches the subject at the University of Texas-Austin.
"I always found sociology
to be fascinating," he says. "My grandparents live in Chicago and I grew
up in western Michigan, and I found the contrast between urban and rural
life rather intriguing.
"When I came to Trinity,
Dr. Breems and I hit it off really well, and I sort of gravitated toward
him. After I graduated, I went to seminary, but I realized I didn't want
to be a minister. I thought, 'I like what Dr. Breems does; let's get another
degree in sociology.'"
With that, he enrolled at
the University of North Carolina to resume his studies and earn his master's
in sociology. He finished that program in 1997 and continued there to obtain
his doctoral degree three years later. After a year of research in North
Carolina, Regnerus accepted a position in Calvin College's sociology department
in 2001 before moving to Austin, Texas, with his wife, Deeann (Latal '92),
and their two children.
One of the classes he teaches
at Texas is the sociology of religion, exploring the dynamics between the
study of relationships and the study of faiths. His own Reformed faith
comes to light while engaging with his students.
"As Christians, our lives
should reflect our relationship with God and our desire to glorify Him,"
Regnerus says. "I've noticed that some Christian professors see a disconnect
between their faith and their profession. I believe that if your faith
matters, it should inform what you teach and what you research.
"I've had students here tell
me that I'm the only Christian professor they've had. I'm not approved
to share the Gospel, but I don't necessarily hide my beliefs either. When
I teach, I don't seek to break down or build up any particular faith, but
my worldview colors what I do in the classroom."
When he compares his year
at a private, Christian college with his time thus far at Texas, Regnerus
appreciates the environment of the large public institution. He sees it
as a fertile ground to display his steadfast spiritual commitment in a
place that demonstrates a lack of that commitment.
"I like the tension of the
anti-faith atmosphere that big state universities present. I've heard how
professors totally dismiss the principles of their students' faith, particularly
Christian principles. That is consummate disrespect. Those beliefs are
invaluable to the people who hold them.
"That's why I want my students
to recognize the connection between my faith and my work. I want them to
know that they don't have to lay their beliefs aside although the environment
may suggest otherwise. I feel that I'm exactly where God wants me to be."
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