Research

Ton Lin is a cultural sociologists whose research focuses on the intersection of religion, immigration, race and ethnicity. The central research question in his work is: “How does religion affect individuals and communities?” The primary method by which he answers these questions is through ethnographic research.

In his first project, Lin spent years in Spanish-speaking Prosperity Gospel Pentecostal churches in three states in the United States. The findings of this project is presented in Prosperity Gospel Latinos and Their American Dream (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). In this project, Lin shared life with Latin American immigrants who converted to this particular form of Protestant Christianity. Through their practice of Prosperity Gospel rituals and the adoption of their beliefs they were learning to be Americans. Prosperity Gospel is the Gospel o the American Dream. In their desire to be faithful to their God, adherents also adopt an inherently American individualistic, meritocratic, and therapeutic worldview.

As a Research Scholar at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, Lin oversaw multi-year national research projects on character and civic formation of youth and project on vocation and the common good.

In 2016 he was awarded a research grant from the Louisville Institute to study multiracial churches and communities across the United States. Lin visited Christian churches and communities that had an explicit goal to increase their diversity. The purpose of this project was to learn the lessons that Christians of different races learned by sharing life and worshiping together. The majority of these churches offered what Lin called therapeutic multiracialism. The benefits of interracial fellowship were largely reaped by the white members, often at a cost to members of color with little real progress to racial inequalities.

As a social scientists and a pastor, Lin is fascinated by the connection between individual belief and communal life. He is earnestly engaged in analyzing real-world interactions from a theological perspective. He is committed to the work of translating academic scholarship for a general audience through news media, blogs, and popular writings. His work has been featured in The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, LatinoUSA, WNYC, and other venues.