CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

jeff haddenJeffrey K. Hadden
(August 22, 1936 – January 26, 2003)


It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Jeffrey K. Hadden, Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and an internationally known scholar of the Christian Right and of new religious movements. After a lengthy and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, Jeff passed away peacefully in his home in Charlottesville on January 26.

In the course of a scholarly career that spanned four decades, Jeff published more than twenty books and numerous articles. One of his best-known works, The Gathering Storm in the Churches (1969), is still regarded as a landmark study of Protestant clergy and their relation to the Civil Rights movement.

Prior to thirty years on the faculty of the University of Virginia, Jeff held faculty positions at Purdue University, Case Western Reserve University, and Tulane University. In his dedication to the profession of scholarship, Jeff served as both Vice-President and President of the Southern Sociological Society, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Association for the Sociology of Religion. He chaired the committee on publications for the American Sociological Association, was associate editor of Sociological Analysis, Social Forces, and Social Inquiry, and served for many years as the book review editor of The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

In the last several years of his life, Jeff made the self-professed shift from technophobe to technophile, building an elaborate website devoted to the scholarly study of new religious movements, religious freedom, and religious broadcasting.

During his long career, Jeff taught, counseled, guided, and mentored scores of students. It was my privilege to be, perhaps, the last with whom he worked closely. In that vein, I would like to offer a few more personal reflections, moments out of time, as it were, which reveal other aspects of Jeff’s character—especially his interest in and concern for his students.

Some of my fondest memories of Jeff come from when we first met. Four-and-a-half years ago, I attended a religious freedom conference in Tokyo, one of those infamous “collaborationist” ventures, and one to which Jeff had also been invited. At the time I was still working on my dissertation, and Irving Hexham and I had considered Jeff as a possible external examiner. Not expecting anything more than a brief moment of social pleasantry, I introduced myself to him during the first evening’s cocktail hour. We exchanged courtesies, and, after a moment or two, were called to dinner.

“Where are sitting?” he asked. “Do you mind if I eat with you?”

Of course, I didn’t mind at all, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together. He was very interested in the work that I was doing, and wanted to hear all about it—which was a wee bit of shock to me, to be quite honest. Ever the teacher, he asked a number of probing questions—had I read this book or that? Had I considered the value of this approach over that one? How was I going to organize this part of the final draft? In fact, I still have the table napkin from that meal on which I wrote some notes of our conversation.

As it turned out, over the course of the conference, we spent most of our free time together—every time I was about to go to eat, Jeff would say something like “Where are you eating?” Or, “shall we meet for breakfast?” We visited local shrines and temples, shared meals, talked about the inevitable dissertation, and then, on the last day, got up at some unholy hour to catch a cab to the Tsukiji fish market—the last thing he really wanted to see on his trip.

It was raining and cold that morning, but we spent hours wandering the narrow alleys, the hundreds—if not thousands of stalls—of the world’s largest fish market. We missed the tuna auction that morning, which miffed Jeff considerably, but we saw enormous bandsaws cut pieces of frozen tuna the size of filing cabinets into sections, and then watched as eel was filleted with amazing speed, delicacy, and attention to detail. We fed bits of fish to the market cats, whose homes are the small Shinto shrines frequented by fisherfolk, market workers, and restaurant bidders alike.

While, in the intervening years, Jeff has been extremely important in both my professional and my personal life, that morning wandering the cavernous space of Tsukiji remains one of my fondest memories of our time together.

As many of those reading this will know, we edited a book together on religion and the Internet; we collaborated on a few other things as well—given the present circumstances, far too few for both our liking. But, when he heard that I was going to send a version of these thoughts along to a reception in his honour at the 2002 AAR meeting, Jeff insisted that I mention his website—www.religiousmovements.org—which has been near and dear to his academic heart for many years. There was some concern over what would happen to it when Jeff passed. We had talked over the past several months, and again as some of you know, I have taken over as Director of the Religious Movements Homepage Project, and will be looking to many of you in the scholarly community for guidance and help in the years to come. I hope you know how much this meant to Jeff.

Now, all of this is not to say that Jeff could not be demanding, which I choose to understand as the rigour of scholarship and the willingness to accept nothing less than the best from his students and colleagues. He could be sometimes brutally honest, which I choose to regard as the clear critique necessary to raise the intellectual level of what we do as scholars. And, he could be—how should we say it?—fairly certain that his way was the best way of doing things. But it is for all those things and more that we love him and honour his memory 

In the relatively few years that I knew Jeff, and during the time that we worked closely together, I often marveled at how lucky I was that this man, this scholar, took an interest in my career—and I have just as often wondered why… Why had he taken such interest? Why had he gone out of his way to guide, to challenge, to encourage, and, occasionally, to protect me? Why had he offered himself as mentor to me, of all people?

I didn’t know the answer to those questions until I started working with some of my own graduate students. And now, I understand completely. It is the excitement of sharing what we do as scholars, and the even greater thrill of seeing that excitement come alive in the eyes of those we teach.

And, perhaps, that is the bridge that binds one generation of scholars to the next.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jeff’s wife, Elaine, his daughters, Donna and Nora, and his granddaughters, Meaghan and Caitlin, Lena and Julia .


God speed, Jeff, we love you.


Douglas E. Cowan

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology,

University of Missouri-Kansas City

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