On Monday we presented our church visits to sectarian style churches. I enjoyed these presentations because I am more familiar with denominational churches, therefore I learned a lot from these presentations. I thought it was interesting that our class visited churches that varied in demographics, attendance, location, and teachings. For example the church service I attended at the Redlands Christian Center was small and blatantly conservative in beliefs while the Sandal’s church appeared to have a large, younger crowed and displayed their worldview in a different fashion. However, each church had teachings that were similar across the board. For example, all of the churches made it evident that accepting Jesus into one’s life is crucial in salvation, and the born again theme appeared to be reoccurring as well. Overall, I enjoyed the broad spectrum of churches that the class visited, and I felt it gave a nice variety of sectarian style churches.
For Wednesday, we listened to a talk on the spiritual lives and worldview of Catholic workers on Skid Row, by Jim Spickard. I thought that this talk was fascinating, as it gave a detailed portrayal of the worldview of these religious people. From watching presentations on sectarian churches to learning about the Catholic workers on Skid Row, there were very different belief systems and worldview for two groups. It’s interesting that both of these groups consider themselves Christian, but have vastly different beliefs.
This weeks class focused on religion and individualism. The two articles I read for this week were Gospel Hour by Thumma and Reproducing Ethnicity by Ebaugh. Both of these articles presented a safe space for marginalized groups to practice religion. Gospel Hour examined a bar in Atlanta where LGBTQ could freely worship while Reproducing Ethnicity presented multiple case studies where immigrants could find community within church spaces. Religious centers (conventional or not) provide a safe space for people to not only worship but also express their own culture. Religion’s function in society is more than an expression of one’s faith. Expression of culture or identity play into where people choose to worship. Both of these articles present how individual identity is a factor in religiosity of the religious landscape today.
This week I went on my congregation visit to the sectarian church, Redlands Christian Center. As Jeena pointed out, it was very reminiscent of the film “Born Again”. One of the most prominent parallels was the congregations focus on literally being born again. The church emphasized that they only way to salvation is to accept Jesus into one’s own life with this church. Overall, this church visit was unlike any other I have attended, and it gave me a in-person experience of a sectarian church.
The article “South Dakota Allows State-Funded Adoption Agencies to Turn Away Same-Sex Couples” by Mark Joseph Stern is an example of the United States government allowing for “religious freedom” in government institutions. However, as the article points out, there is a fine line between religious freedom and discrimination based on religious ethics. This article raises an interesting point about the role of church and state. In a “secular” society, there is a separation of church and state, and at first glance, allowing state-funded adoption agencies to chose who the adoptive couples can be is an exercise of religious freedom. However, in a truly secular society, the state would not allow for discriminatory policies based on one’s sexual orientation. This law is more of a reflection of the feeling towards same-sex couples in South Dakota rather than “religious freedom”. This law not only prevents sam-sex couples from adopting at select adoption agencies, it also provides grounds for agencies to prevent someone who is divorced, an interfaith couple, or a couple who engages in pre marital sex to to adopt as well. America is no where near a “secular society”, as much of the values and ethics that are found in certain areas are based on people’s interpretations of Christian scripture. This law is based on someone’s idea of Christian values, and not religious freedom.
The article I read for class this week was “Secularization and its Discontents” by Warner. Although this article was dense, it provided perspective into the changing theories of secularization in Europe. For this class session, I enjoyed how each group’s article gave a different perspective on secularization, some more in agreement than others. Even though none of the articles blatantly said that religion will completely disappear from society, I feel that many of the articles (including the one I read) over emphasized the role of secularization today. Many European countries are still rooted in Christian values and beliefs that drive the society. However, I think that Christianity is so normative that many aspects of society that are seen as “secular” may actually be Christian based. It is not until a different religion (such as Islam) is introduced that “religion” appears more visible, and is viewed in a negative light. While I agree that there is less of a need for religious institutions to provide health care, education, etc. Christianity may have just become so normalized that it is not seen as “religious” anymore. Secularization may just be the evolution of Christianity, and not necessarily the disappearance of religion in society.
From Warner’s article, there were specific ideas that I agreed with, and other ideas that I did not. For instance, while you cannot argue the empirical data of declining church attendance, as we have discussed in class and find in McGuire’s book that this may be due to the shift of institutionalized religion to a more spiritual case. One of Durkheim and Weber’s main points is that western modernity is inhospitable to religion. However, as I mentioned above, perhaps it is not “religion” but any religion other than Christianity. As we can see today, many countries in Europe and even America are not hospitable to Islam, while Christianity is welcomed. I think it is important to remember that Christianity it deeply rooted in many western cultures, and that the concept of “secularization” may just be the process of normalizing Christian values and beliefs in a society.
This article in USA today presents the new ruling in the ECJ (European Court of Justice) that employers may ban their staff from wearing any religious attire, whether that be a cross, a hijab, etc. However, it is likely that employers in Europe will be more inclined to prohibit the hijab rather than a Christian cross necklace. This ruling tells one of the six stories of religion today presented by McGuire and Dr. Spickard. The banning of any religious attire (but especially islamic) is a sign that a society is moving towards a more secular landscape. Removing visible and public symbols of religion like the hijab creates an impression that religion is disappearing from the society. The freedom employers gain from having the control to ban the hijab can be viewed as secularization through privatization. Employers can chose whether they want public religious symbols in their work environment. However, this takes away religious freedom from the individual, and defeats the idea of pluralism within the European Union.
McGuire’s chapter on “The Impact of Religion on Social Change” is especially timely in today’s world with the religious landscape changing. Although dense, many of the theoretical perspectives that McGuire discusses at the beginning of the chapter are relevant and help us understand in a modern context. The four stories presented were relevant and applicable to religion now, and can help us understand religion is changing. With much of European culture heading towards secularization, one can relate that to America’s religious landscape as well. Even though America is still considered very religious, it is heading towards secularization. This move to secularization has to do with the decline in “official religion”, and society adding a greater emphasis to individualized religion. A secular society is not devoid of religion; often it is where religious pluralism takes place with out having religion in the central government or institutions. Religious pluralism can also been seen in the form of any type of “spiritually” or unofficial religion, which is where America is heading in terms of the religious landscape. The involvement of churches with in society is also declining, therefore the need for these institutions is slowly becoming less and less.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study on the religious identity of individuals raised in interfaith households. This study also included the religious “nones” parenting with someone who is religious. As McGuire points out in Chapter 3, children become socialized into the church at a young age, which is important in their religious upbringing. However, this looks much different if the parents are different religious background, especially when one of the parents are religious “nones”. One statistic from this study that I found particularly interesting was the fact that the mother was more responsible for a religious upbringing, therefore the child is more likely to adopt the mother’s religious beliefs. Another statistic that I found that related to Chaves and the decline of institutional religion among the younger generations was that “Those from religiously mixed backgrounds less likely to say religion was salient in their lives when they were growing up”. Diversity in marriages is increasing in terms of ethnic and religious diversity, but with this is the decline of a formal religious affiliation among those children. This study shows how themes within Chaves and McGuire’s books are being played out in American society today.
I enjoyed hearing about the different faiths that people read about. I felt that this technique of sharing different traditions was effective, as it switched up the pace of the class, making for a more engaging conversation. I enjoyed learning about all of the different faith traditions, as they were all so unique and displayed different aspects of American culture. Many of the book presentations touched on cultural phenomenons that are occurring right now, and explaining how religions are reconciling their beliefs to “keep up with the times”. While I am not one for verbal participation, I thoroughly enjoyed the questions that other students had towards the presentations and traditions.
One presentation that stood out to me was the one on Paradigm churches. I’ve known about this church style for a while, but was not aware of the religious experiences of the people who attend. I think the Paradigm churches are a good example of how religious life is not dying in the United States, but instead being reinvented for the millennial generation. The Paradigm churches offer community, which is an important aspect of belief, and yet focus on the individual’s relationship with God. These churches have succeeded by creating a safe space of worship for anyone who wants to join, while keeping with traditional Evangelical values. This intersection of modernity and tradition is interesting to study, as it appears to be an effective tool in growing congregations. I wonder how this phenomenon of Paradigm churches will affect the “non-religious” statistic, and create a rise in church attendance once again.
While religion at the Grammys is no new concept, this year’s award ceremony echoed important political messages within the religiously based performances. First, in Beyonce’s performance, she embodied a variety of different eastern and western religions from Hinduism to Catholicism. Beyonce performed with her very obviously pregnant belly, which personified her as a “divine mother” figure. Next, A Tribe Called Quest’s performance held much more political undertones, as it was a directed response to Trump’s travel ban. Lyrics in his song thanked Trump for his “unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim Ban” while women in hijabs performed, knocking down a staged construction wall. Lastly, Chance the Rapper preformed with the Christian artist, Chris Tomlin. Together they performed the song “How Great is Our God”. Religion at the Grammys this year showed up in diverse and unexpected ways. The religious performances and speeches proved that religion in American society is seen as creating social cohesion, but also conflict as McGuire has discussed in previous chapters.
Often, religion has a negative connotation affiliated with the name. Rightfully so, many of the things that religion has been guilty of historically like colonialism, war, social exclusion, etc. can not be forgotten. However, religion has also played an immense role in the social cohesion of societies as well. Even now, with a “separation of church and state” America is considered very religious, and religion binds together the very fabric of the United States. One concept that I found especially fascinating was the idea of “civil religion”, and God’s hand in “protecting” the United States. Looking at America as a “religion” with the symbols being freedom, soldiers, and the president show how religion acts as cohesion with national identity. While the goal for America is to protect what is considered sacred, there are many competing thoughts about what is considered sacred. For some, it is the sanctity of a women’s choice, and for others it is for the life of a child unborn. The division of people found within the political landscape today can be attributed to the competing notions of what is sacred. Civil religion is an example of how “religious ideology” can contribute to both social cohesion and conflict.