This past week in class was the final week of in-class lectures and we focused on bringing together everything that was learned in class and listened to everyone’s religious specialist’s reports. These reports have helped me to conclude the learnings of the class and to see the depth in which they apply to the world. All of the people that were interviewed were very different from each other despite all being in the same town. These are people who all live in the same town as each but have very different views on life and different goals and experiences from life. These differences in perspective helped me to see the differences in leaders themselves. In both their method’s of leading and their reason’s for leading. Some see it as a calling from God while some see it as the path their life took them. Whatever the reason, each of the leader’s experience something that enhances their life. Either through the work that they do with those in the congregations, in the work that they do with their own faith and connection with God or another aspect of their job, their lives are uplifted by their work. Seeing these connections to their religion showed me that humans seek something to fulfill a part of their life that has meaning. As a person, one seeks to feel as though what they are doing is important and for religious leaders, their work in their religion is that link to the importance that they felt that they were otherwise missing in life.
This past week we learned about the ways that sociologist conduct ethnographic research. Learning about this content has helped me to see the importance of research and it can benefit our society. There are so many differences between different groups of people. Being able to understand the way that people function helps one to be able to bridge the gap between themselves. In a society that is changing quite rapidly due to globalization, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to understand the worldview of those around us. While in the past there have always been different communities and viewpoints within a single town, nowadays there are even more, that differ more drastically. There are more people who have grown up in different cities that are very far apart. The ability to put away one’s biases and work to see a different worldview is something that will help to bring our society to a different level.
The discussion on viewpoint and how people are limited by who they were born as their experiences. This was something that I had not thought of before. This embraces how important it is for people to discuss their opinions and foundings because everyone comes from a different perspective and different status. There is no way to be able to see an entire picture as one person without taking the time to learn and accept how other people see the world. This applies to both the way that the sociologists need to work but also people seeking to understand those in the community better.
This past week we discussed the remaining narratives about the future of religion, religion as a market and the globalization of religion. I found discussing the globalization of religion as particularly striking because of the way that I was raised in a highly globalized society. My father works as a professor at the National University of Singapore and specializes in research on family firms among other topics. In his research, he has worked with many other people all over the world, so it is not uncommon to hear him on a conference call at 6 am in the living room in order to fit everyone’s schedule in different time zones. Learning about how with globalization, religion is changing to fit this new world was a narrative that I was easily able to accept and conceptualized based on what I’ve seen. Many of my friends remained in close contact with those of their home town and religious community. There were many times in which friends would go home on public holiday’s for the day to celebrate the religious holiday with their family. Discussion on religion is one that is commonplace and done in a way that is very respectful of other’s beliefs and done in order to learn.
Religion is being shaped in a way that it is no longer confined to one’s home or congregation, it is able to travel across borders and become stronger through interaction and connection. It was interesting to be able to learn about the different ways that the globalization of religion is classified and other ways that it is being affected outside of my personal experience.
This week we were doing the jigsaws in class with different articles exploring the different narratives for the future of religion. We discussed the narratives ‘Is religion becoming militantly conservative’ and ‘Is religion become more individualized’. Sharing the two different articles for these narratives is interesting in their comparison. One argument is that religion is returning back to its fundamentals and the other is that religion is straying from its fundamentals. Both of these theories exist simultaneously and that shows the complexity of religion. Personally, as a Wiccan, I understood the argument for religion becoming more personalized better. This is how I have found my own personal religion in that I was able to personalize my beliefs and find something that worked for me due to the flexibility that Wicca provides.
While learning about the return to fundamentalism in religion, it was harder for me to understand why people move towards this movement of religion. The article I read that explained the concepts of fundamentalism and why people are attracted towards in today’s world. This article helped me to understand why people seek out stability in religion this way. Learning about the different ways that people seek out religion and how that affects the future of religion as a whole has helped me to develop a more well-rounded view of the diversity of people in the world.
This weekend I went to visit Redlands New Life Church (RNL). Seeing this church after seeing the University United Methodist Church (UUM) was interesting because they were very different churches but had a similar structure to each other. Both were very welcoming churches that focused on fostering community as both had elements where people in the church were able to get together and create shared experiences. The service at University Methodist Church was more formal everyone was dressed formally. Redlands New Life Church was more informal, with those attending wearing jeans and the pastor was wearing a t-shirt and a suit jacket. Both congregations had an emphasis on connecting to God through song but UUM sang more traditional songs from the hymnal along to a piano and guitar, and RNL sang modern songs with a guitar, piano, drum set, and bass. From my observations, both groups connected to the songs in the same way but used very different songs to do so.
This past week in class we have discussed the six socialogical narratives about the future of religion. It is interesting to see the different theories that are presented based on the same studies. Given that everyone is looking at trends that exist in the world and coming up with many different theories based on it. Learning about this has made me see the complexity of the religious landscape that all these trends can be observed. There is no concrete analysis of religion as there are so many different people who all experience religion differently.
During Spring break I was able to experience lived religion as I was approached by someone who was walking telling people about her church and how she was saved by God. She told me about how she used to take drugs and drink a lot but when she started going to the church she was able to turn her life around and become a better person. After she explained that she asked me if I would join her in a prayer for my salvation and to say thanks to God. I declined the offer but I could tell that she wanted to help me be saved the same way that she was. Her church provided her with a way to take control of her life and feel safe and she wanted to pass that on to others.
Having this experience allowed me to see in person how religion affects some and how they want to spread this to others. It is always interesting to experience people who want to share their religion because I am used to religion being personal and people not wanting to share their experiences with others. Seeing the difference between what I am used to and what I experienced makes me wonder what the difference is between how the persons are relating to their religion and what makes them want to have this difference.
This week we were listening to the presentations of the different congregation visits that my classmates did in the Redlands area. It was interesting to see the different opinions people had on the congregations that they visited. As each presentation was done in pairs each presentation had the viewpoints of people with different religious backgrounds. What one person expected to find in a church was completely foreign to the other, or sometimes they agreed on what they expected. The expectations that people have when going to church based on their past experiences is larger than they assume because seeing something different tends to be shocking. In class, we learned about the differences in churches and how they operate. Despite this, seeing and experiencing a church that differs from what you are used to because it challenges the personal definition one has of religion and what one expects from it. The one that stood out the most to me was the group who presented on the Mormon church. There was a large contrast between the formality of the dress and the informality of the people at the mass. This separation was surprising to me because, from my own experience, the level of formality of dress dictates the level of formality. Learning that there are people who view that disconnect between the two as something that is normal was interesting because it shows that there are people who experience a different connection to their dress and their surroundings.
This past week in class we have been able to see the presentations of the other groups and their case studies. Seeing these case studies I saw the different ways in which people experience religion. Each case study studied different religions and meeting places of those religions and covered a wide range of ways that people experienced and sought out information. The case study that interested me was Marion Goldman’s Passionate Journeys. This one struck me because it showed me a point of view that I had never considered before and a new way of presenting information. The way that the women were able to find their freedom and fulfillment in life from Baghwan’s teachings and center made me think about the reason that people look for different things in religion than I have been shown in my life. This is something that I saw in the presentation on Lyn Davidman’s Tradition in a Rootless World. In my experience, religion has been something that people use to explain the world around them, an exploration of the unknown. I’ve never looked at as a way of providing meaning and structure to one’s life. Looking through religious experiences through this lens has helped me to broaden my views on religion and reinforce the idea that each individual is seeking something different in their life. The structure of Goldman’s book also struck me as it provided a new way of sharing information. The use of the composites allowed the reader to connect fully with the women being discussed as connecting to the life of an individual is much easier than to a group of people. Learning about these composites, even second hand, I was able to understand the decisions of many different women and experience a different point of view. Which helped me to my earlier revelation.
This past weekend I visited United University Methodist Church. This was a very different experience for me based on what I am used too. In my past church experiences, as a child, I went to a separate building during mass and attended Sunday school. At this church, at the beginning of mass, they had the children in the room come up to the front and they were read a children’s book about Moses by one of the leaders. Everyone who was sitting in the pews listened to the story as well. While watching this encounter, I realized how close everyone in the church was. It is a fairly small church, and the mass is focused on fostering the community and experiencing Jesus and God together. This sense of community was very striking to me. I could tell that everyone there was very close to each other and cared deeply about each other.
Another difference between my past experiences and this church was the emphasis on song that was placed here. In the shelves, on the pews, there were only hymnals at this church, while my church of childhood had both a hymnal and a bible. This difference may be small, but during the service, there were more songs that were sung than I was expecting. The people at the church were using the songs as a way to connect with God and Jesus in a way that I haven’t seen before. In my old church, song was a very serious thing that happened less. Here, people were more casual about it and it was more often.
This was a new experience that showed me how different churches can differ. The way I was raised religiously means that I haven’t been able to experience differences in churches, and learning about the differences in class is very different than seeing happen in front of me. This was a very educational experience for me that I am glad I was able to experience.
This past week we began reading Mark Chaves’ book American Religion. In the first couple of chapters, he discussed trends in the population and different religious beliefs. What stuck with me in chapter two was his discussion of diversity in the religion. Chaves talked about how people’s everyday lives are becoming more diverse. That with time, more people have people of other religions and race. Although even with this increase in diversity in the country, churches still remain some of the most segregated areas of the country. This was never something that I’ve never thought about, but when he brought up the saying “11 a.m. Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week”, it made a lot of sense to me (p.27). Since I’ve always viewed America as a racially diverse country, hearing that there was still segregation was shocking, but not surprising. I have studied the past of racial segregation and discrimination in America and around the world and know theoretically that the effects of that are still not gone, it is shocking to see statistics about it because it’s nothing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. As my family is not religious, while visiting the US and living here for a few months, I have not been to a church so I have not seen the environments that are there. I have always visited cities or towns that are very welcoming of diversity and have become accustomed to that being the way things are.