Last class period, we got the chance to sit in on a sociology conference session in which we heard three speakers. I was very impressed by the content that we were given that day, all three speeches were able to give me new knowledge. My favorite speaker was definitely you though, Professor Spickard. The topic you talked on of homelessness was something that intrigued me. I think that the idea that religious groups play a big role in the lives of the homeless is interesting. The interconnection between those that feel it is their God given duty to do something and those who are in desperate need. When I was in high school I was very actively involved in teaching my area about being aware that the statistics prove that there are homeless people everywhere and we need to step up and do something about it. I was inspired by some of the different active players in your speech. Those who made the effort to create the shelter and pass out carts. I think that the issue of what religious folks ought to be doing in this situation is something we need to continue to reflect on. Is peacefully getting put in jail a smart move? Will being in jail benefit these people who truly need active help? I think in the grand scheme of things you have a wonderful topic that you can continue to grow. We live near one of the best cities to study this movement so it makes sense that this is a perfect project for you.
Throughout the past few classes we have read articles that have made us question whether religion is becoming more of a community or more of an individual aspect of life. I have found a few different articles very interesting and it makes me believe that the answer is very personal and changes depending on who you ask. For some people, it strengthens their faith when they are around others that are pushing them to grow and encouraging them. For other people, it helps if they have their own chance to be spiritual. I read “Redefining the Boundaries of Belonging” which talked about the popularity of people being able to watch sermons from America all around the world. The example connected a church in Boston to a group of people in Brazil. The group of viewers in Brazil has formed a community around this. I believe that this concept is something that is very modernized and I do not feel that this would be my ideal situation for community but if it helps them, then that is great. The Individualized aspects of religion were stressed in the ideas of spirituality. Being able to have a sacred connection on your own could be hard for someone else to understand but for you it is very special. This can be seen in different ways, for some they find a connection like those that are from the article “Gospel Hour.” The thing about Gospel Hour is that it is a community but they have very impactful moments alone. Each of these very different perspectives on religion support the fact that religion has the chance to be either official or non-official.
The article that I read was published by Fox News and called “CNN religion quiz needs to take Christianity seriously.” I found this to be a very interesting read because you could sense the tension between the two networks just by reading it. CNN is coming out with a special series for Easter time pertaining to Jesus and Fox accused them of making yet another show where they are going to try and tell people who Jesus really is. As I read this I started to get uncomfortable by the passive aggressive attitude that the author seemed to have. It seems that these two major news networks have a lot of tension and think that the other network has bad intensions. It was also said, that CNN currently has a quiz about how well you know Christianity and the author accused them of having the wrong questions and not asking the necessary questions in order to get to a necessary conclusion. They accused CNN of seeing religion through a blind spot or cloudy view and then put them in the same category of understanding as a “secular” group. I found this very interesting that the article transitioned into a critique on the way that Secularists see the world. This article is proof that even in our media there is much religious diversity and judgement.
“CNN Religion Quiz Needs to Take Christianity Seriously.” Fox News. FOX News Network, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/19/cnn-religion-quiz-needs-to-take-christianity-seriously.html.
This past week the concept of Secularization in Religion was stressed in both class periods. At first I found myself thinking that secularization seemed very apparent in the world and reading Christianity in Britain, R.I.P. by Bruce reassured those feelings I was having. The possibility that religion was slowly taking a new form started to frighten me because my religion is the biggest part of my life and I do not want the environment of religion to change too much. Then I came into class on Wednesday and the presentations on the rest of the articles, I had not read, started to give me a new perspective. There seemed to be more possibilities that secularization was not really taking complete control of the world. It seems to be possible that the United Stated wasn’t even being affected by secularization. I personally believe that a change in the structure, dynamic, belief, and society around religion is occurring among us. Although, now I have begun to be swayed by articles like Finke’s, which stress that America is unsecular. It could very well be true that just Europe has had a takeover of secularization. The arguments that Bruce made about Europe just seemed strikingly familiar to what is also happening here in America through my eyes. What has given me hope from all of the readings, is the idea that America is still so fresh and new in its religion. I am not ready to except that America is going to let go of its ideals quite that easy.
The article I read discussed a ban on visible religious symbols. This article was a shock to me because I have always known that there is a lot of religious discrimination in our world but it was this prevalent. I feel that expressing your passion about your religion should be seen as a freedom that we have no matter what country you come from. These symbols are in no way inappropriate and if they bring that person pride they should be able to show it off. The article was set up by explaining that a law was just passed by a European court saying all EU countries can ban religious symbols in the workplace. I understand that everyone is meant to feel comfortable where they work but I feel that these symbols truthfully do not mess with the environment. If anything they promote peace and show that these are dedicated individuals. I admire people who show their strength in their religions through their appearance. As a Christian, I wear my cross every single day and I have a tattoo of a cross. It is something that I take so much pride in and I wear it because of the meaning it has for me. I do not wear it to try and pressure anybody else. I think that as a world we need to try to unite and understand the beauty that comes from differences. If someone feels happy in their headscarf or wearing a cross then they should continue expressing themselves.
Onyanga-Omara, Jane. “Employers in EU Can Ban Visible Religious Symbols like Islamic Headscarves.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/14/top-eu-court-rules-employers-can-ban-visible-religious-symbols-including-islamic-headscarves/99156814/.
Since our midterm was this past week, it is easy to reflect on the first half of the semester. We have stressed many times the complete influence that religion has on so many areas of our lives. Its influence has a lot to with the ever changing atmosphere that it creates. Although it seems that religion has a strong grounds that is much more of the facade it gives off. Religion is complex, difficult to define, and has trouble staying the same. McGuire uses Chapter 8 to tie together all the thoughts that we have been reflecting on all semester. She says that the place religion is at today is very different from where it began but that doesn’t mean it is any less influential today than it used to be. Religion in the modern world looks at understanding the major changes in society that have gotten us to our current state. It takes the time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation. One aspect that McGuire says has a pattern of growth, is secularism in religion. It has become a much bigger deal than it ever was before and has pushed the big denominations away to the side for the first time. Religion has become something much more private, and unique depending on those in society that are a part of it. It is interesting to take a step back and think about how restructured our religion is compared to where it began. We live in a unique world with very distinct characteristics and I love studying religion because it says a lot about what our culture is all about.
Before we went on Spring Break we each presented on the congregations we visited and had our last book presentation on A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church. The Congregation presentations inspired me to go out and visit more churches in the local Redlands area. There seems to be a lot of unique places where people can come together to worship in an organized fashion. I was so happy to hear that everyone, for the most part, had good experiences going out and doing this little study. I believe that this assignment was a key factor in truly understanding the denominations that we each visited. I visited a Catholic Denomination, that I had no prior knowledge of and now I feel that I have a pretty good idea of what the religion is about.
The last book presentation was one that I really enjoyed because the church has a unique vibe to it. It is located in Los Angeles so it isn’t too far from both school and my home. I am interested in trying it out because it values human uniqueness and welcomes those who are creative. I love the idea of the church but I do not know what I would think of attending it full time. It seems as if it may not be strong in doctrines or worship and focus a lot more on human beings as a whole. Although this is a great concept for those that are after that, it may not be the home for me. That is what is so special about educating ourselves on churches, we become aware of the fact that there is more to the world than just what we practice.
The devastating reality that people are after a particular religious denomination has been evident in the news the past few days. The article I read was called, Another Wave Of Bomb Threats Targets Jewish Community Centers. Reading this article was emotionally draining. The anti semitism that is still among us in the United States breaks my heart. I believe that everyone should have the freedom to worship who they want and practice the religion they want without being threatened for it. This all connects back to the intolerance that Muslims have been suffering through in the past few years. For some reason as Americans we have grown up to believe that certain people have superiority compared to others. This is not the case though, our forefathers created the Declaration of Independence and Constitution so that everyone would have freedom. I believe that a big role in these threats is that America is seeing hard times right now. Everyone is having a hard time living as one and learning to accept each other and a big part of this has to do with our current President. In the article it mentioned the way that President Trump was approaching question about what the government was going to do about this. His response was that he was insulted because he took it as if people were asking because they thought he didn’t care about the situation. I personally think that this was the wrong way to go about a response. He should have just answered the question and not taken offense to it. This problem is something we need to handle, whatever the solution may be. It is a right to choose your Religion and people living in fear should not be a result of our freedom.
Work Cited: Domonoske, Camila. “Another Wave Of Bomb Threats Targets Jewish Community Centers.” NPR. NPR, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/21/516422832/another-wave-of-bomb-threats-targets-jewish-community-centers.
Watching the in class book presentations these past two weeks has been enlightening. I have been able to once again see religion through a new lens, this aspect of the class has been my favorite. I am very confident and set in my faith so sometimes it helps to break away and open up my mind to new ideas. I have no interest in ever converting religions but I like having the chance to being more knowledgeable and accepting of others. One of the most compelling book presentations we had was Passionate Journeys: Why Successful Women Joined a Cult. I was intrigued by the drastic differences between a cult and a denominational religion. The experiences that they have are extremely different than those that I have grown up having. The concept of them all living in one big mansion was a surprise to me because that takes on a whole new meaning to what community is. Community can take on many shapes but this was one of the first times I had actually been taught about a cult. In the cult they all have the freedom to do what they want with one another and live freely with no commitments. That is something that I have never seen in my time studying denominational and secular religion. Denominations have very set rules and regulations in order to ensure that people will be able to get themselves saved and to Heaven. Another interesting book presentation was The Shared Parish, before this I had no idea this phrase stood for two different church groups sharing one space. I loved having this opportunity to learn from my peers.
The article I read, Freedom of Religion According to Thomas Jefferson, was a piece that laid out some background on the Declaration of Independence and the reasoning behind Jefferson’s strong belief in religious freedom. This article came out at the right time because currently Betsy DeVos has plans to put more funding towards private religious education. Her reasoning for this is upheld by her religious background. This is exactly what Jefferson was trying to avoid. The first amendment stands for Jefferson’s beliefs and it expresses that congress and government have no place in establishing a religion. So why would it be alright today if religion became imbedded in education? As current Americans we are living through a very different time than Jefferson did. We are undergoing things that our founding fathers would have never wanted to happen. There has been push after push for changes that our country wasn’t supposed to stand for. As amazing as I personally think it would be for a majority of schools to be faith driven, I cannot stand behind forcing children into that. I might love the idea of doing something like that on my own but as Americans we have a right to believe anything and shouldn’t be funneled down a path we don’t want to go down at such a young age. Religion isn’t defined by just Christianity, there are so many other religious branches, denominations, and aspects that don’t even align with Christianity. We need to be careful what kind of changes are made to our country because we cannot leave people out.
Rollston, Christopher. “Freedom Of Religion According To Thomas Jefferson.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-rollston/freedom-of-religion-accor_b_14712844.html.