Reflecting on our jigsaw activity from the last class session I began to think about the technological impacts that it would have on religion. With the statistics from Chaves in mind, I believe that technology can play an important role in creating another medium for church attendance. By this, I argue that with the ability to use live streaming services like YouTube, churches can reach out to more people who may not be comfortable walking into a new church or those who are unable to attend. This is much like TV Mass except that these live streams can be archived and accessed at any time. This brings me to my next point, the idea of creating content for online video platforms. According to Business Insider, YouTube has about 1.8 users per month which caters content to viewers using an algorithm. This algorithm starts showing up on people’s recommended videos depending on the subject and watch-time of the videos. What I am trying to say is that if churches had dedicated content creators, they would be able to spread their influence out more since there is no limit to the internet. This system would also create a source for instant explanations and discussions on various topics. Saddleback Church, for example, has a YouTube channel that is regularly updated with content that has thousands of views. The videos are informative and I can see why they get many views (albeit Saddleback is a megachurch). Arguably, this would promote more individualism and possibly foster sectarianism but the implications are still large.
It is no doubt that we are living in a peculiar time where politics and religion intersect. With the recent events in New Zealand, I would like to address the increasing threat of radical Christianity. It is no doubt that the shooting that took place last week was based on race and religion. There was, of course, a narrative that was pushed with this recent shooting (which can be found in the manifesto left by the shooter). This narrative has many similarities to the Crusades from the 9th century and so on. The one main similarity is the narrative that the Islamic faith is a threat to Christianity. In this situation, there was a mention of a secret Christian group named “reborn Knights Templar.” Should this group exist, there is no question that they are a cult that expresses radical sectarian ideologies. In much of this, we can see an obvious trend and motivation to the shooting. The result that this murderer wanted was the balkanization of the western nations which indefinitely leads to a race war of sorts. It is clear that this attack was to provoke those that are radicalized to take action against a group of people. This attack will, unfortunately, create fear in the world, increase the cultural rift that we see occur, and drive us away from obtaining world peace. Thus leading to my claim that this event is one of many examples that we are going through a modern crusade and we are at the crossfire.
In chapter 8, McGuire discusses the four narratives in the sociology of religion. The one narrative that stuck out to me was the secularization narrative. This particular narrative discusses the privatization of religion in such that religion should shape the individual and private life. This is not a new topic to me but it is still one that I cannot fully comprehend, in fact, much of the sectarian ideologies still confuse me to a slight degree. Perhaps it is just my misunderstanding but doesn’t sectarian religions promote community within the congregation and how does this apply to personal life? What I am trying to ask is if these sectarian congregations play a role in a member’s private life? For example, say Billy is a devoted Baptist and he is going through a divorce, would the congregation play any role in what Billy does or does that influence solely come from the minister?
Another narrative that stuck out to me was the religious individualization narrative specifically “religion a la carte” (McGuire 293). The concept behind a la carte is that there is less of an importance of institutionally validated beliefs to the individual (McGuire 293). Can this also transfer to the need to identify with an established church? From personal experience, the concept of religion a la carte describes how my religious/spiritual life is unfolding. I do not feel the need to identify with a certain religion or church mainly due to the different teachings from various religions that define me and it would feel strange to me to identify with just one religion.
The growing informality in worship, as Chaves points out, is a trend that is interesting to observe. In Chaves’ chapter, he points out that much of the change happens in white protestant churches (Chaves,64). And what is most interesting is that 80 percent of black churches already incorporate much of the terms used in the survey (Chaves, 65). Chaves states that this is a growing trend even outside of religion as he points out that informality occurs in ordinary conversation when we use first names and even nicknames to address people (Chaves, 65). This is an interesting trend and I wonder if much of this has to do with conforming to society. I draw on my observations from Pathway Church. What used to be a Southern Baptist church (by name) is now Pathway. When I asked why a representative informed me that this change was made to not deter people that are looking for a congregation to be a part of. The sermon itself was very informal as the majority of the congregation wore casual attire and this included the pastor. This was a surprise to me especially since Southern Baptists are known to be strict and formal. After reading Chaves’ analysis on the informal trend, I believe that (in this case) Pathway deviated from the formal customs to an informal one to draw in the “trendsetter” population. My question to this is if there is any evidence that indicates growth in attendance with growth in informality and if this is also based on location?
Growing up in a Hispanic household I was always surrounded by tales of the paranormal and witchcraft. To convey how I felt to the reader, it almost felt like I was in the time period of the Salem witch trials. These stories range from La Llorona to witchcraft in the form of animals. These stories are so embedded in the Hispanic culture that they are passed down generations and always include a first-hand experience of the events. Of course, like most traditions, some of these stories tend to die off in the children of immigrant families. This I do not know why considering I am a child of immigrants. But what is consistent throughout these stories is that there always is some sort of religion implemented into the accounts. In the case of my family, my mother absolutely hates the fact that she can hear the Lechuzas at night. For those who do not know, Lechuzas are large owl like animals that are associated with death and witchcraft. My mother is a major believer in the stories to the point where she would sprinkle holy water around the foundation of our house to cast a sort of barrier from the evils that these Lechuzas bring. She has also tied in the death of a family member to the appearance of these animals. It is a strange occurrence that we happen to live by a mountain where these creatures are located and other various paranormal observations, made by my mother, happen. To say I do not believe in these stories would be a lie because there are things that have happened that I cannot explain and my usual response to the paranormal stories told by friends is “I’m Mexican so I’m not going to mess with that.” Could this just be folklore passed down generations and perhaps occurred before the arrival of the Spanish or is there actually something that is going on that people have used religion to counter these acts of the paranormal? Is culture a factor into these stories as well?
There are two things I would like to cover in this post, one is how applicable McGuire’s chapter 5 is in terms of my experience in my visit to Pathway and the second is the nature determining what is and is not official religion. Visiting Pathway on Sunday has opened my eyes to how vastly different two sects of the same religion are. While at Pathway, I noticed a lot of differences in how people dress to how the mass is organized. While Pathway has, what McGuire describes in ch. 5, an ‘official’ religion model, it did not feel entirely like an official religion. This is mainly due to how the institutional organization is, well, organized. If one does not do research prior to walking into Pathway, you will not know what the structure is and you will feel lost during the first 20 minutes of mass. If you do research prior to mass, you will find that there is a lot of organization in terms of pastors, directors, and volunteers.
Concerning the determination of what is and isn’t an official religion, I believe that this is completely arbitrary. McGuire describes the difference official and non-official (popular) religions as being under the control of official religious organizations and uses the U.S. as an example of a nation that has many popular religions (p.116). This argument, to me, says that in order for a religion to be official, it must have some sort of organized entity (group, politically backed, etc.) that supports it. This would throw out religions that are just beginning or those who aren’t as big as Christianity. I suppose an example would be the Nestorians and how Western Christianity would refer to them as ‘heretics.’ I bring this up because while the Nestorians were not the largest sect of Christianity, they did have the support of the Mongolian Empire (though it was not the official religion of the Empire). Of course, my personal opinions aren’t to be taken as fact, I’m just stating that it is up to the individual that experiences other religions to determine if said religion is official or not.
There are multiple ways to identify an individual and by no means am I suggesting that what I say is the only way to identify individuals’ standpoints and what sect they may partake in. Taking what McGuire lays out in the graphs in chapter 5, it is easily applicable to the individual person. There have been two events this past week where I was able to identify the standpoint of individuals with language alone and using both language and the graph. This first event occurred in class on Tuesday (22-01-97) when we watched the film Seperate Realities. Professor Spickard did give a brief overview of the film and did talk about the individuals in the documentary but I was not able to catch what sect the second person was. When the film started documenting Glen’s reality (the second person), I was trying to identify what sect Glen was. During this time I was listening for keywords and phrases that would help me identify Glen’s stance and sect. It wasn’t until Glen started repeating the words “saved” and “unsaved” that I started to give educated guesses on what sect he is. My initial guess was Baptist only because of the way the term “saved” was used and how he states that “Jesus the savior” changed his life and that “it is a duty” to go and proclaim the teachings of the lord. The second event occurred yesterday where my friend and I discussed other religions. I know that he is a devoted Catholic but I wanted to know where he stood individually so I asked if he believed in the legitimacy of other religions. He replied that he believes there is some legitimacy in other religions. This answer (and from the years I’ve known him) gave me the impression that he is somewhere between denominational, sectarian, and cultic. I am going to ask my friend more questions to see where he truly is but my best-educated guess would put him in denominational but heading towards sectarian.
Chapter 2 in McGuire’s book covers the concept of religion being the catalyst for meaning. This meaning is then expanded to the individual, social group, and meaning during a crisis. While McGuire gives explanations on why religion is the center of giving meaning and interpretation in one’s life, I am still left asking if religion is the main source of meaning. As example, I was once a follower of the Catholic faith and despite the fact I did not enjoy my time there, I was still given a source of interpretation and a sense of meaning. Since it has been five years I decided to leave the Catholicism, I should have no meaning of the events and social groups I am a part of, right? This is not the case at all. My meaning and interpretations in life are still drawn from religion but are not based on Catholic teachings, rather, they are based on my exposure to other religions. If I were to explain why events unfold the way they do I would draw on the teachings of dharma and karma from Hinduism. I find myself referencing the teachings of the Buddha when I need guidance and assurance during my most stressful days. Concerning social groups, I tend to reference the Christian teaching of ‘love thy neighbor’ when I am presented with an ideology I may not agree with. McGuire is correct when she states that meaning is derived from religion. Now I question about the people who were never exposed to religion. Do these people have a system of meaning that truly has no religious influence?