On Wednesday, the class listened to three speakers at the Spirituality, Social Justice, and Disability Symposium at the University of Redlands. Dr. Spickard’s presentation was called “How Do We Sustain This Life?: Spiritual Narratives of Social Justice Catholics”. This presentation introduced the audience to religious-based activism specifically by Los Angeles Catholic workers. The issue at hand, which is suggested by the title, is figuring out how the life lived out by the Catholic workers is sustained, and what keeps the workers (helpers?) going every day in order to continue their service. A question asked by Dr. Spickard was: why this this life being sustained? How is it being sustained? The idea that the Catholic workers have in mind is that “Jesus wanted it [change] to be done peacefully”. This is why they do service the way that they do it: they provide shopping carts for the homeless, they cook for the homeless, and they even bless the food that they cook and give to the homeless.
Doing community service and helping the homeless must definitely give meaning to the lives of the Catholic workers. According to the interviews Dr. Spickard conducted with 60 of the members, their religion matters to them, and activism “helps them on the edge”. The members are focused on the community, and they will give back to it in order to live a life that Jesus would love them for. They undergo rituals which help them maintain a religious lifestyle, and they understand that their religion is one of the most important things to them.
In class this past week we focused on the different topics brought up by the articles our groups read. What I found most interesting is how the French government handled religious affairs within their society: the French government decided it would be best to confine religious activity to the home. “From a Community of Believers to an Islam of the Heart: “Conspicuous” Symbols, Muslim Practices, and the Privatization of Religion in France” is an article by Caitlin Killian that explains how Islamic women who have immigrated from Maghreb countries to France feel about practicing Islam in France. According to the article, “the French are less encouraging of religious difference and expect religious expression to be confined to the home and places of worship” (Killian, 307). The women interviewed for the article explained that it was difficult to fast during Ramadan because they had to work the same amount of hours at their day jobs. The women also explained how it was difficult to keep up with praying five times per day. Additionally, the younger generation is looking for ways to practice their religion to connect to their roots but their outside environment is forbidding it.
Reading this article reminded me of what I wrote my religion-in-the-news report on a few weeks ago: the EU religious symbol ban. It also brings up ideas of secularization and privatization of religion, which are both things that have been reoccurring ideas in our classroom. How can limiting religious activity to the home be good for a society?
I always have trouble reading and analyzing political articles, but I found a piece on Townhall called “Freeing Religion from Government’s Grip” by Robert Knight that I felt extremely interested in. Townhall is a conservative news and opinion paper, which is not something that I particularly feel connected to. That being said, I think it is extremely important to understand all sides to a situation, just like what we are doing in class.
This article explains President Donald Trump’s opportunity to end attacks on religious “conscience” with the swipe of a pen on a few documents. The article proceeds to explain the order President Trump can put into place, and the author agrees with President Trump’s views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and healthcare. President Trump is in favor of “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” which is an order that allows companies to run depending on their religious beliefs. This means that businesses would be allowed to discriminate service based on their own religious beliefs. For example, currently business are not allowed to refuse service based on the customer’s life views (e.g. religious background, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.). This is interesting when bringing up the idea of secularization, which we have been discussing in class, because it gives citizens even more freedom to do as they please when it comes to religion, even if it is to discriminate.
After the presentations on Wednesday and the multiple readings for class, it is clear to see that we are learning about many opposing views. Many sociologists have different ideas about how religion affects society and this helps us shape our own views. Understanding the opposing views on certain things can be beneficial in making decision about personal views. It is interesting to see how Dr. Spickard’s views are different than McGuire’s or other sociologists that we have read. It is also interesting to see where a person’s bias is and how that may effect thoughts or results of studies. Reading the articles felt slightly unsettling because after reading one article and feeling good about it, it was weird reading another and not quite agreeing with it–I almost felt like I didn’t want to read any more of the articles I did not resonate with. Will there ever be something that everyone agrees on? Life and education would be so boring if all views were the same, and it wouldn’t even seen worthwhile, would it?
If we don’t understand opposing views, how can formulate our own? If we do not know what others believe and why they believe it, how are we then able to understand and formulate our own thoughts on the matter? As students, having the blog to post on and read each other’s work is very beneficial because it allows us to understand how our peers are thinking about the material we are learning together.
Throughout the semester we have been bringing up the idea that religion and politics are very intertwined. Lately we have been discussing this even more as we have been learning about the four, now six, social narratives in the sociology of religion.
An article in the Religion News Service from earlier today stated that apparently some companies in Brussels are banning women from wearing Islamic headscarves (hijabs) and other religious “accessories” under certain circumstances in the work environment. The article stated that a Belgian company was caught banning employees who deal with customers from wearing religious garments. If this were to continue, many Muslim women and other women who choose to cover their hair will be taken out of the workforce, hurting their economy and the women’s families. This is seen by the European Union as religious discrimination, which it is, and it is surprising to see Belgian companies being so discriminatory because the country itself is such a hub for global citizens. The article did not say, however, how the case would be handled. The article itself was very brief but I found it to be relevant to our recent conversations about the relationship between politics and religion.
EU headscarf ban ruling sparks faith group backlash
The four narratives in the sociology of religion presented by McGuire and Dr. Spickard are extremely important and understanding the American religious landscape and how it has evolved throughout the years. How dynamic are the four narratives? How often to things change? Exploring ways in which the four narratives in the society of religion are present in today’s dynamic society is something that seems important to do often. With the recent election of President Donald Trump, it seems as though many new and old religious issues are coming up. As students in this class, we are able to use Secularization, Religious Reorganization, Religious Individualization, and The Supply Side of Religious Markets in order to understand the American religious landscape today, and how current events are effecting it. We can see how the history of the American religious landscape compares to current events in the world and how that changes the United States. The approaches to secularization are also important factors: how do these change with society? Have the changed? Comparing ways in which the narratives are present in the United States and the ways in which they are in other countries is important in understanding differences between the societies.
Seeing ways in which the four narratives that are used in the sociology in religion have been present within the American religious landscape is something that can be very valuable to understand. The ways in which religion is changing society in America is something that seems extremely relevant, especially right now with the political situation we have.
In this day and age, it definitely feels relevant to discuss how religions influence “social change”. “Social change” is described by McGuire as “any alteration in the social arrangements of a group or society”, and chapter 7 dives into how religion can impact a society, creating social change.
When thinking about America’s history–and the world’s history, for that matter–it is really interesting to see how specific religions, and religion as a concept, have impacted the given society. Specifically today we can see ways in which religion is impacted American politics and social stratification, which we have been able to discover more about with the Religion in the News write-ups. People discriminate toward others because of the religion that they practice and what their beliefs are. Some also choose to live their lives free of religion, which impacts the society as well. Not in a good or bad way, necessarily, but that is also an interesting aspect of “religious climate” and how it can impact a society and its people. I also think it is interesting to explore the trends we study, and to try and foresee future changes: being able to understand history and ways in which we can improve our society is extremely important. I don’t think it is a good idea to try and force social change per se, but I believe it is good to understand history and how religions have effected society, to try and understand why our society is the way it is today.
Pope Francis brought a Syrian woman, Nur Essa, and her family to Rome last April, and, apparently, has been extremely open and accepting of her culture and religious views. Essa says that she was pleasantly surprised with the Pope’s accepting nature and willingness to learn about her culture and religion and others’ as well. Essa has met Pope Francis a few times and has had great, accepting experiences every time. She had the opportunity to ask him about immigrant integration in Italy, as she is concerned about her loved ones. Thinking about refugees seeking new homes and wanting to be accepted into a new society to call home reminds me tremendously of the first case study presentation (that I was a part of) that discussed God Needs No Passport by Peggy Levitt. This idea also makes me think about us, the students in this class, visiting different religious congregations. We are all being open to the new experiences and are accepting others for who they are. I think this is an amazing quality for individuals in our society to have, and it is great that the Pope, such an influential figure in society, is being such a lovely example of it.
I have really been enjoying listening to the case study presentations. The Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes presentation really triggered my interest, as it began with a meditation, reminding the class to focus on breath and consciousness. I took a meditation practicum class last semester and I am currently taking a class called Compassion, which teaches students to be consciously compassionate beings. I have been trying to find ways to make myself be a more conscious person. I feel like I am able to enjoy myself and be fully engaged if I am more conscious of what I am doing and feeling. I always find it fascinating when content from my classes overlap and intertwine. The guided meditation on Wednesday was very similar to what we do in the compassion class that I am in, and the meditation class from last semester.
Spirituality and living a spiritual life are interesting topics for college students and young people to discuss. In my meditation class we spoke about whether or not a meditation and consciousness class should be mandatory for freshmen in college. Starting the presentation with a guided meditation made me realize that it could be a good idea for a meditation class to be mandatory for incoming college freshmen. I found myself to be more engaged in the conversation and more focused on what the presenters had to say. It is important for people in today’s society to take some time out of their day to focus on breathing and consciousness.
According to an article in The New York Times by Laurie Goodstein, 4,248 adults were surveyed by the Pew Research Center to see how Americans rated other religions practiced in the United States. The Americans surveyed were not asked why they have the views they have, and apparently there was a bit of a survey error that was not stated. Why would this topic be explored? Does it not cause more of a divide between people and religious groups? It is interesting to see what people think of other religions within their country. After the recent election, Muslims in America said they felt particularly discriminated toward, and Muslims ranked at the bottom of the poll with Atheists.
The whole idea of liking certain religions over others reminds me a lot of Florence from the presentation by group did last week. Florence only wants her religion to be practiced around her, and she wants it done her way. This article also ties in with the presentation from Monday that spoke about the shared parish. I find it interesting to see how people feel about other religious groups, especially after the recent election. I feel that it can cause some conflict but at the same time I believe it is an interesting sociological study.