As discussed in class, religion in general is a source of faith for people to have the image and interpretation just depends on communities ethically and by experience. Today there are a variety of different religions that we as college student may have never heard of.
Growing you in Southern California I grew up in a Catholic family. The majority of my family and friends were also Catholic but that is mainly because my community were mostly Hispanic Catholics. I was raised to know that I had to attend mass, and be an active Catholic as well as finish my commandments in order to marry by church to someone who is also Catholic. My parents made me attend youth group classes once a week for two years to meet my confirmation requirement. Every week we were taught about how to maintain our faith and also defend our religion in case of doubt or teach others who are not fully in sync with God. In these talks I was taught that Catholicism is a branch from Christianity and the only difference is that as Catholics we believe in Saints and the Virgin Mary. The more I attended these youth group classes my doubts only grew while my faith or thought of a God was rapidly fading. SInce then I do not identify as being religious or Catholic, but only seem to somewhat have an interest to please my parents
After reading McGuire’s first chapter as well as my peers religious background stories has opened my mind and interest in learning about other religions and how different communities adapt to certain religions. While also raising questions on why people who are surrounded by religious family or friends mostly tend to drift away from religion. I also think to myself that there are other forms of having faith which doesn’t necessarily have to pursue or identify with a religion or a “God”.
Last week, we learned that religion can play a massively important role in society. In her first chapter, Meredith McGuire wrote about how, 50 years ago, sociologists looked for religion in churches, but now they are trying to define religion differently. According to sociologists, there are two types of religious definitions. There are: substantive definitions, which use a Western worldview and define more narrowly, and functional definitions, which define more broadly but may encapsulate more than was intended. In class, we learned that there are four aspects of religion that all shape one another: experience, image, story, and community.
On Monday, January 21st, our university is hosting an interesting religious experience, called Beyoncé Mass. “The worship service uses the music and life of Beyoncé as a tool to cultivate an empowering conversation about Black women — their lives, bodies, and voices — while creating an event with story, scripture, and song that calls for the liberation of all people.” I am excited to “experience” this event from a sociological perspective, specifically focusing on the human. This religious event is going to bring experience, image, story, AND community, and it is an unorthodox worship service being held in a highly religious town, so I expect the overall response to the event to be thought-provoking. It is super cool that our school is hosting this event because last year in San Francisco, it was a hit.
I would highly recommend attending the event. I think it will bring some interesting discussions to our course.
In the reading for this week, McGuire discusses the impacts of meaning on belief systems. Chapter two explains how religious people give an experience its meaning by the choice of their interpretations of that experience; people associate meaning with events to help them understand the event itself. Specifically, meaning is significant in religious institutions as it is the church’s members who keep the meanings of their beliefs consistent and alive. If such members were to simply not exist, the meanings of those beliefs could be gone or could be skewed to signify something completely different than its original given meaning. Though a foreign concept to me, “Plausibility structures,” or the social interactions within a network of persons sharing a meaning system, plays an interesting role in the significance of belief systems. The structure protects those with same beliefs and fosters it because there are no outside beliefs that may change or challenge the current meaning of the beliefs already held. Being with people of the same faith engenders the same or similar beliefs, but it can become challenging in a situation of religious exile. McGuire explains that for exiles, they become cut off from members of their society but are also cut off from the social support for their meaning system. Ultimately, this means that there is less protection for the beliefs of the exile as well as less protection for the person. I had never thought about the idea of cutting someone off from a meaning system— it allows one to be exposed to other beliefs that may not align with their own, one can encounter different interpretations of those same beliefs, or they can also encounter ridicule for their beliefs. Having a homogenous group of people allows them to create a space where similar meanings are associated to their beliefs, ultimately allowing those beliefs to stay consistent.
The Spring, 2019 version of the University of Redlands’ Saints, Sects, and Society course has begun. Follow this space to see what our students are thinking and learning.
On Friday, March 31st, the Pakistani Taliban planted a bomb near a mosque in a northwestern city in Pakistan, Parachinar. The city is located in an area with a large Shia population. Twenty two people were killed and seventy people were wounded and needed to be hospitalized. The bomb was in a remote area, near the women’s entrance of a Shia mosque in the central bazaar. Before the bomb went off, gunfire was heard, so it is assumed that it was a suicide attempt. Now after this stunt, people in Afghanistan or anywhere in the surrounding area are afraid of terrorism targeting sectarian religion. Many people have been killed this past year due to hate for certain religions or ethnic groups in their country.
As we learn more about religion and what is composed of them, I’ beginning to realize how intense religion is for people. It’s a belief system, but it’s also something that can cause havoc and horror in some people’s lives. Because sectarian views are so specific and demanding, people are definitely not going to agree with them. It’s unfortunate though that these people who share these beliefs get punished for what they believe is correct.
This week was a very eventful one. On Monday we presented our congregation visits. It was truly fascinating to see the wide variety of differences, not only between the sectarian congregations and the denominational ones, but between the sectarian congregations and each other. The congregations held many positions on the spectrum between giant, loud services and very small congregations with no more than fifteen parishioners to their names. This highlighted an incredible diversity in the forms of religious worship.
On Wednesday we attended a symposium led by the teacher, which provided an interesting look at the religious lives of the catholic workers’ union and how their social activism tied into their methods of worship. This was a unique opportunity to learn more about an even more unique organization, and I greatly enjoyed the talk. The other two talks, while not as relevant to the class, were also interesting, and overall the symposium was an engaging event that I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to attend.
This next week the class is going to be discussing their religious interviews, and I can’t wait to see what people learned from the religious experts they chose to interview. I know that my interview, for one, gave me some fascinating insights into the life of the religious specialist and their worldview, and I greatly look forward to comparing what my interviewee said with what was learned by the rest of my classmates.
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.
I interviewed Dr. Mirci for my interview. He is Associate Professor, Department Co-chair in School of Education. He is ordained as deacon and then as priest.
When I was asking questions, the thing I thought interesting is his answer when I asked “what does it mean to be religious to you?”. I was kind of surprised when his expression became bitter. I wasn’t sure why for first, but then he said, “Being religious has negative aspect for me”. I asked him what does it mean by that, and he said the word “religious” for him has idea of thinking one’s religion is unique or superior one comparing to others. It sounds almost like churchly oriented group in religious organization. He said he will rather use the word “faithful”, not religious. Person who says that one is “religious” tend to have that way of view, which is not what Jesus is trying to do, he said. I think it is interesting because I thought that Roman Catholic, as religious organization, is churchly oriented, however he sees things more like denominational way. He also said that even people who are not “religious”, do not belong in religious organization, do not go church, or even do not believe in god can be “faithful”.
This past Wednesday the class attended a symposium in which our professor spoke about the spiritual narratives of the LA Catholic Workers. His talk was really fascinating to me. It was so inspiring to hear about what these Catholics are doing for their community. They were grounded in their identities as Catholics but were living out a mission that many Catholics do not, and that is to serve thy neighbor. My Catholic high school really focused on social justice as a central theme in our religion classes. During my senior year, I took a class called Peace Studies and learned the importance of social justice in my religion. Lately however, I have been surrounded by Catholics who are more focused on the rituals and beliefs. It was so interesting to hear the words of some of these Catholic Workers, who believed that serving others was a crucial, if not the most important, part of being a Catholic. Their religion was centered around taking care of others and I think this is the direction the Catholic Church should be heading. The LA Catholic Workers are living their religion in a very bold way and hearing their stories of working for justice made me very proud to be a Catholic.
This week, going to the Wellness Symposium: Spirituality, Social Justice and Disability was a very interesting experience. Going into the conference, I was glad that we had read the assigned articles because I felt that I already knew the background and was familiar with the study on Catholic Workers in Los Angeles. It was very interesting to see how it was presented and the other aspects that Jim drew from his research.
Although the three presenters that we saw all worked in somewhat different fields, there was still a sense of overlap between all of them. Between the presentation on mental health awareness and the creation of the Vibe festival, Jim’s work on social justice and the Catholic Workers, and the last presentation on social justice and aspects that contribute to it, they all played very well into one another, despite what I initially thought. What I took away from the panel we attended at the conference was that there must be active thought that goes into actions or activities in the pursuit of social justice. It is not the size of the actions, but the dedication on the part of those who are giving.
If one were to take elements from all three presentations; the thought and effort that was put into such an event like Vibe that acknowledges issues of mental health awareness, the selflessness and dedication of the Los Angeles Catholic Workers, and the four elements of social justice and spiritual freedom from the third presentation, then they can form a cohesive whole.