Last week the class presented their final congregation visits. Overall, the information presented was interesting and informative. Though this is true, it was especially difficult to hear about what happened at one of the student’s congregation visits. The student stated that at their visit a homeless individual was kicked out. It was stated that the situation became uncomfortable and became violent. It’s saddening hearing about these events. I was not personally present, so I cannot speak to the specifics of the situation but just the simple fact that it became such a scene and something that could be expressed as violent by the individual who observed it is upsetting. It is saddening that the remarks made were at the expense of the individual who was already being made such a spectacle of.
Other than this circumstance, the other congregation visit reports were interesting. Most individuals had great experiences. It is encouraging to hear that many of the congregations in Redlands are extremely inviting. Every student expressed a sense of feeling welcome and encouraged to attend once again. These congregation visits have been very useful in my opinion. They have shown all of the students that all of these varying religions can essentially create a similar feeling environment and similar mentalities in a broad aspect. They have personally shown me that attending these different congregations is not something to be scared of. I feel more empowered to continue looking into religion and possibly find what I may connect with.
This week I completed my interview with a religious specialist. I chose to interview an individual from the Center for Spiritual Living because with another class with professor Spickard we are required to intern with an organization that helps with homelessness. For my internship, I am interning with an organization based out of the Center. I also chose to do my last congregation visit with the Center for Spiritual Living because of the interest that I have generated while working with the organization.
My interview was done over the phone and it resulted in some informative information. I learned so much about the Center as a whole and its inner workings. Through this, I learned so much about how the religious specialist feels about doing what they do. I also discovered why and how they proceeded into this field. It is interesting interacting and conversing with someone so involved in a church. As I have previously stated, I do not know much about religion and I have never conversed with someone so involved in the church besides speaking to individuals about Freemasonry. I have spoken to individuals in length about being a Freemason and have read through some old documents. My recent phone interview sparked an interest and better understanding just as speaking about Freemasonry had previously.
All in all, speaking more in-depth with individuals so involved with organized religion allows me insight into a world that I am not familiar with. This is why the study of sociology and anthropology is so beneficial, it allows you understanding into a world and culture that you had never known before.
This week I completed my second congregation visit. It was unlike any experience I have had before and vastly different from my first congregation visit. It was welcoming and lively. Singing, dancing and playing musical instruments was a common thread throughout the whole service. The experience began much like my first congregation visit, with a song. It then led into a synopsis of what has been completed throughout the week and a description of the events to come followed by an explanation of the safe shelter for women and ways to help out. It was explained that the shelter was previously going to close on Sunday the 31st but the board of the church had decided to keep the shelter open for the women. Once the calendar was completed more songs were sung and then the visiting minister gave his sermon.
This day the power had gone out on the entire street, so they adapted and projected their voices and the visiting minister stood on the same level as the congregation and gave his sermon without the assistance of the projector or videos. The sermon was structured to make the members of the congregation feel as though they have a strong inner power and gave suggestions on how to build on that inner strength. All in all, the sermon was uplifting and centered around the personal self and the power we have to shape our own lives.
This week in the classroom we performed a Jigsaw activity. In this activity we were paired into groups and were instructed to read two articles, one assigned, and one chosen. My articles were Roger Finke’s “An Unsecular America” and Linda Woodhead’s “Gendering Secularization Theory”. Roger Finke’s “An Unsecular America” surrounded the topic of the traditional secularization model of the investable decay of religion. Finke highlights the aspects of this model that may pertain to Europe but not the United States. He explains that these contradictions may be in place for a few reasons. A few of the main reasons being that the US has a separation of church and state and religious regulations are not in place in the US. He uses data and statistics to strengthen his argument that the United States’ religious beliefs are not decaying.
In contrast, Linda Woodhead’s “Gendering Secularization Theory” is an argument stating that men and women in the US have drastically different experiences with religion. She states that when observing the decline in religious attendance, you must look at the data with the realization that men and women have left at varying rates. She states that this difference in the relationship with religion is based on the roles in the household and in the workplace that women have. She states that there are now three different types of women today. The ones who are stay at home moms, the ones who are focused on the workplace and the women who are in-between.
The question of the afterlife recently has come up a few times in my life. Recently my partner’s grandmother has come down with a mysterious illness and this has caused her to question what will come afterlife. Similarly, my father has been struggling with an illness for quite some time and he has pondered the same question. I have listened to both of their ideas what will come afterlife and they both varied greatly. My partner’s grandmother explained that she believes that afterlife she will go to heaven. When asked why she thinks this, she stated that this was because the Bible said so. She also explained that she is confused about how it would be because it is stated that heaven is a place in which there is no marriage. She went on to explain that we are not meant to know what comes after life and she believes that this is by design. When my father explains he believes of what comes after life, he describes a moment of darkness and peace followed by being born again. He states that he will most likely not be born again as a human but as a bird living in the trees of the tropics or as a dolphin jumping through the waves.
While listening to these two differing opinions is interesting, I believe that they are strongly attributed to a person’s religious beliefs. My boyfriend’s grandmother was a Christian in her twenties to late thirties who attended church consistently, while my father has attended a handful of services and mixes often between praying and practicing his own spiritual techniques.
This week was the week that I completed my first congregation visit and reported on it to the class. Almost all of the rest of the oral presentations on congregation visit number one was also completed. During my own congregation visit, I got a deeper understanding of how it feels to be a member of organized religion. It was very welcoming at this particular church. It felt as though I was new but overwhelmingly welcomed into their sacred space. Others during their presentations echoed this feeling of welcome while some felt the opposite. Some students felt awkward and out of place at their congregation visits. They stated that this may be due to the congregation’s sense of community and ability to mingle.
One presentation that intrigued me was the presentation on the experience at The First Church of Christ Scientist. I had never heard of such a congregation and it sounds like one unlike any other I know of. The presenter stated that this church doesn’t believe in doctors, they believe that healing comes from prayer. This is very interesting to me. I had heard years ago that this was one of the beliefs that Bob Marley held, but other than this case I had never heard of someone connecting with this. I also found it very interesting that this congregation believes that everything must be physically proven and that they do not believe in the devil or hell. Overall, every presentation recounting the information learned at these congregations was informative and eye-opening.
This past week in class we continued with our presentations of our readings. Being that I have no prior experience with organized religion, the teachings of the texts are ones that perplex and intrigue me. The idea of the new wave of churches is interesting in how they are attempting to appeal to a younger congregation. The tactic of bringing in popular music, art and a new presentation style of the church’s beliefs are interesting, and it makes me curious about how they came about. It is intriguing to me how almost every presentation has discussed how the congregations desire to bring in new members. It is conceptually obvious when looking at the necessity of the church to continue on but in almost every text it was presented in a business standpoint. I now understand that the organizations need to treat the church as a business but when first learning about this I was perplexed. It was almost shocking to hear that they are treated as a business, but I believe that this is due to my inexperience with churches and my idea of them as a whole.
This week has also been one of confusion due to the upcoming congregation visit. I have found myself worried about this visit due to my lack of experience with religion. I have found myself worried about things such as dress, how to behave and overall what to expect. I understand that I must go into the visit with a sociological mindset, which I presume will be easy due to my lack of understanding and lack of expectations of religion. Though this is true I also find myself worried about unintendedly being disrespectful or cold. Overall, this next week of class and experiences will be those of further understanding.
Religion as a form of community is a tie that can be made in the texts, lectures, and presentations. Religion was never a component of my personal life and this last month of the class had made me feel as though it is something that I may have missed out on. It has been expressed time after time that attending church can and does create a sense of community and a feeling of belonging. It makes me curious about the thoughts formed by children. While listening to the case studies it was presented how different churches preach different interpretations of the bible. This makes me wonder how the children growing up in these churches view the same topic. I wonder if they tend to only understand the side that the church presents or a multifaceted view of the topic. Throughout my readings, I have also wondered the amount of commitment to the church that is felt through its members.
While reading “A Mosaic of Believers” by Gerardo Marti, it was expressed that the pastor did not favor people who he viewed as shopping for a church. He expressed that a church was something that required time and dedication and felt that people should feel that pull to the church. It is interesting to me that this is a belief and I wonder if this is a commonly held belief. All in all, religious life, service, and routine is one that keeps me wondering.
While understanding religion and society through statistics we were presented with the Pew study that allows the access to a wide range of information. While reviewing the information I chose an emphasis initially on Illinois. While traveling and working throughout the United States building water parks, I had an opportunity to live in Burlington, Iowa for a month. While exploring the area I traveled across the Mississippi into Illinois. A short drive through farmland landed us at Nauvoo. This was the site of Mormon history. Because of my experience in this area I had a long-standing belief that Mormonism must be a commonality amongst a large population of individuals in Illinois. While looking at the Pew data it was discovered that my assumptions were unfounded. The statistics read that less than 1% of the population in Illinois is Mormon. This was shocking to me but while in class it was explained that the large population of Mormon individuals was such a long time ago and the population of Chicago, Illinois is so large and contains so many not native to Illinois that these factors are in play when reviewing the data.
Another aspect of the data in the Pew study in which I found interesting was the views on homosexuality. In instances such as Louisiana, 53% of individuals stated that they believe that homosexuality among adults should be accepted while only 42% stated that they are in favor of same-sex marriage among adults. This trend was also the case in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, California, New York, and Alabama. In fact, every state I had compared had these similarities of a higher percentage stating that homosexuality should be accepted over the amount stating that they believe in same-sex marriage. This is interesting because, in my opinion, this data depicts that individuals believe that they are okay with people in same-sex relationships if they do not get married.
This week in class we have discussed the definition of religion and the sociology of it. While peeling back the layers on the sociology of religion we have turned to texts to hear from the experts on the topic. As I delved into the readings many facts making up the religion and the sociology surrounding it have stuck out. According to Meredith B. McGuire in, Religion: The Social Context, “… sociologists have observed that upper-class persons are likely to belong to different Christian denominations than lower-class persons. In 1990, the median reported household income for Baptists and for Nazarenes was less than two-thirds that of Episcopalians and Unitarians” (7).
This is a factor of religion that I had never considered. This development creates curiosity as to why it is so. It can foreseeably be debated that this is due to the types of churches in each community. One place of worship being easily available by those in the community who share commonalities in socioeconomic status, creating these divides in the statistics. Though this can be argued, from my personal experience, working-class families often live a street away from upper-class families. This being said, it would debunk the notion that the religions are easily accessed by those of a similar socioeconomic status. I am curious that this is due to the comfortability of being surrounded by people similar to you or if this is due to being raised in the religion and economic status and continuing the pattern. Hopefully, during the semester these shocking facts will be addressed and attempted to be explained.