This week, we saw a presentation by Professor Spickard about Skidrow and the Los Angeles Catholic Workers. This presentation really opened my eyes to what religion can do in society. Too often, I see religious people not practicing what they preach. A lot of people pick and choose what they want to believe out of this holy scriptures and some use it as ammunition to oppress groups of people. The Los Angeles Catholic Workers do the opposite, they help those who can’t help themselves. They do it in the name of God, but they also feel that God acts through humans. To see some of the amazing work that they have done to change the lives of thousands of people that the rest of society just seems to forget about. I call this active religion, it’s not just going to church and trying to create a personal relationship to God. They create solutions to real world problems and actually make an impact on these people. No one is giving them award for doing these deeds, they just feel the pull to help. I personally don’t think that enough people go out of their way to help other people. One of the only quotes I know from the Bible is “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” and this is a concept more people need to internalize to make the world better for everyone, not just for one individual. The Los Angeles Catholic Workers embody what I believe active religion could create in the world, a more loving and caring place for everyone.
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Religion and Immigrants
This week I read Reproducing Ethnicity by Helen Rose Ebaugh and Janet Saltzman Chafetz. This article talks about how immigrant religious institutions provide a safe space which those who share the same traditions, customs and languages can come together. As immigrants adapt to the new culture of their surrounds, it helps to have little bits of tradition to help you feel grounded. It made me think about how I felt when I first came to the University of Redlands and although everyone was still speaking the same language around me, it was still a new environment. I had never moved before so it was a big step for me. I had to try and bring little pieces of home to make myself feel more comfortable. I imagine that finding that community within the church makes the transition easier. In many religions a home alter is a piece of the ritual so creating that space were someone can be with God in their own home, helps the transition. Another point the article made was the community immigrants find in the church also makes it easier to share these customs with their children. The rituals that are conducted at churches contribute to reproducing ethnic customs that are particular to different ethic groups. Food was one custom that was talked about in depth. Food can remind people of the past and where they came from and teaching the children to cook ethnic food brings them closer to their ethnic traditions. Immigrants find homes within the religious communities to keep their traditions alive.
Neil Gorsuch and Religion
Neil Gorsuch is Trump’s Supreme court nominee. Being a Supreme court judge is a live long position so if Neil does get Congress approval then he could be effecting our lives for many years to come. Both sides of the aisle though, have something against Gorsuch as reported by CNN. Gorsuch worships at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado and the church isn’t strictly conservative. It bars guns from its campus and installed solar panels and it condemns harsh rhetoric about Muslims and welcomes gays and lesbians. Some conservative congressmen feel that Gorsuch’s religious ideals don’t aline with what they want. Bryan Fischer, a host on the American Family Radio Network. stated, “Be advised, Gorsuch attends a church that is rabidly pro-gay, pro-Muslim, pro-green, and anti-Trump.” On the other side of the aisle, democrats are calling Gorsuch on religious freedoms and his take on the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby Stores. The case was about if Hobby Lobby had to provide health insurance that covered contraceptive to their employees. The owners of Hobby Lobby are religious and feel that they shouldn’t be forced to provide contraceptive if they don’t believe in it. Gorsuch states that “All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others. For some, religion provides an essential source of guidance both about what constitutes wrongful conduct and the degree to which those who assist others in committing wrongful conduct themselves bear moral culpability.” Basically, Gorsuch feels that some beliefs are religious, and protected; other beliefs on the very same issues are secular, and should be brushed aside.
Secularization in America
This week the class discussed the Secularization theory, with a focus on the United States and Europe. Secularization is the theory that religion is in decline due to modernization, urbanization and regulation of religion. In Finke’s article, he argues that America is actually unsecular and religion has been steady since 1926. There is no evidence that religion in the United States is in decline. In fact strict and demanding churches have been experiencing a period of growth since 1972. The could be due to people searching for a community and answers. Strict churches dictate majority of things in peoples lives. As the world becomes more uncertain, people crave the stability that a strict church can provide. The only churches that have been experiencing a decline in membership are the liberal and modern churches. This is probably due to people finding other communities and no longer needing a church to be that outlet. Religion in the United States is different from many other countries because of separation of church and state. This mens that there isn’t a set definition of what a church is. The start-up cost of a church in America is so low compared to other countries, that people can create their own church. People in America are making their own religions or spinning off existing religions so that fits their needs. American religion is not declining due to secularization, in fact, the numbers so that the rate of religious people in urban areas never falls below that of the surrounding suburbs.
Discrimination in Religion Against Women
In America there is a picture that is painted stating that Islamic religion discriminates heavily against women, but is it the only religion that does so? Graham Perrett, a writer for the Huffington Post, dives into the question, are other religions promoting inequality among gender? He claims that discrimination against women in religion is so embedded that many men don’t even see it as inequality. They feel that it is simply the way religion has always and is supposed to be done. In the Catholic church there are many places were the discrimination shows such as; women had to cover their head with a mantilla, girls can not be alter servers, boys can avoid politely shaking the hand of a woman at a formal functions and women cannot be priests only nuns. In Orthodox Judaism, some believe that women cannot talk to god and only men get to go to heaven unless the women is brought to heaven by her man. It is unfair to point the finger at Islam and say that they do not treat women fairly when many religions do. Although, the role of women in churches has slowly become prominent, and religion is catching up to social norms. An example of this is some churches allowing women to give sermons, or giving the chance for a young girl to be an alter server. It is important to see these inequalities in all religions and address them as inequalities, instead of the norms of religion life.
Changing Religious Landscape
It seems with our current president, many people talk about the “good old days” and about “making America great again.” This makes me think if America isn’t great now, and what made it great before. In the religious sense, these people seem to long for a time when everyone went to church and had the same ideas about the world around them. This has become more difficult to do due to mass media and the internet. The whole world of information is available with the internet and news, so people see many different views from around the world. In the “good old days” people only focused on their lives and their community because there wasn’t much else from the outside. Today, people can see pictures and get differing opinions first hand from people all around the world. People feel threatened by the pluralism because they feel it calls their beliefs into question. I would also argue that the times that these people are dreaming of, were not all that they promise to be. Many people and churches didn’t accept gay marriage or women’s rights.So, it was great to be a white heterosexual man, but other then that, you were considered less of a person. Personally, I do not want to go back to a time were rational thinking did not prevail and patriarchy ruled. Religion in the United States is shifting not dissappering, and people should embrace the change. I’m not saying that they should stop believing in their faith, but they should open themselves up to pluralism and accept others faiths.
Looking at Other Religions
Religion and spirituality are a huge part of human existence. Many people feel that each individual person should be allowed to choose what they want to believe and how they worship. What if, however, part of the religion was say eating a cooked bit of human brain? Reza Aslan, host of “Believer” on CNN did just that. Aslan goes around the world and studies different religious practices from many different people. Aslan meets up with a sect of Indian religious nomads outside the city of Varanasi in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The Aghori, as they are known, reject the Hindu caste system and continue to bathe in Ganges, a river that Hindus considers sacred. An Aghori guru smears the ashes of cremated humans on his face and then invites Aslan to drink alcohol from a human skull and eats what was a bit of human brain. Aslan got lots of backlash from the premier of this episode from both Indians and Americans. “With multiple reports of hate-fueled attacks against people of Indian origin from across the U.S., the show characterizes Hinduism as cannibalistic, which is a bizarre way of looking at the third largest religion in the world,” lobbyist group U.S Indian Political Action Committees. From one Americans point of view is, “It is unbelievably callous and reckless of CNN to be pushing sensational and grotesque images of bearded brown men and their morbid and deathly religion at a time when the United States is living through a period of unprecedented concern and fear,” Vamsee Juluri, a media studies professor at the University of San Francisco. Do we accept another religion even if it involves things that make us feel uncomfortable?
The younger generation is changing the landscapes of churches by bringing in new ideas of what church could be. This was shown in Reinventing American Protestantism and a Mosaic of Believers. Our generation wants more out of church then just sitting and listening to a person preach. We want to modernize the idea of church, we want to be creative and look at the Bible in a different light. Most churches don’t really like change but these modern churches are adapting to the constant change of modern society. In Sandals, they play loud rock music and dance. These types of churches are either exactly the kind of church you’ve been looking for, or it turns you away completely. For some, it does not seem formal enough to feel like worship. For others it is exactly the kind of worship they have been craving, one that isn’t as stuffy. It seems to shut out much of the older generation because it is so different from normal church worship. The older generation doesn’t seem to connect to the music or the creative side these churches bring in. I don’t feel that this new way of worship will eliminate traditional worship, but I think churches have to accept and implement some of the new ideas so they can attract the younger generation that hasn’t been coming in to fill the pews. Our generation is redefining what church is and it will be interesting to see where churches like Sandals goes in the future.
Conservatives Want Religion on Classroom Walls
According to the Huffington Post, due the conformation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education, the Council for National Policy (CNP) released a document recommending DeVos to promote “Judeo-Christian principles” in American public schools. This basically means that public schools would put the Ten commandments on the walls, implementing bible study, and teaching US and world history “from the Judeo-Christian perspective” for middle school and high school history. This a violation of separation of church and state, but that is not the issue that I have with the CNP’s recommendation. Religion is a big part of many peoples lives and I understand that they want their children to learn about it, but my problem is that it can’t just be taught with a Judeo-Christian lens. If the CNP wants to put religion into schools then they should have to put all religion into schools. Children in America should be taught all religions on an equal playing field so they can be informed and make the decision of which one they want to identify with on their own. If DeVos goes through with the CNP’s suggestion then it would put a bias on the children of which religion they join because they only learned about one in school. The CNP are also wanting to tell history from the Judeo-Christian perspective which isn’t as objective as normal history classes. Overall, I would welcome the idea of teaching world religions to the younger generation but to promote tolerance of each others religions, not just telling the story from one side.
Religion and Structure
There seems to be a pattern in what draws people to a religion, especially the more conservative ones. Many people who flocked to a religion are trying to find structure in their lives. This was shown in Tradition in a Rootless World. In Tradition in a Rootless World the women in the book were seeking conformation that their traditional roles are not being complete lost to the feminist movement. Orthodox Jews have a very traditional view of a women’s role, meaning they believe that a women’s duty is to become wife and a mother and take care of the household. These women felt isolated and were confused about their gender roles in the new womens landscape. These women as Orthodox Jews. were trying to find something that is bigger than themselves and find structure that can help them with their everyday lives and actions. Once people get out of institutions like schools, they start to feel lost or feel like they have a lack of purpose. It becomes harder to meet people and find a community when you step out into the world on your own. People start to look for other places of structure and people find religion to guide them. Due to the strict nature of Orthodox Jews, their religion effects every aspect of their lives, from what they eat to how they should feel about things in the changing world around them. Religion provides structure in a time the world seems to be in disarray and people crave that structure.