This past week in class was the final week of in-class lectures and we focused on bringing together everything that was learned in class and listened to everyone’s religious specialist’s reports. These reports have helped me to conclude the learnings of the class and to see the depth in which they apply to the world. All of the people that were interviewed were very different from each other despite all being in the same town. These are people who all live in the same town as each but have very different views on life and different goals and experiences from life. These differences in perspective helped me to see the differences in leaders themselves. In both their method’s of leading and their reason’s for leading. Some see it as a calling from God while some see it as the path their life took them. Whatever the reason, each of the leader’s experience something that enhances their life. Either through the work that they do with those in the congregations, in the work that they do with their own faith and connection with God or another aspect of their job, their lives are uplifted by their work. Seeing these connections to their religion showed me that humans seek something to fulfill a part of their life that has meaning. As a person, one seeks to feel as though what they are doing is important and for religious leaders, their work in their religion is that link to the importance that they felt that they were otherwise missing in life.
Last week we dove in a little deeper into what being an ethnographer is. Ethnography is the writings about people, it is when you investigate peoples lives, usually a group and then you write about those lives to represent them to other people. This semester we’ve become little mini ethnographers. We’ve done this through our two congregation visits and our interview with a religious specialist. We brought the knowledge that we learned on those visits and and shared it with the class so we could all acquire the knowledge of each individual congregation in Redlands. I was driving around town this weekend and I kept passing so many of the congregations that had been talked about in the last congregation visit as well as the first one. I feel like those presentations and those visits have brought us closer to the community of Redlands and have made us more knowledgeable about the place in which we currently live. I think that’s kind of the point of ethnography and sociology to learn about society share it with others and then grow from it and learn from it.
This weekend I also went to go visit my sisters who were in town for Coachella so I drove about an hour to their Airbnb to see them. On the way down I was driving on the freeway and I passed a church with the sign Calvary Chapel. The name of the church just stood out to me automatically because I remember learning about it in one of the books that a group taught the class. So even though that group didn’t go out and do the ethnography themselves, they were still able to come back and teach us what someone else had learned. Everything that other classmates have taught me this semester and everything I’ve learned through the lectures I believe will stay with me throughout my years here. Religion is constantly changing and ethnography and the sociology of religion is an amazing tool and an amazing way for us to learn about it. As this semester comes to a close I just wanted to mention how I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this class and how all of the concepts will stick with me as I learn about other religions and religion in America.
This past week we learned about the ways that sociologist conduct ethnographic research. Learning about this content has helped me to see the importance of research and it can benefit our society. There are so many differences between different groups of people. Being able to understand the way that people function helps one to be able to bridge the gap between themselves. In a society that is changing quite rapidly due to globalization, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to understand the worldview of those around us. While in the past there have always been different communities and viewpoints within a single town, nowadays there are even more, that differ more drastically. There are more people who have grown up in different cities that are very far apart. The ability to put away one’s biases and work to see a different worldview is something that will help to bring our society to a different level.
The discussion on viewpoint and how people are limited by who they were born as their experiences. This was something that I had not thought of before. This embraces how important it is for people to discuss their opinions and foundings because everyone comes from a different perspective and different status. There is no way to be able to see an entire picture as one person without taking the time to learn and accept how other people see the world. This applies to both the way that the sociologists need to work but also people seeking to understand those in the community better.
This past week we discussed the remaining narratives about the future of religion, religion as a market and the globalization of religion. I found discussing the globalization of religion as particularly striking because of the way that I was raised in a highly globalized society. My father works as a professor at the National University of Singapore and specializes in research on family firms among other topics. In his research, he has worked with many other people all over the world, so it is not uncommon to hear him on a conference call at 6 am in the living room in order to fit everyone’s schedule in different time zones. Learning about how with globalization, religion is changing to fit this new world was a narrative that I was easily able to accept and conceptualized based on what I’ve seen. Many of my friends remained in close contact with those of their home town and religious community. There were many times in which friends would go home on public holiday’s for the day to celebrate the religious holiday with their family. Discussion on religion is one that is commonplace and done in a way that is very respectful of other’s beliefs and done in order to learn.
Religion is being shaped in a way that it is no longer confined to one’s home or congregation, it is able to travel across borders and become stronger through interaction and connection. It was interesting to be able to learn about the different ways that the globalization of religion is classified and other ways that it is being affected outside of my personal experience.
This week we were doing the jigsaws in class with different articles exploring the different narratives for the future of religion. We discussed the narratives ‘Is religion becoming militantly conservative’ and ‘Is religion become more individualized’. Sharing the two different articles for these narratives is interesting in their comparison. One argument is that religion is returning back to its fundamentals and the other is that religion is straying from its fundamentals. Both of these theories exist simultaneously and that shows the complexity of religion. Personally, as a Wiccan, I understood the argument for religion becoming more personalized better. This is how I have found my own personal religion in that I was able to personalize my beliefs and find something that worked for me due to the flexibility that Wicca provides.
While learning about the return to fundamentalism in religion, it was harder for me to understand why people move towards this movement of religion. The article I read that explained the concepts of fundamentalism and why people are attracted towards in today’s world. This article helped me to understand why people seek out stability in religion this way. Learning about the different ways that people seek out religion and how that affects the future of religion as a whole has helped me to develop a more well-rounded view of the diversity of people in the world.
This weekend I went to visit Redlands New Life Church (RNL). Seeing this church after seeing the University United Methodist Church (UUM) was interesting because they were very different churches but had a similar structure to each other. Both were very welcoming churches that focused on fostering community as both had elements where people in the church were able to get together and create shared experiences. The service at University Methodist Church was more formal everyone was dressed formally. Redlands New Life Church was more informal, with those attending wearing jeans and the pastor was wearing a t-shirt and a suit jacket. Both congregations had an emphasis on connecting to God through song but UUM sang more traditional songs from the hymnal along to a piano and guitar, and RNL sang modern songs with a guitar, piano, drum set, and bass. From my observations, both groups connected to the songs in the same way but used very different songs to do so.
This past week in class we have discussed the six socialogical narratives about the future of religion. It is interesting to see the different theories that are presented based on the same studies. Given that everyone is looking at trends that exist in the world and coming up with many different theories based on it. Learning about this has made me see the complexity of the religious landscape that all these trends can be observed. There is no concrete analysis of religion as there are so many different people who all experience religion differently.
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.
Recently I have found myself stuck on what to blog or reflect on. I wanted to talk about my experience when I went back home to my Church after months of not going and the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church, but didn’t know how to go about it. So, ultimately I’ve had writers block for this blog even after studying for the midterm and reading the chapters. But then, last weekend (3/15) I was in Virginia for a Mock Trial competition from Friday to Monday. We landed at the Dulles airport and then had to drive two hours to Richmond, Virginia where the competition actually was. Driving down one of the roads someone in the car commented about all the Churches we were passing, and then I started paying attention to what they were. Many of them were Christian, being in Southeast America that wasn’t very surprising. But, there were also many other religions evident which kind of surprised me. We passed by a Sikh temple and I recalled the time I visited a Sikh temple for my religion class my senior year of high school. We also passed a beautiful temple of some sort but, I couldn’t find the name on the outside. As we passed by all of these religious buildings and Center’s of people’s faiths and beliefs it got me thinking about this class and everything we’ve learned about in regards to the importance of religion for some and changing religion.
Religion comes in many forms and it is not a “one size fits all” scenario. Whether one is religious or spiritual, there is a changing dynamic in what people are looking for and in America today. Examining religion through the sociological perspective as we have been doing has been eye opening to see how deeply religion truly affects people and their way of life. Religion provides a community, experience, and beliefs for people to help them intertwine these with society as a whole. I’ve been enjoying what we are learning about in this class as it has also made me more aware of religion around me.
During Spring break I was able to experience lived religion as I was approached by someone who was walking telling people about her church and how she was saved by God. She told me about how she used to take drugs and drink a lot but when she started going to the church she was able to turn her life around and become a better person. After she explained that she asked me if I would join her in a prayer for my salvation and to say thanks to God. I declined the offer but I could tell that she wanted to help me be saved the same way that she was. Her church provided her with a way to take control of her life and feel safe and she wanted to pass that on to others.
Having this experience allowed me to see in person how religion affects some and how they want to spread this to others. It is always interesting to experience people who want to share their religion because I am used to religion being personal and people not wanting to share their experiences with others. Seeing the difference between what I am used to and what I experienced makes me wonder what the difference is between how the persons are relating to their religion and what makes them want to have this difference.
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.