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.
In so many headlines Monday morning, appeared the news that The Notre dame Cathedral in France was burning. This building is not just a historical monument but a relic of history. It holds so many religious artifacts and is so important to the catholic religion. I never thought I would see the day when such an important artifact would become a devastation. Considering the French government was spending so much money on the remodeling of the building, it is crazy to see that through its renovation, would something so terrible happen. People everywhere were talking about it and had so many emotions, and this shows that places of religion hold a place with us whether we practice religion or not. It is a large part of our culture, society, and history and in times like these, when trgedy strikes is when we appreciate it the most. The cathedral held so many religious artifacts that were created and the 13th and 14th centuries, and have stood the test of time thus far. The cathedral windows themselves have stained class images of religious figures like Jesus and the Virgin Mary, and all of it takes part in maintaining the history we have of these ideals and being able to preserve it all for the generations to come. I think it’s amazing how so many countries could come together in regards to this tragedy and offer up so many words of respect toward it whether it be their countries primary religion or not. Though people have the idea that sometimes, religion can create political and social issues, in some aspects it can also create a space for respect for one another and their beliefs.
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.
Today, when I logged onto social media or went for lunch in the Plaza, the news of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral was everywhere. Although I am not Catholic, I’ve been thinking about it all day, and as it’s been tugging at my heartstrings, I felt compelled to write about it in my blog.
As we’ve gone through the semester and studied the impact of religion on society, I feel that this devastating event has illustrated some of the things we have learned. I’ve seen people of all faiths post how saddened they are by this loss of our collective history. I’ve read about crowds of people who gathered outside of the Cathedral and mourned the loss of it together, hugging one another and singing hymns. The original Cathedral was built some 800 years ago, and it has since become one of the most important landmarks, not only in France, but to the Catholic faith in general. It contains many relics and many still attend mass there. It has been a place of worship for many generations, and it is considered an important part of religious and human history, especially for Catholics, but seemingly for all Christians. It represents past and current religious/spiritual experience and ritual, and contains relics which are sacred to the Christian story, belief, and history.
Unfortunate as this tragedy is, it just goes to show how it can bring people together. It has illustrated to me the communal aspect of religion and how it functions in society to allow for shared experiences, past and present. The Notre Dame Cathedral represents this community, faith, and shared experience that religion has allowed for hundreds of years (and beyond that- thousands, millions maybe). It allows us to not only continue to share these feelings and experiences with those currently around us, but it gives us a way to connect with our ancestors.
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, I made a decision that will greatly impact my future and education. I decided to serve a full-time proselytizing mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As someone who considers myself to be a more reclusive academic, this decision came as a surprise to many people. I am the only member of the Church in my family, my choice to go on a mission was difficult for my parents to understand, but they are supportive of my decision. I would like to attribute part of my decision to go on a mission to this course. My comfort zone is to learn from a classroom setting, film, or books. Field work is extremely out of my element. When I first considered a mission back in September of 2018, I quickly dismissed it, knowing how uncomfortable I am in social situations. However, this class forced me out of my comfort zone by asking me to go to congregations and religious specialists and talk to those I meet. If it was possible to fake doing these assignments, I promise I would have. However I could not see a way to do that, so I was forced to socialize and communicate with strangers. My heart was always pounding before my visits and interview, but I pushed forward, knowing how important these experiences were to my learning in this course.
Moving forward with my mission has happened in a similar way. I am scared beyond belief. Proselytizing is far out of my comfort zone. However, I know that this will help me to learn and grow both as a person of faith and an academic. I plan on applying to do a Graduate Degree in LDS Theology after my time here at the University of Redlands, and nothing will teach me this subject better than serving a mission. I am very excited for this next stage of my life and for the opportunity I will have to observe the differences in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world.
Going to different congregations has helped everyone open their mind to different religions and given us this open idea of how religion works and how its very similar for different groups of people. Visiting a christian and mormon church has given me different perspectives for each but as per say very different perspectives compared to someone who went to a buddhist church. What i realized when we were watching others present was that everything is very similar to the next place and how we found some things weird and some not. Everyone is going to compare the 2nd church they go to with the first church or a church they went to when they were a child. Having a sociological imagination compared to a closed mindset can change how we view everything within a church or within life itself. We can relate what we learned at church to something in our real life even though every single person is going through different things and going to go different ways from others. Some accept the message they learned while others immediatly do the opposite of what they were told to do. Everything is a choice and the way we chose what we do is how we will be viewed by outsiders. If you proclaim to be a christian, then do things christians would do. Being hypocritical just makes it harder for people to view you the way you want. Only we know ourselves better then anyone else, but others just see what we do based on our choices. You may not have wanted to steal that candy bar but if the person behind you saw it, he is going to view you as a stealer. Eveything in life is based on a social construct and how society tends to view people so put out something you are proud for others to see and talk about.
This week the center of our studies was on ethnographies. Ethnographies are interesting to me because, while I believe they can sometimes provide highly valuable insight in ways that other forms of research can’t, they are also very subjective and extremely sensitive. It is extremely difficult for someone to observe a culture that is not their own, for someone to come in as an outsider and expect to make accurate conclusions about what a group of people is like without a deep understanding. While it is true that indigenous studies have biases of their own because it is often difficult for people who live within a culture to examine their culture from an outside perspective, cross-cultural studies pose equally difficult challenges and have just as many biases because they often misinterpret or do not accurately convey the complexities of the the culture it is trying to examine. It is commonly believed that enthotheories provide a more objectionable perspective of a culture, but this is not true because ethnographies are reliant on the perspective of the observer, and everyone’s perspective is objective. Therefore, perhaps the most accurate way to make any conclusion about cross-cultural studies is to look at a variety of perspectives. This was something that was discussed in the lecture that I found very valuable. The more voices and perspectives that are included in the discussion, the better and clearer the picture becomes. When all people are invited to the discussion we get a more well-rounded, complete understanding of what is being examined. That is why diversity of thought is so important.
The article “What the Bible Says about Secrets,” by James Martin explains how privacy is described and illustrated in the Bible and the way people have interpreted that. Martin mentions how one of the first interventions of God into human history relates to privacy when Adam and Eve are naked and clothe themselves with fig leaves and hide for privacy. There are many interpretations of various Bible verses regarding privacy but it is not specifically addressed frequently.
People also use privacy in their relationship and practices of religion. Many spirituals recommend a private relationship with God “over and against more public displays of piety.” This includes praying in secret and to one’s self. Yet, at the same time, it is said in the Bible by Jesus, ” What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what is whispered in your ear, proclaim to the housetops.” This can send a confusing and unclear message to people. People that do believe you should be public about your beliefs include the notion that one should expose people taking part in “works of darkness.” It is described that privacy is actually equated to darkness.
I find it interesting how one can juggle the task of having a private relationship with God but also being public and vocal about his message and morals to other people. I’m curious as to how people maintain that private relationship whilst fulfilling what they believe to be their duties as a Christian.
This week in class we learned about ethnography and its role in the field of sociology. Ethnography is the study of people and cultures that is conducted from within the culture. The study examines the meaning systems of a group without judgement. The idea behind ethnography is for an ethnographer to recognize that they have inherent bias, and for the ethnographer to do their best to set aside this bias as they study different cultures. However, the benefit of inherent bias in ethnography is that when multiple ethnographies written by different ethnographer with different inherent biases are compared, new things can be learned about the culture studied as different viewpoints will emphasize different aspects of culture. So when multiple ethnographies are written about the same culture, the end result is a wider pool of information. Therefore, it is important to continue to study cultures that have already been observed, because there is always more that can be learned. Ethnography is one of the most informative, but also controversial aspects of sociology.