All posts by Marina

Church and State

The presence of religion in politics and questioning of its presence has been a relevant issue in American politics for some time now with the rise of the religious right movement. The religious right and the Republican party’s platform were thought to have truly aligned with one another in response to the many social liberation movements that stemmed from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. An issue that has remained relevant throughout the decades of religious and political discourse is abortion. In chapter 8 of Chaves’ American Religion, he discusses the controversial presence of religion in politics and vice versa. Chaves writes, “A second cause of the increasingly tight connection between religious service attendance and some kinds of social and political conservatism is that people have been changing their religion to match their political and social views.” (pg. 104). With recent shifting bipartisan political tensions, many people have been looking to and relying more on the views of those that are of the same religious affiliation. Some individuals who do not have a clear stance on a political issue may look to the views of their religious organization for clarification on what “their people” believe. On the other hand, there has also been an increase of some individuals who abandon or even discredit their childhood or previous religious affiliation because their views on social and political issues do not align. Because of political and social tensions that many religious organizations show their stances on, the lines of the political and the religious often blur, which can be especially worrisome when these religious political stances are preached by individuals in high public offices.

Unspoken Boundaries

There have been many controversies surrounding the Catholic church and allegations of sexual abuse by prominent clergymen spanning across countries, many of them from decades earlier, so who is to say what has yet to be revealed. In an article for The Guardian on Monday February 6th, Melissa Davey wrote on yet another instance of sexual abuse allegations, this time by an Australian cardinal, George Pell. Davey writes that Australian police “have been investigating allegations that Pell exposed himself to three young boys at Torquay life-saving club in Victoria in the summer of 1986-1987” (Davey, The Guardian, 2/6/17). Pell has continued to reject all allegations of sexual abuse brought against him, and has willingly participated in police interviews after they traveled to the Vatican to find him where Pell manages the Vatican’s finances. Additional allegations against Pell include him repeatedly touching former St. Alipius students’ genitals while swimming with them in Ballarat in 1978-1979. In chapter 6 of McGuire, she writes on some of the boundaries between members of an official religion and those deemed as “outsiders”. This boundary presents itself in many of the workings of the Catholic church, including these pedophilia and sexual assault controversies because by looking at the dates, one can interpret that there must have been at least an inkling of previous knowledge during these occurrences. But nothing was said until fairly recently, perhaps because of the generally clear boundaries that the Catholic church declared “their business”, and what should be told to outsiders. Until people started to come forward and break the previously set boundaries by the church, the public was ignorant to what was truly happening behind closed doors.

Exclusivity in Religious Organizations

In certain groups, there always seems to be a separatist mentality, one that distinguishes members from non-members, insiders from outsiders and the such. In chapter six of McGuire, she touches on conflicts with outsiders and boundaries between religious groups and the supposed outsiders. The dichotomy that McGuire presents in religious communities of an “in-group” and outsiders seems to be present in many of the more intense and sectarian religious communities which intimidate those on the outside. Although the exclusivity of certain religious communities and organizations function well for the power dynamic and hierarchy of the organization, how can they expect to gain more members? Or do they even wish to have new members if they are so closed off, anyhow? McGuire states, “‘Born-again’ Christians consider their religious experience an important distinction between themselves and others, and their ways of witnessing to their special experience of being ‘born again’ symbolize this difference.” (pg. 204). To some exclusive forms of religion, these distinctions are extremely important, and as we saw in class last week in watching “Born Again”, it is also very important for such individuals to impose their own beliefs on others. In the film, we saw the beliefs and the extremes that some born again individuals go to in trying to persuade others to convert to their own beliefs. Seeing the pressure that one of the born again members put on his brother who had not converted or found Jesus as his personal savior, seems to me to be intrinsically wrong. Although I believe that everyone should have their right to worship and believe whatever it is that works for them, being pushed in to converting to a religion like Ted was by his brother does not seem like and personal religious decision, and more that of appeasement.

Gorsuch Nominated to Take Seat of Late Justice Scalia

As the presence of religion in politics remains relevant in today’s America, hot button issues such as abortion are still hotly debated by many religious right activists. In chapter 8 Chaves writes on the polarization of political parties in response to more extreme religious ideologies felt by the Republican party. The polarization and the presence of the religious right remains extremely relevant today, especially with decades old issues still being fought over. With the knowledge that these issues will continue to be fought over, the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and whomever fills that seat will have great influence over whether conservative Republican party will stand strong with their power in a Drumpf society. It has been announced that Drumpf nominated Neil M. Gorsuch as his pick to fill the late Scalia’s seat. In David G. Savage’s piece, In Mold of Scalia, His Hero for the L.A. Times, he states, “The conservative jurist is best known for upholding religious liberty rights in the legal battles over Obamacare.”. Knowing his stances on protecting religious freedoms in the past gives us insight to his priorites, such as The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, a case that granted The Little Sisters their religious liberty in abstaining from providing birth control as according the Obamacare regulations, makes . It will be interesting to see how his reputation for protecting religious freedoms and liberties unfold, especially considering the restrictions brought against Muslims from Drumpf’s newly employed Muslim ban. Will Gorsuch stand by his reputation of protecting religious freedoms, or does that only occur when offenses against his own faith or present?


New as Nonofficial

Distinguishing between official and nonofficial religions at first may seem simple, however there are many different factors that go into making those distinctions. The term “nonofficial religion” does not sit well with me, simply because I believe that there are endless ways in which an individual can show their reverence.  Although official religious traditions and staples make it appear that there most definitely is a way in which to live one’s life according to their religion, and display their religiosity, there are countless different ways in which people worship. No matter the size or spectacle of a religious act, an individual’s beliefs are valid. Skepticism and judgement of different and less known “nonofficial”religions are present in many different sects and denominations of official religions, who may look down on the small scale and unorganized religious beliefs of others. For centuries beliefs and rituals that did not fit the status quo of the dominant religion were invalidated and claimed as heretical, feared and therefore persecuted. What is so often forgotten in regards to “official vs. nonofficial religions” is that dominant religions such as Christianity were once persecuted and thought of heresy just as many new nonofficial and untraditional religions of today. In chapter 5, McGuire quotes Emile Durkheim, stating, “It is life itself, and not a dead past which can produce a living cult.” (pg. 186). The liveliness and unique aspects of new religious beliefs and sentiments should be celebrated, no matter if official religions choose to accept them as religions, or cast them aside as a new spiritual youth trend. Differences between official, nonofficial, old, and new religions, no matter their status should be respected and validated.

Trump’s Appeal to the Religious Right

In an article written by Jerome Socolovsky and Emily McFarlan Miller for Religion News Service, the manner in which Donald Trump’s inauguration is addressed. One aspect among many that was unusual for an inauguration was Trump’s insistence on various clergy members; six clergy members—more than any other inauguration before—participated in the spectacle, offering different prayers and readings. Along with the overwhelming amount of clergy members participating in Trumps swearing-in ceremony, he also made the decision to place his hand on two bibles while taking the oath of office. Both bibles made for interesting choices; one of them being a family bible and the other the Lincoln bible, borrowed from the Library of Congress. Trump’s use of a family bible may seem surprising to some, considering how little information he has presented to the public about his own religious beliefs. However, the morning of the inauguration, Trump made a special point of attending a church service in what may be interpreted as a show of solidarity with his voters, most of whom are conservative members of the religious right. Countless religious Trump supporters were ecstatic for his inauguration, and found the ceremony especially customized to their religious standards when “…he briefly quoted Scripture, drawing on Psalm 133: ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!'” (Socolovsky and McFarlan Miller, 1/20/17). Whatever Trump’s religious identity may be, his use of such an extravagant number of clergy members seemed to point to compensation on his part. if Trump can appease and maintain the idealization from his supporters—56% of whom attend religious services weekly—it can easily be assumed that he will keep them happy and feeling secure in their religiosity in whatever ways he can (Pew Research Center,

Growing Children and Official Religious Teachings

In chapter 4, McGuire assesses official and unofficial religion and different interpretations of what the former entails. An aspect that is addressed is the importance of children’s socialization in terms of learning about or becoming part of a religion. Growing children in religious communities learn what it means to be a member of a religious community or organization through information that has trickled down to their level from interpretations of superiors and elders within the religion’s hierarchy. How can a religion, or a certain interpretation of what a religion means be authenticated when it is all a subjective matter of opinion? Just as literature can be interpreted and analyzed to find different meanings by different people and audiences, so can many of the fables and stories from religious texts be found to mean different things in different contexts. Because of different interpretations found by varying audiences, how can religious teachings be considered “official” if they are taught in variety of ways? As McGuire quotes from one woman who states, “I was in my thirties before I realized that a lot of the stuff I learned about religion in grad school wasn’t the official church teaching.” (pg. 105), teaching styles vary. It seems as though many individuals who were raised as members of an official religion fall out of touch with their religiosity once they are allowed the opportunity to make their own life choices. Although this certainly is not the case with all people, it appears that a child’s first impression of religion as an enforced part of their life causing them to lose touch with the faith of their parents later in life. McGuire presents high proportions of Americans who believe that, “…the individual ‘should arrive at his or her religious beliefs independent of any church of synagogue’” (pg. 106). Perhaps if children determine which religion, if any at all, suits them as they grow and mature, they might feel as if they are making their own choices, instead of being forced to follow their parent’s religious beliefs.

Iraqi Muslim Shows Solidarity with Christian Community

In an article posted by Corey Barnett on the website World Religion News, the inspiring actions of a young Iraqi Muslim man are highlighted. While visiting one of the Christian churches in Mosul that was destroyed by ISIS, Marwan was struck by the horrific site left behind by the terrorists. To show solidarity and support of persecuted Christians in Iraq–among other places–Marwan built a makeshift cross out of metal scraps that remained among the debris of the destroyed church. Marwan wanted to be sure to spread his support and the message that ISIS does not represent Islam at all, and their actions are un-Islamic. With so much fear and violence rampant in the world, Marwan wanted to be sure that his love and support of people of all religiosities was spread; he denounced the violence of ISIS and their destruction of “the signs and the icons of his Christian friends, his Christian compatriots, his Christian neighbors.” by displaying the cross he made with the reclaimed debris. To spread this message even further, a video depicting Marwan’s act of solidarity was posted to Instagram by the Preemptive Love Coalition, a charity organization based in Iraq (Barnett, World Religion News, 1/17/17). In times of violence and unrest, acts of solidarity and compassion such as Marwan’s are ways to fight against terrorism perpetuated by ISIS whose actions do not portray true Islamic beliefs.

Changing Perspectives of Coming of Age Traditions

If interpretations of how and when a child becomes an adult—both biologically and socially—have changed in fairly recent generations, what might the socially accepted definition of “adulthood” be in future post-modern generations? What does it mean for the state of religious traditions and rites of passage, that for so long have determined one’s entrance into the adult world, if they are no longer considered indicative of an “official” adult within the greater modern society? Today, outside of religious communities it seems as though there is not one definitive age in which someone becomes an adult; instead, there are various stages in life in which someone may be considered an adult, depending on the perspective. In the U.S. some may consider someone as an adult when they reach legal age at 18 years old, or may not consider them an adult until they reach 21 and are permitted to drink alcohol. Even then, some may not be considered an adult until their mid-twenties. Being that many laws and ideas of adulthood stem from biblical interpretations and religious rites of passages, it is clear that what previously determined an individual as an adult has shifted, even within religious communities that continue to go through with rites of passage. McGuire presents these coming of age rituals as having become more of a tradition of religious celebration of children completing the last of their “obligatory religious training” rather than being recognized as an adult member of both religious and everyday society (pg. 63). As religious traditions and organizations continue to change and shift over time it will be interesting to watch for which aspects from the original interpretation of a certain religion remain, and which transform over time.