Reflection 2/18

This week, we learned about everyday religion among upper-class individuals, ethnically diverse Catholic parishes, and Orthodox Jewish women. The first presentation discussed religious expression in everyday life, at home and work, in public life, and in the physical body. The survey sample made distinctions between conservative white Protestants, black Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and “others,” including New Age religionists. It found that religious expression is by no means monolithic and that respondents’ varying levels of spirituality determine their level of religious expression.
The second presentation discussed the new concept of the Catholic “shared parish,” which hosts both a white and Latino congregation. Each ethnic group, while not openly hostile to sharing a parish, experiences difficulties with the other congregation. Part of these differences lie in linguistic and cultural disparities, while others lie in deeper misunderstandings of the ethnic group as a whole. As a result, these groups largely self-segregate, incorporating their own practices and languages into separate Masses. The cultural encapsulation can be helpful for immigrants who need a safe space within their community, but it also prevents greater mixing and understanding between the two groups.
Finally, the presentation on Orthodox Jewish women discussed two kinds of communities: a sectarian Lubavitch group with its own text and practices and a modern Orthodox synagogue in New York City. Both organizations provide women with an opportunity for matchmaking and a strong Jewish community. However, the Lubavitch group creates a sectarian experience completely walled off from the outer world, while the Lincoln Square synagogue accepts modern society and allows its members to have regular jobs. These three presentations allowed us to glimpse into modern religious expression in several disparate forms.