McGuire Ch. 5 Reflection

Chapter 5 of McGuire’s “Religion: The Social Context” discusses the dynamics of religious collectivities. In the chapter, McGuire describes the types of collective stances: the churchly stance, sectarian stance, denominational stance, and the cultic stance. Upon reading the descriptions of each, I was most intrigued by the sectarian stance because of the fact that I once belonged to a church that could fall under this grouping. The books says that sectarian religious collectivities “consider themselves to be uniquely legitimate” and they are in a relatively “negative relationship with the dominant society.” The groups separation from the larger society is both to protect the believers from the “evils of society’s ways,” but also as an effort to “structure believers’ lives to protect them from immoral thoughts and actions.” Sectarian groups have historically separated themselves from the dominant society and have also limited their members from participating in secular things like watching tv, listening to “worldly” music, and so on. The church I used to attend was very much like this, where we were completely separated from the world. Stepping out of it now, I understand why it was a part of our belief system, but it nonetheless perplexed me as to why sectarian groups— like my church— haven’t died out. Why is it that sectarian groups persist despite them separating themselves from society? I feel as though that could have a negative impact and may even create hostility from those who are not part of a religious group, resulting in a decline in support for those religious groups who fall under the sectarian category.