All posts by Alana

Reflection 4/2/17

This week we were able to share our experience on attending a sectarian church  as well as listen to Dr. Spickard give a presentation, amongst his colleagues, focusing on the central question of “how do people sustain life?”  Our first class of the week seemed to have a certain pattern to the congregation visits. Many of the congregations that were visited seemed they were desperate for new attendees. The message many churches portrayed seemed to take a more conservative view of society and took the text from the bible literally. Many churches integrated the idea that their belief is the only right belief within their sermon, comments, or songs. These churches also believed and preached that if you don’t follow their beliefs (the right belief) you’re going straight to hell. This seemed to make many people uncomfortable including myself. It was definitely an interesting experience and seems to be hindering their religion within the younger community.

On Wednesday, professor Spickard gave a presentation at a symposium about the way in which people sustain their lives. He focused on Catholics and their social justice actions. There were four main points of interest–rituals, symbols, experience, and results. It was interesting to hear him describe the difference between ritual and experience. He gave the example of women who describe themselves as Catholics but don’t like how masses are ran or the clergy running it. Their rituals are different from the people attending Sunday morning services and but may have similar experiences as these people. They may volunteer at the same soup kitchen or believe in similar beliefs but they don’t have the same rituals. Overall, it was interesting to see how Catholics affect society in a positive way and that there are people out there that truly care about the well-being of others; it made me want to be apart of something greater.


One of the articles I read this week was  Redefining the Boundaries of Belonging by Peggy Levitt. She explores transnational economic and political practices and gives her audience a model examining three broad goals of transnational religiosity. These three goals look at extended, negotiated, and recreated transnational religious organizations. I was mostly interested in the recreated transnational religious organizations and how they are formed. It was interesting to learn how these religious organizations start their own groups when they come to America and thrive in this new country. These congregations can be created with guidance from the religion’s home country’s leaders or they have religious leaders come to these areas with large transnational people. It also interesting to relate this to other readings because it all shows how these organizations create a safe place and a sense of community to people who have just moved.  This also ties into what we have been learning about this entire semester in terms of religion being a main source of finding a sense of community and identity. Whether someone just moved here from India or just ended their long term relationship, people turn to religion for a sense of community and a way to find themselves.

This week went to a church called Brookside and they were a sectarian Methodist congregation. There were very few people in such a large church and it was definitely different from the denominational methodist church I went to a few weeks ago. The sermon wasn’t specifically about being “born-again” and didn’t mention the two words in particular at any point of the sermon. However, over the past few weeks they have been talking about this “armor-plate” that one needs to wear with them at all times to deviate from the temptations of satan.


Islam to surpass Christianity as the world’s biggest religion by the end of the century

This article describes how Islam is the fastest growing religion. The study estimates that “from 2010 to 2050, Muslims will have increased across the world by 73%, followed by Christians who are projected to grow by 35% during the same time period, and Hindus at 34%”. The article then discusses why this could end up being true. It was said that Muslim women on average have 3.1 compared to 2.3 for all other religious groups combined. The Pew Research study also mentioned how “those of Muslim faith tend to be seven years younger than non-Muslims”.

Comparing this to what we have learned in class makes sense. We have noticed many changes within American religion and it only seems to be decreasing. Muslim faith could be increasing but with our new President Muslim faith may not have a drastic affect on American religion. Immigrant bans on major Muslim countries could hold back this shift in religion. There religion does not seem as secularized as Christianity.


This week we focused on secularization by examining different articles and discussing there bases. Many of these articles viewed European and American religions and the changes that are in relation to secularization. The article that I read was “Christianity in Britain, R.I.P.” The article discussed the declining trends in major British denominations. Bruce believes that unless trends are reversed, Major British denominations will cease to exist by 2030. Bruce explains the Stark theory on why there will always be a need for religion. It is believed that there is a link between rewards and compensators that humans will always need. Stark always denied secularization in Britain because he believed “it would run counter to the expectations of the supply-side model of religious economies”. Bruce gave multiple examples that showed exactly how drastic the trends are in Britain. There is a decline in the amount of church membership altogether. in 2000 only 10% of the population attended church. Sunday school scholars have decreased to 4%, full time professionals have decreased while the total population has increased, and religious offices has been steadily declining.

I think its interesting to compare the trends that are changing religious life in America and European countries. Now that we have explored the six sociological narratives as to why American religion is changing, it would be interesting to see if/how these same narratives could be implemented in other countries. New religious movements and the change of beliefs are what make me question these new trends the most. Will there be a new religious movement soon? Will less attractive religions cease to exist?

The Quiet Rise of a Secular Coalition in US Politics

This article points out that there is a harsh division in our country between non-evangelical and evangelical Christians. “Christianity Today magazine noted that, when the views of evangelicals were removed from the mix, only a third of nonevangelical Americans had warm feelings toward evangelicals. Flip that around and that means two-thirds of nonevangelicals have lukewarm or cold feelings about evangelical Christians”. This ties into our six sociological narratives that help to explain what’s happening to religion. This can be correlated with the idea that there is a conservative resurgence. The right winged Christianity sector is growing and this is an example of the feelings each group feels towards one another. I think it’s interesting to view this study because we can view the disconnect within our nation and understand the politics behind the governmental system as it truly changes within this next presidential term.

The article also mentions how millennials are now becoming more unaffiliated with religion and are becoming categorized as “nones”. Because of our past class I can now have a better understanding of how and why millennials are being driven away from religion or have a change of thought about religion in general. There are many cultural trends that are affecting the choices made by millennials which are important to note. The idea that “conservative religious groups stand out, and are seen as a threat, because their beliefs are not normal” is also very important to examine. It has been fun to implement the things we are learning into up to date news articles and examining why their statements make sense.

Reflection 3/12/17

The four stories about what is happening to religion today wraps up our semesters worth of discussion so far. Here we can discuss, support, or critique these theories and try to figure out where American religion is heading.

I like how some of these stories were straight to the point and gave good examples. For example, societalization. Bryan Wilson described it, almost everywhere in the modern world, small-scale communities have lost power to large-scale organizations: huge corporations, mass media and marketing, political bureaucracies, and the like. This explains one story on how religion is being affected in todays modern society. Local churches not only have to compete with other religious organizations, but with television, sports, national politics, and other forms of entertainment. I haven’t thought about this perspective although it is quite prevalent and makes sense. Although people are still connected to religion it doesn’t seem to be the center for communities. This is quite interesting because it ties into the next story explaining the change of religion in modern society. The idea of pluralism in the modern time may undermine ones personal belief when that individual is presented with multiple other perspectives and beliefs. These multiple narratives may seem plausible and the credibility of all may be undermined.

These two stories explained were very realistic and was applicable to todays era of religion. I believe in these stories being true although I never thought about them before. It opens my eyes to the macro lens sociologist put on in order to view religion and society as a whole.

Religion and Social Change

Chapter 7 introduced a few elements that are key factors when it comes to social change. A religion sets a worldview and a way of life for many people. This way of life affects people and create social change when its viewed on a larger scale. The changes may be consequential to society, intentional or not. I agree that it will be more beneficial to examine religion as an element of culture that can promote change and no longer ask how “does religion promote social change?” but rather, “in what ways and under what conditions does it promote rather than inhibit change?”.

I think it’s very important for sociologists in todays generation to view religion and its social change with the perspective of the second question in mind. It will be important to answer how religion either promotes or inhibits change and under what conditions because we are at such a diverging time in history when it comes to the falling of religion in America. Many people are questioning religious beliefs when it comes to rules on “abortion, homosexuality, divorce and contraception. Other groups maybe focused on issues such as social justice, poverty, corporate responsibility, ethics of public policy, and war. Both groups may result in efforts for social change”. It’s important to know what is important to the people and what their changing beliefs and practices are in order to analyze the social change and affects it will lead to. What religious beliefs will be intact 25 years from now? Will religion still be a large influential factor in peoples lives?

Reflection 2/19/2017

As one of this weeks presenters it was interesting to see the drastic change from such a strict and traditional religion (Tradition in a Rootless World) to one that was so laid back and contemporary (Reinventing American Protestantism). Although there was such a difference in their view on what traditions are significant to them, they still had similarities that are important to note. The main theme that is important to look at from a sociologists’ viewpoint is what brings people together. These two groups as well as the previous groups all wanted a sense of community and belonging. I know professor Spickard mentioned how finding a group of people your age that have the same interests as you can be difficult to find outside of a close knit campus like Redlands. Although everyone had a slightly different story as to why they joined a certain congregation, they all seemed to be searching for something more. They either were searching for themselves, a partner, or a new socially intellectual setting.

I thought the Riverside Sandals Church was mind blowing. I did not know a church like that existed and as a younger generation I found it really attractive. I think many of us think church is boring and almost feels like its a duty to attend. However, when I saw parts of their sermon and how they express their love for God I don’t think I could get bored even if I wanted to. The amount of people that attend was also astonishing. Sometimes it’s very intimidating to attend a smaller church with a friend or two because you know you’ll get bombarded with questions about your life and sometimes you feel judged. But at this church you can meet people if you want to, like joining smaller church circles or just say hi and bye to the people around you. You control how much you invest yourself in the church and you have fun while preaching your love to God.

Immigrant Workers, Families to Protest by Staying Home

“Organizers in cities across the U.S. are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not patronize businesses Thursday”. This protest is supposed to show how crucial immigrant workers are to the American Economy and what it would be like if massive immigration raids are swept through cities.

Although this protest is a comment towards Trump’s administration it gives a good example of the exclusiveness of immigrants. This may also affect religion as a whole in these states. Because immigrants from Mexico are usually Roman Catholic I think shared parishes and Spanish speaking churches will decrease tremendously. The idea that Trump is expressing ties in with American civil religion and believes that living in America is a privilege and is taking action.

Trump Vows to ‘Destroy’ Law Banning Political Endorsements by Churches

On Thursday, Trump vowed to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. This is an interesting argument because many churches would like to remain tax-exempt and don’t care about endorsing political figures. On the other hand, some larger churches would be pleased to be able to speak freely without being fearful of retribution. The interesting part of the argument starts when we talk about the separation of church and state. Should the government be able to intervene churches finances and require them to pay taxes? Should churches be able to endorse political figures in their favor?

“Many clergy members say they see no reason to lift the prohibition, making political endorsements could divide their congregations. They say the law in effect shields them from pressure by advocacy groups and politically active congregants to make endorsements”. This relates to our topic of civil religion and the idea of social cleavages that can create conflict. This overturn of a law will create religious and political boundaries that will overlap each other, causing underlying conflict. It will cause cross pressures with the participants because it will conflict their “loyalties that individuals feel when they identify with several different roles and reference groups”. Many issues could arise that could hurt churches across the nation. It could cause internal conflict, question the bases of their authority, and even create a heresy.

In my opinion Trump should not uplift this amendment because it will create unnecessary conflict and will get people worked up over something that doesn’t need to be changed. We have many other issues to deal with and this is just something to help his candidacy.