Final Post

30 Apr

Well, this semester has been a rough one for me as it is my last semester as an undergrad. I live and work full time in Birmingham to put myself through school so I have always had to go the extra mile (literally). This semester presented a few more difficulties than most. And, being that it was my last one it was quite hard to give myself the extra push that normally comes so easy to me. That being said, I enjoyed this class regardless. I love the blog. I just love hearing other people’s opinions on things and the articles posted were always interesting. The readigs from our text, whether or not I agreed with them, always motivated me to think outside my little box.

Onto the research… well, let’s be honest, does anyone LOVE research? And then on top of it compiling it into a 25 page paper..? Probably not. But, I surprisingly have enjoyed my research in the religious studies area at UA a lot more than I thought I would. I am terrible at communicating how I think or feel through my words, so writing has always been something I put a lot of thought into in order to better express what I am unable to say. Religion is so subjective, and everyone has an opinion. I have learned in my research that when it comes to religion, it is almost difficult to find middle ground. Everyone has something to say and wants to be heard. There are even differences within certain religious groups or denominations. There are hardly facts when it comes to the history of religion because different people may have differing views on the causes of certain events, religious movements, or spiritual encounters in general. Basically what I have learned is that MOST people desire to have a relationship with some sort of greater being. Most of us want to believe that there is more meaning to this life then just the physical. It gives us purpose, direction and fills the emptiness inside all of us that constantly asks “Why?”: Why are we here?


Too close to “religion” for comfort?

27 Apr

In this article, a journalist writes on the various statues (Saban, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow) which have been popping up recently. He seems to be rather disdainful about the subject. I was wondering whether something like a statue, which seems to elevate someone beyond normal human status, might arouse more discomfort by bringing the comparison of religion and sports even closer together. It seems more direct and perhaps more obvious (hard to miss a ten foot statue right in front of you), so it might, when analyzed, help to make the connection between sports or fandom with “religion.”

Look it up

22 Apr

Click Here

So I posted on this topic before. There was a preacher who was fired because he was supporting this author on his Facebook page. If you are not familar with this topic, author Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins where he explains that there is no literal hell and everyone is saved unless they directly reject God’s love. Clearly, this has created an uproar. I just wanted to comment on a few of his statements. He apparently, is a Christian who believes in the Bible and gets his support from there.

– Bell argues in his book, “Would a loving God send people to eternal torment forever?”
God does not send people to Hell, according to the Bible, He warns them of it and tries to save them from it. But, Christians are told that their God is also a jealous God. Deuteronomy 6:15

-“Will only a few select people make it to heaven and will the rest burn in hell forever?” he asks. “And if that is the case, how do you become of these people?
Christians are told exactly how all throughout the Bible (Matthew 7:21-27)
They are also told that not everyone who calls on the Lord will get into heaven (Matthew 7:21)
And that the way IS narrow and few will enter in (Matthew 7:13-14)

I am not arguing the validity of the Bible by any means. I simply think that the very doctrine this man is claiming to use to defend his argument, contradicts his argument. The problem is many people fail to research things for themselves but will willingly accept the opinion of someone else. Especially if that opinion gives an easy way out.

The Order of Myths and the “Constitutive Other”

21 Apr

As I’ve continued to study The Order of Myths, a documentary about Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and what they say about race in Alabama, I noticed a particular trend. People from both MCA and MAMGA (the white and black organizations, respectively) will talk about how their rituals and histories “represent Mobile.” Representatives of MAMGA often talk about representing Mobile alongside MCA. However, the portrayal of MCA members that we are given in the film does not usually recognize MAMGA’s existence unless the two groups are directly interacting.

What exactly the intention behind the language that excludes MAMGA can, of course, not be known with any certainty. However, the filmmakers certainly make suggestions about what they think the implications of such language are. When THe MCA Queen meets with the designer of her dress for a fitting and talks about all of the history that she’s learning by participating in Mardi Gras, the scene cuts immediately to a classroom of black schoolchildren studying segregation in the South (presumably, not the history that the Queen was referring to).

Even if we just want to look at the statements of MCA participants outside of the context of the film (to the extent that this is possible), our own Dr. Tim Murphy’s semiotic theory of religion proves to be enlightening in this context. In Representing Reiligion: Essays in History, Theory and Crisis, Dr. Murphy makes the cases that all rhetoric, even “seemingly neutral religious professions,” construct an Other. He uses the examples of allah akbar and ad majorem gloriam dei, arguing that these phrases function by asserting that my God is greater than (the unmentioned) your God. As the construction and segregation of at least two separate Mobiles is apparent in The Order of Myths, I think that Dr. Murphy’s work will be very helpful in unpacking some of the “seemingly neutral” rhetoric in the film, as any scene could potentially be read in this manner.

Topic: Religion in Sports… Influences in NFL

21 Apr

So to tie into my research and paper topic, I was looking for more examples of religion in sports. I came across this article on yahoo that addressed how religion has and had an impact on certain players in the NFL. Several stories talk about how player’s religious views and beliefs affected their lives and football careers. An offense lineman for BYU that was projected to go in the first 3 rounds of the of the 1995 NFL Draft, informed teams not to draft him because he refused to play on Sundays… and even thought the Raiders tried to convince him otherwise with a six-figure contract… he stood his ground. Glen Coffee was another example of a player that refused to pursue his NFL career because he felt he had a higher calling before the 2010 season to do religious things. These stories continue to show the influence and effect that religion has on all sports and how it can lead to players and coaches doing radical thing for their faith. I will say I was shocked by Ben Roethlishberger statement that he had decided to marry his 26-year-old fiancée and that they wouldn’t be living together until after the wedding because of their religious beliefs. This is a great thing and I applaud Ben for making this decision, but I guess I just am completely surprised because of all his past history. But then again we all fail and sin so more power to him.

Research Update: Analyzing my Sources

18 Apr

This is my second post on my research.  To see the first one, click here.

So, I have been doing my research on the response of several local Christian groups to the opening of a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gardendale, AL in 2000.  To briefly summarize what happened, a fluctuating number of locals (up to one hundred at one point) set up a demonstration across the street from the LDS temple during its open-house week when it encourages both LDS members and those outside the tradition to come visit the temple.  Once the temple is dedicated, access to it is restricted to only certain LDS members, making this a unique time.  During this week, these demonstrators chose to hand out pamphlets and speak to those driving and walking by about both their own theological beliefs and their assertions about what is wrong/problematic with the beliefs of the LDS Church.  They also set up an information tent, and one source also reported some signs being held and a few demonstrators yelling loudly until the police arrived and made them stop.  With this in mind, I wanted to use this blog post to talk about the issues I have faced while using my sources.  Because the event was a local one, it did not make any sort of national publications and did not appear in any major books (at least not that I could find).  So, beyond a couple of theoretical sources, I employed sources entirely from internet articles.  Because of this, they were largely biased and generally advanced one side of the issue over another.  If you would like to read them, they are (broken down into the different perspectives):

FROM THE LDS PERSPECTIVE:  Birmingham Alabama LDS (Mormon) TempleLDS Church News – Birmingham Alabama TempleWhy We Build TemplesFrequently Asked QuestionsBirmingham Alabama Mormon Temple

FROM THE DEMONSTRATORS’ PERSPECTIVE:  Baptists ‘educate’ Public about Mormon Temple The Alabama BaptistSite of Controversy: Watchman’s Outreach at the Gardendale Mormon Temple OpeningWatchman Fellowship of Alabama’s Special EventsWitnessing at a Mormon temple openingLetter to the Editor: Temple’s Brief Closure a Win-win for GardendaleI Visited the Mormon Temple (note that this one is a Word document)

NEUTRAL:   Critics gather at temple

As you will notice, many of them differ in how they portray the events and the public’s reactions to them.  I noticed a couple of big ways that the sources differed in how they related certain things:

1.  They have different approaches on how they portray the demonstration and the behavior of those participating in it.  From the LDS perspective, the event itself barely gets mentioned at all, garnering only half a sentence in the ‘Birmingham Alabama Mormon Temple’ article which states that “a small group of activists demonstrated against the Temple’s presence.”  Furthermore, this statement is immediately followed by several different assertions of widespread support from the Gardendale community on the whole, and some quotes included directly characterize the demonstration as “in very poor taste.”  This structure by the author would seem to be an attempt to portray the actions of the demonstrators negatively and in contrast to the overwhelming support from the rest of the community.  However, some of the articles from the demonstrators’ perspective show a different story.  In one of its articles, the Watchman Fellowship reports that “the outreach team was careful not to interfere in any way with the open house. They respected church property, handed out literature in an unobtrusive manner, and even helped to direct traffic.”  This article and some of the others repeatedly reiterate the fact that the demonstrators weren’t protesting the right of the LDS Church to be in Gardendale and portray the demonstration as respectful.  This picture shows a different story, depicting a more reputable response that was done respectfully.  Plus, there is no mention of any sort of lack of support for the demonstrators (except from temple officials, of course).  Also, the Watchman Fellowship’s portrayal would seem to be difficult to maintain along with a report (from a demonstrator himself) that signs were held up and that at one point the police were called to stop a couple of demonstrators from yelling and disturbing the peace.  As always, it is important to remember that neither source can be counted on as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’  Instead, it is more useful to look at what each group emphasizes in their articles, what information they include, and what they opt to leave out.

2.   They have different explanations for the ‘secrecy’ of the LDS temple.  The allegation that the LDS Church is ‘secretive’ appears throughout most of the articles from the demonstrators, and behind these allegations lies the idea that the LDS Church is trying to hide their ‘errant’ and ‘unbiblical’ beliefs and practices by shrouding the temple in secrecy.  They want the reader to think that the LDS Church keeps these rituals and practices under wraps so that those outside the tradition won’t find out exactly what types of things are actually occurring inside the temple.  The official LDS website offers a different explanation in their FAQs, however.  In it, the website says that “temple covenants and ordinances, including the words used, are too sacred to be discussed in detail outside the temple.”  Furthermore, access to the temple is limited “Since the temple is the house of the Lord, dedicated to Him, those who enter must hold a current temple recommend, which certifies that they are living by the standards He has set.”  So, from the LDS Church’s perspective, the temple and the rituals performed within it and more ‘secretive’ and limited to certain people because this serves as a way to respect and revere the sacred nature of these practices.  These are two extremely different explanations for the reason behind why the temple functions in this way.  Like the other point, analyzing the various explanations of each group and recognizing these differences is critical.

So, those are two that I noticed during my research.  Do you notice any other analogous issues, or have any other comments on the demonstration or the sources themselves?  I plan on focusing my final research post on the more theoretical issues and the ‘terms’ I found significant during my research, so if you have any comments on terms you see in these sources, that would be germane as well.

Aryan Nations Moving to Alabama

16 Apr

The Aryan Nations, originally having its headquarters in the northern Idaho under their leader, Pastor Richard Butler, moved in 2004 to Lincoln, Alabama after Pastor Butler died. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-group watchdog, published a news report on the move. Though the position of the Aryan Nations remains weak, I was thinking about how this move, into a new area with a new demographic might be analyzed through ideas of territory. Might the move by the Nations be viewed by Alabamians as a intrusion upon their own territory or not be regarded with territoriality at all? On a physical plane, how might the presence of such an extremely controversial group in Alabama affect those already here both in perception and in reality?

I”m not sure what, if any, reaction there was by natives in the area to the move of the Aryan Nations. I don’t think the move was widely publicized, so it’s likely that there was no reaction at all. I think that, due to issues of territoriality, the AN is trying to keep their location quiet for the time being in order to prevent any sort of negative reaction while they are in such a weak state.