Mar 21, 2016

Religious Literacy: Midterm

I have been taking this class through Harvard edX on religious literacy and enjoying it very much. It's also been taking up a lot of my writing time, so in lieu of a blog post, I thought I'd post the Midterm I recently posted to the classroom. The assignment was to apply the cultural studies method to a contemporary article, relevant to my cultural context. I chose this article for analysis. The questions posed are in bold. It's a little brief, because there was a word limit. My first draft was about twice the length, but oh well.

1) Does the article represent the religion or religions in question as internally diverse?

Yes and no. The authors specify that the focus is biblical literalists, including "Evangelical and fundamentalist churches, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and other conservative sects." They distinguish these sects from "liberal, progressive Christian churches with a humanistic viewpoint, a focus on the present, and social justice."

There is no acknowledgment of diversity among Evangelical sects and LDS, and that not all are rigidly "conservative." For example, the authors claim that these groups "focus on the spiritual world as superior to the natural world." However, there are Evangelical movements with a strong focus on ecology and "stewardship" of the natural world.

Aside from the caveat about “liberal” sects, they are not represented in the article. There are no examples of benign or positive influence in other Christian sects. Yet, they make many generalizations about the destructiveness of Christianity and religion, writ large, rather than confining these assessments to these "conservative" Christian practices.

To say that some religious expressions are “more toxic than others” implies that they’re all at least somewhat toxic. This broader implication is not supported in the text. While there is acknowledgment of the internal diversity of Christianity, the authors do not present a balanced portrait of that diversity.