February 21, 2010

The Function of Religion

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

When we were first married, my husband and I did not go to church on a regular basis. We only attended church with my father-in-law on special occasions: Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Christmas. So we weren’t exactly CEOs—people who attend church on Christmas and Easter only, but we weren’t regulars either.

We talked about the kind of church we would be interested in, but didn’t look for one. Once, however, we attended a function in which my father-in-law’s church showed a video of all their ministries, and we realized that this church was already doing many of the things we were looking for. So our decision was easy; we started attending that church on a weekly basis and found it fulfilling.

After we moved from Texas and once we settled into our Florida home, my husband and I started looking for a church to attend. We found the nearest church of the same denomination as the one in clip_image002Texas and made that our new church (Church One). The experience was okay; we liked many of the church members and were happy to meet several people with whom we have become good friends.

We did not enjoy the sermons however, since they were boring! Yep—I said it. They were boring. Boiled down to essential elements, church services are music and sermon. The music at this church was definitely not my favored style, but that was okay with me. I hoped to find the sermons inspiring and educational though. Instead, they were dull; most Sundays we had trouble finding a take-home kernel.

Even more troubling was that my stepdaughter—then only about 12—got even less than my husband and I did from the sermons. (There weren’t enough youth at this church to support a separate ministry, so there was no respite from the impenetrable sermons for her.) When I learned that our minister was retiring, I decided that must explain his lack of enthusiasm for a subject he had spent decades studying. Without another church in our neighborhood of the same denomination, and not being willing to take a long drive on Sunday mornings, we stuck it out.

A few years after we had been attending Church One, on my own, I decided to stop in at Church Two to see why there were always so many cars heading there clip_image004on Sunday mornings. Church Two is a different denomination from Church One, and is actually the one in which I was christened. I loved the sermon! The minister—the fictitiously named Pastor Smith—was a fantastic public speaker. As soon as I got home, I encouraged the rest of the family to give Church Two a try.

The next Sunday when the three of us arrived, someone whisked my step-daughter away to the Youth Ministry. The sermon was like any good talk: clearly laid out with excellent examples to demonstrate the major points, sprinkled with a few drops of humor. My husband enjoyed the service, as did I. But the true test was yet to come: What was my stepdaughter’s response to her experience? She was engaged. Excited. Curious. She talked all the way home about what she learned. And she was anxious to return to Church Two! And that’s how we became church members at Church Two.

Fast-forward some years. We still loved attending Church Two and continued to attend regularly. One Saturday afternoon as I read the newspaper, a headline caught my eye: it said something like “Pastor Admits Internet Pornography Addiction”. Stunned does not begin to describe my reaction. There was MY pastor—pictured—admitting that he was addicted to internet pornography. That was part of the news. The other major part: Pastor Smith was voluntarily stepping down from the church (although given that he confessed his addiction to church higher-ups, I suspect they helped him decide to resign). I called my husband over and together we read the shocking news.

There is no indication that Pastor Smith broke the law; he was not involved with child pornography, and as far as I know, even with a search from an outside computer firm, no pornography was found on any church computers. So should Pastor Smith have stepped down? Would his marital status affect your answer to this question? In light of other high-profile scandals, such as former megachurch pastor Ted Haggard's admission to using methamphetamines and visiting a male prostitute, Pastor Smith’s behavior seems less troubling.

Sociologist Emile Durkheim argued from a functionalist perspective that the function of religion in society is for cohesion. Religious people meet, usually at church, so that they can, with regularity, share a common set of values and beliefs. What happens, then, when a leading figure of the church behaves in a way that conflicts with church doctrine? How much imperfection can we and should we tolerate in church leaders? In the case of Church Two, the answer was swift and unequivocal: church administrators would decide when and if Pastor Smith could return to the pulpit after addiction treatment, but he would never be allowed to lead Church Two again. Does that response make sense to you from a functionalist perspective? What other sociological theories might explain why Pastor Smith might have lost is position in our church?

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83534ac5b69e2012877977d29970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Function of Religion:

Comments

It is unfortunate that such things happen. Pastor Smith set an example for all members of Church Two to follow.

If one looks at this article from a functionalist perspective then it would make sense that the Pastor would not be allowed to return to the position of Minister. If religion in society creates cohesion, and the leader of this cohesion is corrupt, then the cohesion collapses in a sense. Yes, one can continue the friendships they have created and there is still the common set of values; yet there is so much controversy within the cohesion that the idealized values are preoccupied by the controversial topic. I would bet that going to church would be less about the sermon and music and more about what is going on with the Pastor

God doesn't allow sin so if you are a pastor i believe you must lead by example. This pastor is saying "do what i say but don't do what i do.He should not be part of that social group.Not everybody who go to church is like that,some are really dedicated.

When it comes to deciding if Pastor Smith really should have retired, it is important to consider a few facts. One of which is that no human is perfect as we are all thought and so we are bound to make mistakes in are lives. Thus, is an addiction to pornography really bad enough to end a ministers career? I mean, at least he admitted it and seeked out treatment. However, does this really count as a legitimate excuse? Well, Pope Urban II (responsible for assisting Emperor Alexus I [1081-1118] of Constantinople in launching the first crusade) was at the highest position in the christian faith at his time, and yet he unjustly told crusaders that it was God's will for them to participate in a bloody holy war, stating that they would be absolved of their sins. You see, that is an example of a serious crime because it negatively influenced others to do something that violated the peaceful message that religions, such as Christianity, usually entail. And so, considering this, did Pastor Smith really need to retire? Sure he might have had a small problem, but he never affected anyone negatively. In fact, he did an excellent job in getting religious teachings across so, in turn, churchgoers always gained a positive message from him.

I think I heard about this before...It’s really sad that this pastor messed up. Yeah we all make mistake but he was the one to teach Gods Word, how can his listeners do right if the one that teaches them screws up like that, in front of them? We are all sinners and I'm glad he is doing something about his addiction...

Pastor Smith was in touch with his humanity. It is not fair to demonize him for supplying a healthy solution to his biological needs. He didn't screw up like other (.......) priests out there. He probably is just the kind of minister the world needs. Others can learn from this man.

Pastor Smith should not be allowed in the church again. He is a role model for children and the people in his community. He is an honest man, who came forward and admitted about his internet pornography addiction. Unfortunately these stories are common.

Emile Durkheim’s Functionalist Theory regarding Religion says it was created to develop cohesion in society. According to my beliefs we should not let a pastor that admits to internet pornography be the glue that helps hold us together in society. The Church Members would have this consciousness of his sins and they would be distracted from the real purpose of attending services.He should be required to step down from his pulpit. The members should not ostracize the pastor; instead they should forgive him and be supportive of his rehabilitation. In my opinion this is what going to church is all about, accepting and supporting one another.

One of the main purposes of church, from a sociological perspective, is, as stated, to provide cohesion and values. Cohesion and common values provide social structure. They help a group of people value things like family, good work ethic, etc. We need this to function as a nation. Some think that the United States’s loosening hold on its world domination is due to a decline in social structure (high crime, divorce, illegitimacy, and laziness). So what was the affect on the churchgoers when their pastor confessed pornography? Did they lose faith in people, God, or organized religion? After the shock wore off, did they decide to forgive as the Christian faith encourages? What really shook the people is their role model, their guide to values, was corrupt. At least he took the high road from there, publicly admitting to his mistake, and seeking help. That, at least, is an example to follow.

I am a religios person.I like go to the church every Sunday because I can have a good communication with God, and I feel relax, and for that moment I forget my problems. In addition, "pastor Smith made a big mistake" he is human too, but most people in the society do not want to believe him since he broke the values in the church. Moreover, the pastor in the church has to give us an example about "do not make bad things." The people in the society sometimes believe that when "the pastor of the church makes mistake, they think that another pastor are the same, but it is not true. As a result, some people change their religion or they do not have a religion. Moreover, few people like to give opportunity to the pastor and he can change his attitude. However, some people like to criticize him. In fact,I like the members from that church because they forgot pastor error and he has the opportunity to stay in rehabilitation. I think is a good example how the society in the church has something good for show us.

Faith and belief is a great thing, it makes friendships and love come true - we can see it happen for real in the Holy Land, in the ancient city of Jerusalem - where all religions are coming together and get along.

The function of religion in a society is often to explain to the people in that society their primal origins, the nature of life, the function and aims of life and reasons for living.
Religion is not a method, it is a life, a higher and supernatural life, mystical in its root and practical in its fruits, a communion with God, a calm and deep enthusiasm, a love which radiates, a force which acts, a happiness which overflows. Religion, in short, is a state of the soul....I feel so little interest in these ecclesiastical struggles..

The function of religion is to make everybody much closer to our God. And also to remind people that amidst problems there is one institution that will make you feel happy and give you hope of heaven.

Even though the pastor is not a good model as a leading figure and might not function in the society, the role of church is still powerful. I believe that there are less the corrupted number than in politician and any other area. There have always been corrupted leaders in religion history; however, that is human being’s fault, not a church itself. I think church is the one who function in the society with reaching out the minority and charity.

From a functionalist perspective, religion gives people a sense of cohesiveness, a set of moral values that are the foundation of cohesive and social order. Pastor Smith has the responsibility of teaching a commitment of common morality codes of religious behavior that regulate people’s personal and social life. Therefore, Pastor Smith stepping down was the proper thing to do, because he betrayed the members of the church and his behavior conflicted with the church doctrine. The church is not a place where one can say “do as I say, not as I do”.

People are generally under the impression that pastors are supposed to be perfect. They lead people in the correct way but all the same are humans and are imperfect. By admitting to his addiciton, Pastor Smith has clearly acknowledged that he needs help and he's looking for it

I believe that to be part of the leadership of a church, guiding people on their path with Jesus Christ, you need to have your life together. This pastor obviously didn't have it all together if he felt the need to look at pornography. I'm not saying that he, being a pastor, needs to be perfect, but I am saying that he needs to be pure before he can honestly lead people and give a prophetic sermon. He is an agent of another realm and it is a very important job he has, which is to give people who are hungry for the spirit of God a message that will advance them on their walk with Christ.

The church is theior as a home for spiritual awakenings, it is not the pastor that starts the awakening it is the good book, the Bible is where church gets its conformation , the church is good for organization and church family, but the book gives the word of truth.

I liked it!!! This is so inspiring to read all this. I really appreciate the time and your effort you put to it. Great work. Well done indeed!

I believe that the pastor was correct in resigning. Although it is a tragic step to take, a set of values that is to stand up to the test of times must be followed somewhat strictly. As he will be able to return at least in some capacity shows a lot of growth on the part of the Church, as second chances have not always been the modus operandi of the Church. He is to lose his position as he broke a major pillar of said position, and that is giving in to a base sexual instinct. It is true that some may argue this to be a minor deviation from "correct" behavior, but the fact is that he broke the rules. At the very least, it is good to learn that the Church sees his position from a functionalist perspective in the first place.

I suspect they helped him decide to resign). I called my husband over and together we read the shocking news.

Great post. I think one of the basic things that we should know know is that we must always make sure that you are safe in every transactions you wanted to indulge with.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for everydaysociologyblog.com please .

Norton Sociology Books

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

The Family

Learn More

The Real World

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More

« Sociology Majors on the Job Market | Main | Experiences, Perspectives, and Frames »