Sociological vs. Anthropological

I seriously want this guy's beard

I seriously want this guy's beard.

One thing I’ve discovered during my sociology classes: I am intrinsically Marxist.

This isn’t Bellevue College’s fault. It’s really just my own fault, I suppose. My teacher is schooled in and promoted the symbolic/interaction perspective (viewing microcosms and small, close relationships), and also promoted the feminist perspective. Some students resonated with the structural perspective (viewing society as parts of a machine). But me? I’m Marxist, to the core. Almost every society can be defined by conflict.

Whenever I view the Church in a sociological lens, therefore, I cannot help but view the Church rife with conflict – Utah culture vs. Non-Utah culture, the US church vs. the global church, women vs. the priesthood. And it’s all there; we just choose to ignore it or simply remain unconscious to it because the implications can disturb us.

And it disturbs me, I’ll admit. I’m to the point where I can view this without any implication to the Church’s truthfulness, which is a potential sign of (yay!)  maturity. But it still doesn’t solve the problem that comes with Marxism (and the core of my personality) – sociological research does nothing if it doesn’t try to fix the problems it discovers. But what can one person do in a Church with such a hierarchical, patriarchal structure? Out wait everything? Watch for slow, gradual change? The Church does evolve over time (and when looking back, the changes are drastic – Brigham Young would be horrified for sure). But it can still embitter me to certain elements and I just don’t like feeling bitter. It’s not a great feeling. It’s not very healthy.

I’ve been shifting my focus on the church towards a more anthropological approach. The Church is made up of people – imperfect people who try their best (or don’t try their best) to do what’s right and to protect what they have while trying to improve upon it. Suddenly, the Church culture isn’t something I have to incessantly fix. I can collect stories and folklore, examine some of our myths and I don’t have to pass judgment. I don’t have to fix anything. I just record. I love it.

When you've got stuff like this happening in your folktales, you're never bored.

When you've got stuff like this happening in your folktales, you're never bored.

I’ve been reading a lot of folklore lately – I spend some of my birthday money, and three out of the four books (The Bhagavad  Gita; Folklore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish; and Irish Lore and Legends) are collections of folklore. I reluctantly left behind another tome of Jewish tales as well as books on Indian and Chinese folklore, simply because I didn’t want to spend all of my birthday money in one place.

I love folklore. For one, it’s been supporting the change in my attention span; the studies are probably right – the Internet is shortening my attention span. I don’t have patience for huge books on one subject and I prefer things to be short and dense. Folktales are like tweets – they’re usually pretty short, and the good ones have a lot of things to think about. Whenever I read regular books now (non-fiction) by the halfway mark I stop because I’ve learned all that the author usually has to say and the rest is just fluff. And because they’re short, I can devour pages upon pages of them. It’s seriously very addicting.

And my goodness, Church history. It’s awesome. Really. It’s like a religious soap opera and I love every part of it. And our folklores are just as good as any. We just need to start recording them and stop treating them like doctrine but as just that – tales with ambiguous sources. Ask any Jew if he or she really believes that you can use the Word of God to breathe life into a golem and they’ll laugh (unless they are seriously orthodox). But the stories of golems are not worthless – they’re a deep insight into the Jewish psyche and their desperate need for a physical protector in times of horrible distress and calamity for their culture. And sometimes folktales poking fun at religious authorities are necessary – not to disrespect them, but to remind ourselves that even the prophet is not akin to God, and as humans, we’re all subject to foibles and mistakes. We can develop a healthy, positive outlook towards the more negative aspects about who we are, and that, I can assure you from past experience, can bring about a very sweet peace of mind.

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2 Comments

Filed under life stories, wordsmithing

2 responses to “Sociological vs. Anthropological

  1. I would have to agree with this posting. You really gave a voice to folks out there who feel the same way you do.

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