While this blog, in its small, discontinuous form, has never heavily delved into the world of religion and faith, I have always had a personal interest in how belief intersects with questions from the various social spheres that I occupy. Put into a simple question: what is the relationship between what I believe and how I respond to political, social, and familial issues (to name just a few arenas)?
The immediate response, and seemingly a popular one, is to divorce belief from the public space. “Leave religion at the door,” an idea that recently reappeared in connection to the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibition, has often appeared as the starting point for intelligent debate. Certainly the idea is popular, but hopefully over the course of the next weeks and months, I can describe why I’m uncomfortable with it.
With regards to fore-grounding self-disclosure, it seems easiest to stop at the point of saying, “I’m spiritual,” as such a designation can be understood to mean an observance of an internal force as much as it could an external one. But acknowledging spirituality is far too individualistic for my taste. I want to ask how my faith relates to public spaces, which I think requires something that goes beyond my own feelings. Put another way: spirituality (by itself) is too internal—too much about my own feelings and experiences.
More than this, I could escape some personal scrutiny by declaring, “I’m religious.” This at least solves the question of how beliefs relates beyond my own person hood. That said, I’ll grant that the self-ascription carries an associative component as well. I might be judged based on who else identifies with a particular religion (or denomination of a religion). However, religiosity can still exclude application outside of itself (I could say I practice religion only on Sunday, for example).
This leads to the next step, “a person of faith,” in the continuum of belief and identity. I think the muddiness begins here (and thus, my own interest). This particular term begins to link the internal perception with the external practice. What I believe might be seen affecting my choices or my philosophy of living. And for the rationalized western society, I don’t think anything can be more strange, or horrific, or (dare I say) transgressive.
As with the academic page, I don’t suppose that the positions I intend to post are so concrete as to never change. In fact, I imagine that I will probably spend as much time revising these posts as I do drafting them. I do intend to experiment, somewhat publicly, and I invite any reader (whoever is willing) to join me in stumbling about.