We will now discuss several aspects which relate to the religious community and to assess how these aspects influence the members of that particular community. We will also consider how it influences the individuals outside of the immediate religious community.
We can readily appreciate the fact that religions are generally a personal matter however as members of an even larger society we must also be aware of the sensitivities involved in those religious communities. Religious communities provide not only a spiritual need but also rests heavily upon the psychological and social concept, focusing upon not merely the religious experience of the membership but also that of the formation, settings and the structure of the community itself. These factors are directly related to the individual’s attitudes, perceptions and understanding as it applies to their religious ideologies.
We find one of the psychological acceptances of the religious community is that of the perception of association with others providing a measure of interdependence between church members. It is this feeling of belonging which holds the group together (Cunningham, 2012). Every religious community evolves around the following characteristics
– Influences from both the member and towards the member.
– Fulfillment of the members needs by way of possible rewards
– Shared emotional connection whereas a feeling of bonding amongst the group
The first aspect of a religious community which I would like to discuss is the Amish and how they are distinction from the mainstream religions such as Methodists or Presbyterians. The Amish are considered pure sectarians who have separated themselves from the larger cultural community to practice their faith as they feel fit (Cunningham, 2012).
The Amish Mennonites are Christian communities which have previously separated from the Mennonite church. Their influence upon their members entails the practice of plain dressing, simple living and generally reluctance to adopt modern technology into their lives. Today these people live their lives much as they did in the 18th century. Descendants continue to learn and to speak Pennsylvania Dutch which is a dialect of the Swiss German language. Membership into the Amish community generally begins with baptism between the ages of 16 and 25. This baptism is a required action to become married and once a full member of the church the individual must marry within their faith. The church established rules must be followed by each member of the church and usually establishes the day to day actions for the people to follow (Religious Tolerance, 2004). We can readily see how the Amish communities practice rejection of arrogance and pride, and place high value upon humility, calmness and composure. Family life is considered a blessing in the Amish religion. To view an Amish community one would think they had stepped back in time. We would see the traditional horse drawn buggy along with long outdated manners of dress combined with the lack of modern facilities of any sort.
For the outsiders who fails to understand the Amish they usually find the Amish way of life diverged from that of our modern society. This has resulted in occasional incidents of discrimination and often time’s even hostility from the Amish community’s neighbors. These incidents can result in such actions as throwing stones or other objects at the Amish carriages as they travel along the road.
For my second aspect which I intend to discuss, relates to the catholic religion and the practice of last rites. To those unfamiliar to this act the last rites are the final prayers and sacraments provided to a Catholic when death is eminent. Although not a distinct sacrament in itself the last rites are rather a set of defined sacraments provided to people as they approach their final moments of life. These consist of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, Penance and finally the Eucharist (Delany, 1908).
It is believed that these actions are intended to prepare a dying person’s soul for the upcoming death. They are at that time absolved of their sins by the process of penance, sacramental grace and of prayer. To a dedicated catholic the thought of not receiving these final actions is devastating. In addition, we find that in the event a family may wait too long to request such services and the individual dies the Parish priest attending would be justified in refusing to administer these sacraments. The rationale for this action is that it makes no sense to anoint a body whose soul has left it already (Caridi, 2009).
There are today many mixed religious families whereas one member of the family is not a practicing Catholic. I am told that while non-Catholics can not receive the Eucharist, it is totally possible for them to receive the last rites. In either case, In America I do not believe that we would find any discernable arguments or biases from the outside community towards this religious practice.
It has been noted that the notions of sacred reality which bind the religious communities together can be a two faced sword where it can become a source of conflict. An example would be the above stated custom for the catholic religion (Cunningham, 2012). You will notice that I stated “no conflict in America”. It is highly possible that in some nations of the world such actions could result in conflict and possibly even death.
In conclusion, we must remember one vital rule. Religious groups frequently provide refuge to their members from pressures and fears from social change or infrastructure disruption. It is the close bonds within those groups that act as an umbrella of security for the religious members (Cunningham, 2012).
As an interesting sidelight, we mentioned that the age of acceptance for the Amish was between 16 and 25. The catholic religion also has an age for purposes of last rites. Children are except from sacrament of anointing because they are considered “innocent.” According to Catholic doctrine the sacraments are reserved for those who have reached the “age of reason.” Since infants and very young children have no concept of right or wrong until they attain the age of seven (Caridi, 2009) they are except.