How Devoted Are You?

As soon as the topic of religion enters our understanding of current affairs it allows one to begin to judge the degree to which a person is or is not supposedly involved in politics and history, and thereby judge whether they are safe (i.e., like me) or not (i.e., not like me). While it may be obvious on the political right, those on the left employ much the same vocabulary and judgments, but we often don’t seem to see it.

In this short clip from earlier this year, posted on Religion Dispatches — in which they comment on the accused Boston Marathon “pressure cooker” bombers — one can clearly see that the problem is not that we use notions of “faithfulness” and “devotion” to create an impression of other-worldly motives and sentiments but, instead, how we can properly define “devoutness” so that it names the “right” thing and thereby prevents us from maligning the vast majority of the world’s religions who are, to whatever degree, judged to be orthodox (i.e., safe, normal, etc.).

In their critique of the media they ironically reproduce the same discourse: by continuing to argue for a more authentic way of being religious which makes it politically acceptable.

The topic for scholars, of course, is not whether religion is dangerous or safe or which version of any given religion is correct or proper; instead, the issue is to study how social actors with a stake in the issue represent their group and others and the social advantages and disadvantages that attend such representations.

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