A Community of Imagination: Constructing Young Adult Faith Through Religious Studies 公开

Muir, Scott Shepard (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8910jv24h?locale=zh
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Abstract

A Community of Imagination:
Constructing Young Adult Faith Through Religious Studies


Through systematic analysis of in-depth semi-structured interviews with 19 Emory
University religion majors and ethnographic observation of the mandatory Senior
Symposium course entitled Religion 490: Insiders and Outsiders, I seek to illustrate how
these religion majors appropriate the abundant resources provided through the religion
major in the dynamic (re)construction of an increasingly complex, adequate "faith" to
live by as emerging adults. I draw upon Sharon Parks' model of faith development in
higher education to describe my subjects' progression through a process which entails:


1) The overwhelming of students' conventional conceptions of reality through
exposure to a wide variety of religious traditions, beliefs and practices within
sustained critical dialogue among a diverse community of scholars, creating a
need for expansion of their faith perspectives.
2) Exposure to a wide variety of religious representations of the ideal from
which students adaptively reconstruct a more personally meaningful and
comprehensive conception of "the ultimate conditions of existence" with the
assistance of intentionally selected scholarly mentors.
3) The acquisition of life skills including analysis of complex social-historical
phenomena and articulation and defense of controversial claims and convictions
which empower students to proactively engage the challenges and complexities
of their social worlds with courage and competence.
4) Struggle to reconcile their ideal identities, aspirations and conceptions of the
"ultimate conditions of existence" with the actual social realities students
confront and the compromises they require.


Though this process varies considerably in terms of degree and particular content, I argue
that the general structural progression accurately represents the diverse experiences of my
subjects. I seek to be sensitive to (though by no means comprehensively address) the
dizzying array of interacting social, cultural, political, intellectual, religious and psychic
factors at play in this process. I also strive to indicate, explicitly and implicitly, some
wider ethical, political and existential implications of this reality for professors, the
university, academic religious studies, confessional religious institutions and our society
as a whole.

Table of Contents


Table of Contents

Introduction: Establishing My Argument…………………………………………….........1

A. American Higher Education: A Uniquely Powerful Shaping Institution……………..........1
B. The Religion Major at Emory: A Uniquely Formative College Experience………….........4
C. My Argument in Three Minutes: An Exemplary Case………………………………..................8

I. Crystallization of Research Question and Research Design……………………….11

A. Personal Experience and Positionality………………………………………………........................12
B. Emergence of Research Question.....…………………………………………………......................14
C. How Does the Undergraduate Experience Impact Faith?: An Empirical Review…......16
D. Research Design: An Interactive, Dialectical Process of Induction and Deduction.....25

II. Context: Emory, The Department, 490, and Religious Studies………………….28
A. The Institutional Positionality of Emory University…...................................………....29
B. Emory's Department of Religion: Analyzing the Aims of the Enterprise....................33
C. The Religious Studies Discourse: a Contested Cumulative Tradition...............…….....36
1. W.C. Smith: Cumulative Tradition, Insider Faith, and Their Dialectical Interaction.....37
2. McCutcheon: Religious Studies as Critical Deconstructive of Social Formations.........41
3. Chesnek and the Search for a Middle Path……………………………………………....................42

III. Conceptual Framework: Faith Development in College Contextualized……45
A. Fowler's Conception of Faith: A Universal Dynamic Process of Meaning-Making.......45
B. Young Adult Faith Formation within the Community of Imagination………………..........48

I V. Interpretation: Faith Development Through Religious Studies……………....52
A. Sample Characteristics, Identity and Affiliation……………………………………....................52
B. Religious Background, Conventional Faith and onset of Transition………………............55
C. Constructing Adult Faith Within the Community of Imagination………………….............59
1. Locus of Authority: Embracing the Mentoring Community of Imagination………….......61
2. Form of Cognition: Probing Commitment through Conscious Conflict……………..........66
3. Form of Self: Cultivating Self-Awareness through Pause……………………………..............70
4. Symbolic Function: Articulating the Ideal through Image…………………………….............74
5. Form of World Coherence: Repatterning and Release toward World Engagement.....77
6. Form of Community: Ideological Commitment and Interpretation…………………..........79

V. Conclusion: Limitations, Implications and Future Directions…………………...84
A. Limitations....................................................................................................85
B. Implications...................................................................................................87
C. Future Directions............................................................................................89

References........................................................................................................90
Appendix A: Interview Schedule...........................................................................92
Appendix B: Coding System.................................................................................94

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