Sunday, February 22, 2009

Today's Sermon and the Sociological

Today, I was researching sociological terms such as functionalism, neo-functionalism, conflict theory and intereactionism...Although I am just beginning to skim the surface of this knowledge base, it did bring much to light in my understanding and in my coming to terms with how I want to understand or approach ethics...

This morning my pastor's sermon was on stewardship. Stewardship is more than just tithing and coming to Church on Sundays. He did not formally use, but was using Romans 12:1, presenting one's body as a living sacrifice...stewardship is using one's gifting for "god's service" and seeing all of life as given and gifted by God, who is deemed to be worthy to recieve our offering of "life".

While I do not have anything against his message generally, I have written that stewardship can be an inverted greed, if one approaches one's "needs" and "grabs" what one can get. One wants to "save", so one consumes. Every virtue can become a vice. My pastor did reference boundary maintenance as one aspect of stewardship. This was a good balance of judgment in community.

Sociology is the study of social institutions and how they should work or function. Functionalism sees roles and functions as a necessary ingredient to proper order and maintanence to the structure. Religion is useful to maintain these structures through social sanctions and control. Functionalism deals with the social structure, but dismisses the distinct aspect of the individual.

Conflict theory understands that social structures will have conflict because of different interests of individuals or groups. This is understood to be a necessary part of social change. While functionalism would label individual difference as rebellion, conflict theory and neo-functionalism would affirm the importance of the individual difference.

While conflict theory could be understood within a functionalist frame (at least it seems to me), interactionist theory is more dynamically understood or oriented. This understanding is affirming the individual differences as symbolic interactions, where meaning making is an important communication "tool" in coming to terms with negotiating the different understandings of the parties involved. These understandings are due to a difference in conceptualizations.

My pastor's sermon was understood as the Church's function of bringing meaning out of individual life, through stewardship of that life in reference to God. God is understood as the means to attain one's fulfillment and purpose in life. I think that God is a useful means to maintain social control and organzational structuring for the end goals of those who have undestood their role or function as leaders within the organizational structure of the Church. But, being called to stewardship, does not mean that one uses their gifts within the Church's structure, as this limits seeing all of life and the world as God's domain. Therefore, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with gratitude toward god.

Personally, I am growing weary of the terms and usefulness of god as a means or an end. God has given and has gifted, but this should not be understood as special or directly interventional. No, God works within the natural systems of the world in government (leaderhsip), but that does not mean that the system is free from corruption or evil. We are called, as my pastor said, to work to see the corruption and evil taken out of the system. We are to work against any corrupt or evil systems. This is what goodness is and does.

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