anthropological wars: etic vs. emic perspective on a foreign religion

Could it be any more difficult that there are multiple ways to view society, ever more so that there are sub genres to each belief that can branch out to an infinite number of ideas and opinions?  Granted, it can be only if the individual let’s their mind believe it to be so. Inside the Milky Way Galaxy lies the planet Earth that consists of multiple creatures that think and behave in numerous ways.  Nevertheless, my focus is on humans and their ways to achieve a self-full filling prophecy through religion, more specifically on a branch of Christianity.

As humans, we are one unique type of species that augment and destroy our world at the same time. We are also curious creatures that have tried to solve the puzzle of who, what, when, and how we came to be. We have evolved from many theories from worshipping nature to worshipping deities and gods that obtain the same physical form much like our own. Moreover, among those religions is Christianity.  Christianity is one of many religions that consist of many branches led by rebels whom desired to satisfy their emotions in a way that disagrees with the one they originally belonged to.

Mythological Foundation:

Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the New Testament and philosophy of Jesus Christ. He, himself was a Jewish man many believed to be the son of god. In Christianity, it is believed that god takes shape in three forms, god the father, god the son, god the Holy Spirit which makes up the Holy Trinity. The branch of Christianity of which I did my research on interprets the bible in a literal manner. Therefore, Jesus was born through a virgin birth, by the Virgin Mary.  According to my brother-in-law, they do not believe that Mary holds any importance due to the fact that the bible does not mention her to be part of any hierarchy. They solely believe that they will be saved from the flames of hell if they believe in Jesus Christ. “Only through Jesus Christ is salvation possible.” He said. Upon obtaining salvation, one must follow the Ten Commandments, the ethics of Christianity. By abiding by these morals Christians will be closer to entering heaven as they transcend to the after-life. They range from, Christians shall not worship another god other than God the Father, observing the Sabbath, which means they should have a day of rest to worship their Lord, and to summarize all ten, one should treat others as they themselves would like to be treated.

There are many forms of Christianity: Catholicism, Mormonism, Evangelicals’, and Baptist. All which interpret the bible in their own way, much like all religions interpret the story behind their God, or Higher Power. They all share the belief in the cocktail of the Old and New Testament upon which started by the book of Genesis. In which God created the sun, the moon, and the earth, and all the creatures that belong in it in six days. Under Christian belief, the first humans were created with clay from the Earth. “God breathe gently and formed the shape of a man and called him Adam” (http://www.dltk-bible.com/genesis/chapter2-cv.htm). God thought Adam needed to procreate and thus created Eve. Nevertheless, Eve was made from one of Adam’s rib.  Both of them were to protect the Garden of Eden and abstain from eating apples of a certain tree. However, Eve was tempted by a serpent, took a bite from an apple and shared it with Adam. As a result, both realized they were nude. It also opened their minds to the positive and negative knowledge of mankind. This story can be compared to Pandora’s box of Greek Mythology. The Christian Bible ends with Revelations, which explains a series of events on how the world will end.

Analysis/Ritual Classification:

For my cultural performance project, I attended a service of baptism conducted for my niece. It was held last month at Cottonwood Church, in a building smaller yet similar to the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Having been brought up by a Catholic mother, I was accustomed to churches embellished with beautiful sculptures and windows. This “church” or building was the venue that my brother in-law and older sister attend every Sunday a part of their occasional ritual. It was of modern style architecture and the room that the baptism took place in was nothing like the cathedrals I visited throughout my life.  The participants wore modest clothing in respect to their god. Moreover, my nieces’ baptism consisted solely of prayer from the audience. Whereas, all the baptisms I’ve been to prior to this one include a priest pouring a small amount of holy water upon the child’s forehead but guests were dressed in the same modest style. A baptism would classify under a rite of passage ritual. Furthermore, my niece became a member of their union. It could also be classified a prescriptive ritual. Be it as it may, one needs to be baptized to be a complete Christian. Again, the ritual consisted of a prayer from the audience, so that god may accept Andrea into his kingdom.

A brief history on baptisms was that it originated in the Middle East. The first Baptist was one of Jesus’ cousins and disciples, John the Baptist  . In addition, he was a preacher that helped spread Jesus Christs’ teachings.  On the day he baptized Jesus, he was in disbelief, he felt that Jesus should baptize him for he is the son of god. However, Jesus wanted to be an example for his people. Once his baptism was over, a voice came from the heaven and said “this is my son, I love him, and I am pleased with him” (http://www.dltk-bible.com/cv/jesus_is_baptized-cv.htm).

All in all, Baptisms are a way of ridding an individual of original sin. One can be baptized at any age, however it is customary in most Christian sects to be baptized before individuals reach adolescence.

Symbols:

This branch of Christianity has no symbols except the cross of which Jesus died on.  They had neither bread nor wine which symbolizes the body and blood of Christ in Catholicism.  In addition, they did not have any saints that filled catholic churches and grand designed in which was a form of worshipping god. They believe that saints are the ways of the devil, and Christians should only consider Jesus and His Father to be of worthy.  Furthermore, they do not recognize Catholics as Christians because they worship saints. They do not have grand cathedrals or churches because they believe that the most precious thing should be their relationship with god.  That to them is like the golden cross the pope carries.

Specialist:

The baptism was led by a pastor. They are associated with a formal institution and a representative of the community. They have more formal training in the field of religion of choice. Again, in contrast to Catholicism, the pastor did not wear embellished garments. Through observation, I concluded that this religion values simplicity and inter personal relationship with god rather than flaunting taxpayers money by a large building called the Vatican and other luxurious cathedrals. Of which, could be donated to third world countries. However, they are stricter in following the Bible than Catholics. Neither group is practicing the right or wrong way.

In conclusion, from an anthropological perspective, this would neither be seen as a religious or a superstition, but a myth created to full fill their emotions. Religion is just like any fictional story that alleviates one from the mysteries and tribulations of life. From an emic perspective, it is a religion. It is practiced ritually, contains symbols, and has a specialist. All that anthropologists list under a “myth” is practiced and exist in this form of Christianity.  God the Almighty Father is the only God that individuals should worship, they would argue. On the other hand, an individual who has an etic perspective would use as his or her rebuttal, “how can one fathom a type of being in the skies, of which you call heaven?” or “how can a woman bare a child without the act of intercourse?” To them it can be concluded as blasphemy to their own belief, but Christians would strongly argue there is a God and the Bible is the most important piece of literature to exist. My argument would be that by the law of conservation of energy, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We are energy; we are connected to every living thing that is on planet Earth. We are merely building blocks of elements that originated from the stars. The universe began with a hydrogen atom and out of nowhere, created a bang, called the Big bang, proposed by Georges Lemaitre.  Although, my opinion like other individuals’ remains to only be a theory, no one has really grasp the truth of how we came to be. Therefore, the discussion of the true genesis will continue to be a cyclical argument with no right or wrong answer; everything is merely relative based on one’s cultural background.

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