Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement

Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement: How Religion Matters for America's Newest Immigrants

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement
    Book Description:

    Immigration to the United States has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of America's history. Currently, about 40 percent of the nation's annual population growth comes from the influx of foreign-born individuals and their children. As these new voices enter America's public conversations, they bring with them a new level of religious diversity to a society that has always been marked by religious variety.Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement takes an in-depth look at one particular urban areaùthe Chicago metropolitan regionùand examines how religion affects the civic engagement of the nation's newest residents. Based on more than three years of ethnographic fieldwork and extensive interviewing at sixteen immigrant congregations, the authors argue that not only must careful attention be paid to ethnic, racial, class, and other social variations within and among groups but that religious differences within and between immigrant faiths are equally important for a more sophisticated understanding of religious diversity and its impact on civic life. Chapters focus on important religious factors, including sectarianism, moral authority, and moral projects; on several areas of social life, including economics, education, marriage, and language, where religion impacts civic engagement; and on how notions of citizenship and community are influenced by sacred assemblies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4305-5
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    America’s cultural landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Changes in U.S. immigration laws since 1965 have given new meaning to the notion of American pluralism.¹ The 1990s became the greatest decade of American immigration. The number of foreign-born residents and their children, what scholars call the first and second immigrant generations, recently reached fifty-six million, the highest level in U.S. history. As the country prepared for the turn of the millennium, it pondered the implications of its “rapid move toward a multiracial, multiethnic society, fueled in part by 1 million immigrants each year, [which was] likely to continue into the...

  5. Part One Religion Matters

      (pp. 19-36)

      There was a wistful look on the face of Jay Desai, a prominent lay leader of the BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Bartlett, Illinois. “I wish more community groups or families from outside the temple would make use of this space,” he said, “but most outsiders don’t want to accommodate our restrictions.” We were standing in a dining/ballroom space beneath the main meeting hall of thehaveli, a large community center building that also served as temporary worship space while themandir(temple) was under construction. The haveli was roughly the size of half a football field, with wonderful kitchen...

    • 3 Locating the Moral Authority of Immigrant Congregations
      (pp. 37-53)

      The Kursk Icon, one of the most venerated icons in old Russia, was visiting the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines, a suburb northwest of Chicago. The parish is affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), one of the largest (and most conservative) Russian Orthodox church organizations that emerged outside of Russia after the Russian Revolution. A group of the most devoted parishioners was gathered for a night vigil in the cathedral to pray and venerate the icon.

      Father Paul, the parish priest, used the occasion to speak to the gathered faithful about the authority of...

    • 4 The Moral Projects of Immigrant Congregations
      (pp. 54-70)

      In his Sunday morning sermon, Ray Castro, the pastor of Victory Outreach Church, was discussing the problems his congregants faced as they navigated their everyday life in a blighted urban neighborhood. “The prisons can’t deal with the streets,” Pastor Castro declared. “The police can’t deal with the streets. The courts can’t deal with the streets. The government can’t deal with the streets. Only Jesus can.” Victory Outreach is a neo-Pentecostal Hispanic congregation affiliated with a larger international organization of the same name. It focuses on the rehabilitation of drug addicts, gang members, and prostitutes in its southwest Chicago neighborhood. Victory...

  6. Part Two Sacred Assemblies in Social Contexts

      (pp. 73-94)

      “A lot of Koreans who immigrated to the United States, even though they were Buddhists in Korea, they became Christians [here]. . . . People think, ‘If I go to a big Korean church, there is more opportunity for me to get a different job or meet different people.’ ” This statement, made by a forty-three-year-old Korean Buddhist travel agent who attends HanMaUm Zen Center in suburban Chicago, echoes the literature regarding the high ethnic in-group commitment and strong social networks found in immigrant Korean churches (Kim and Kim 2001). When acquaintances ask why she does not avail herself of...

    • 6 Religion, Education, and Civic Tensions in Immigrant Congregations
      (pp. 95-119)

      Islamic Foundation is one of the largest and most successful mosques in metropolitan Chicago. Located in affluent west suburban DuPage County, the tenth highest-ranked county in the nation in median household income, according to the 2000 census, Islamic Foundation operates a parochial school accredited and recognized for its excellence by the State of Illinois.¹ Interviews with school staff and parents revealed the civic tensions inherent in faith-based education that Will Herberg identified four decades earlier, when American Islam barely registered on the country’s demographic radar screen.

      “What would you say is the biggest challenge these students face, being raised as...

    • 7 Marriage Patterns in Immigrant Congregations: IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL DISTANCE AND GROUP IDENTITY
      (pp. 120-142)

      The renowned Chicago School of sociology, born out of the nation’s first sociology department at the University of Chicago, established its reputation during the classical period of American immigration history. Robert Park published the article excerpted above in the year classical immigration came to a close with the passage of restrictive federal legislation. Among many research interests, Chicago School sociologists attempted to measure social distances between groups, including that between immigrant groups and mainstream American society. Beginning in the 1920s, Emory S. Bogardus, a graduate of the University of Chicago’s sociology department, quantified Park’s notion into a social distance scale...

    • 8 Language in Immigrant Congregations: RELIGIOUS AND CIVIC CONSIDERATIONS
      (pp. 143-170)

      For their first field assignment, each member of our project team visited a different immigrant Buddhist temple in the Chicago area. They knew none of the non-English vernaculars spoken at the temples, such as Vietnamese, Japanese, or Thai, nor the nonvernacular ritual languages, such as Pali or Sanskrit. Moreover, they knew precious little about the specific Buddhist identities or civic engagement patterns of these temples. By the end of the project, we expected our research team to know how religious identity can structure language usage in an immigrant congregation and how such language usage can reflect or shape an immigrant...

  7. Part Three Civic Engagement

      (pp. 173-193)

      Maricel Awitan, an immigrant from the Philippines, came to the United States as a nurse in 1968. A year later, her husband, also a nurse, joined her. They now live in Skokie, a suburb just north of Chicago, where they raised their six children. At first acquaintance, Maricel seems to be a shy soft-spoken woman, but she is an important lay leader at St. Lambert Roman Catholic Church. She directs the Filipino Families of Skokie Choir and is active in various civic affairs. When Maricel and her husband first settled in Skokie, they were the only Filipino family in a...

    • 10 Organizational Engagement: THE ECOLOGY OF IMMIGRANT CONGREGATIONS
      (pp. 194-215)

      In January 2001, a devastating earthquake struck the state of Gujarat in India. Official counts of more than twenty thousand fatalities and nearly sixteen million other people affected by the devastation generated humanitarian responses from governments and nongovernmental organizations from around the world. These relief efforts provided an early test of our ideas about how religion might matter for civic engagement locally, nationally, and globally. It was particularly illustrative of how new immigrant congregations can operate within networks connecting various religious, civic, governmental, and business organizations.

      The response to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake mounted by the BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu temple...

    • 11 When and How Religion Matters for Immigrant Civic Engagement
      (pp. 216-232)

      The epigraph above revisits sociologist Robert Wuthnow’s (2004) comment cited in the introduction. Wuthnow makes his point in a section entitled “The Meanings of Diversity” in his 2003 presidential address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Wuthnow compliments the political philosopher John Rawls for “acknowledg[ing] that modern societies are characterized by a diversity of groups and traditions that fundamentally hold what he [Rawls] refers to as ‘incommensurable’ moral and epistemological claims” (161, 163). This is the context of Wuthnow’s critique of the kind of social scientific analysis that ignores or underappreciates that which distinguishes religious groups from...

  8. Appendix A: Research Sites
    (pp. 233-236)
  9. Appendix B: Sectarianism Coding for Research Sites
    (pp. 237-240)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 241-246)
  11. References
    (pp. 247-268)
  12. Index
    (pp. 269-272)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-274)