Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Precious

We're having fun with Meredith McGuire's Lived Religion. I'm appreciating again the intelligence with which she has structured her argument. After the programmatic introductory chapters, she offers two specific traditions for consideration, the lived religion of Latinas and that of white Southern Evangelicals. The first is easy to understand as "popular religion" - indeed "folk Catholicism" is what too often comes to mind when discussion turns to lived religion, and McGuire insists that this be recognized as fully religious, not incompletely or only "culturally" so. But then she describes the lived religion of Southern Evangelicals in the very same terms she's developed in exploring the religious worlds of Latinas. It's a bravura performance! I found particularly charmingher discussion of the use of the cloying-creepy Precious Moments figurines among Evangelical women. One gave the figure at left, entitled "My love will never let you go," to her husband as he was struggling to overcome alcoholism. The figure at right, called "This too shall pass," was given to her by a friend when her husband died. McGuire cannily links this to the personal altars many of the Latina women she had described keep at home, in terms reminiscent of the theory of ritual.

In memory of her husband, she positioned the two pieces together - much like the Latinas' arranging of elements of their altarcitos - to represent to herself both the pain and spiritual reconciliation she had experienced. Such spatial arrangement of objects is an important usage of popular religious elements in lived religion. Physically juxtaposing objects that carry significant meanings is a domestic ritual that both reflects and performs the connections between those meanings. (87)

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