Faith

FAITH GROUP

We are born into our faith community. Membership is already established.

These communities are often the most powerful in our lives. From the time we are small, our local services fill us with music, stories and celebration. We share these experiences with all generations and neighbors, giving us our first understanding of the world.

Many religions formalize membership when a child reaches adolescence and is able to choose the faith independently. The pressure is on. The community observes carefully, hoping to see full-fledged commitment but alert to indications that someone may be considering leaving the fold.

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THEATER/ACTING/RITUALS

Services – high octane bonding

There is, perhaps, no greater experience of the arts than in religious services. Religious celebrants often lead the community through carefully crafted processions, adorn themselves in specialized robes, utilize ornate or precious artifacts, fill the air with incense, engage in songs and inspirational music and remind the community of their beliefs by telling stories and reading from sacred books.

These practices get into members’ minds, hearts and souls, creating frameworks and pathways to connect deeply with one another.

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Services – high octane bonding

Naming conventions

Often members of a faith community choose names for their children that reflect the culture and history. Muhammad? Rachel? This can serve as a proud and early identifier for the rest of the world to see.

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Naming conventions

Coming of age rituals

Cultures from around the world celebrate a child’s coming of age. Nearly all faiths define an age when a child is capable of understanding the significance of the community’s beliefs – and are ready to commit themselves toward its propagation.

Membership – connection – is formalized publicly for all to see and celebrate.

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Coming of age rituals

Marriages

Ceremonies associated with marriage reinforce the traditional values of the faith. Couples become parents, thus ensuring the group’s future. The entire community queues up to support them.

Preparing for these services can be stressful. Each generation wants to introduce practices or styles that reflect their contemporary experiences – to make it personal.

Membership can be on the line.

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Marriages

Holidays

Faith-based holidays, which celebrate key values, milestones or leaders, unite the community.  Preparing and participating in these ceremonies put the language and images of the faith into homes everywhere.

These holidays also provide easy opportunities to communicate with non-community members about core tenets. We show respect across faiths by simply learning the most appropriate holiday greetings – a symbolic nod to the differences among us.

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Holidays

Theater Overview

Our lives are filled with scripts we follow. All the basics of ETIQUETTE and PROTOCOL keep things running smoothly and reduce social friction. RITUALS, like marriages or holidays, are repeatable ways people participate in their cultures’ values. We all adjust how we ACT in different situations. Picture how people act differently at a string quartet concert vs at an outdoor music festival. We are in control of our conduct and our cultures establish the rules. We send signals to the groups to which we want to belong by honoring their expectations. Most cultures have preferred approaches to DISPLAY OF EMOTIONS. We are able to adjust how we express ourselves and recognize that lack of adherence brings some risk. Some religious services are fully participative and emotional and others are quiet and contemplative. Children practice and prepare for adulthood in our communities by PRETENDING. Gender roles, particularly, are taught and reinforced in cultures by encouraging little mommies or daddies – or soldiers or teachers.

Theater Overview

MUSIC & MOVEMENT

Unique musical forms

Faith communities each develop a unique musical voice – instrumentation, rhythms, melodies. From drums to the muezzin call to prayer to bells and to cantors, music quickly establishes and maintains member connection.

Because musical formats are so tightly linked with their spiritual experiences, any suggested additions or “updates” can be seen as diluting the faith itself. There can be fear that the group will lose something special if it strays too far from its musical roots.

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Unique musical forms

Musical intonations, chanting

Most spiritual disciplines have mantras that use sound to achieve focus and openness to the divine. In the process, the entire body becomes part of the worship process.

Performing these actions together as part of a community is a powerful connector. People express feeling “at one” with one another and with the divine. There is a natural yearning to repeat the experience.

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Musical intonations, chanting

Communal songs

Singing together brings people into harmony – a sense that one’s self is melding together with others into a greater whole. This sends a rush of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals that we share – together.

Group glue. Satisfying group glue.

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Communal songs

Dance & movement

Some communities of faith integrate dance and movement into their prayer practice. Swaying back and forth, spinning, dancing or simply sharing gestures during a prayer enhance the experience.

Prayer position is often defined.

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Dance & movement

Music Overview

Humans are musical creatures. It has been proposed that SINGING evolved to facilitate social cohesion. It promotes fast connection among strangers and deeper connection with a known community. When we sing or DANCE, we SYNCHRONIZE with one another. Not just our voices or movements but our heart rates. Our breathing. We experience ourselves well beyond the confines of our individual bodies. In our brains, the boundaries between us blur. Music captures CULTURES. We need only hear a few bars to recognize genre or nationality or generation. Children are bathed in the music of their heritage from before they are born. It will always feel like home. It helps tell the stories and establish the uniqueness of the community. Each culture has its own unique choreography and dance movements that communicate history, values and life lessons. Movie SOUNDTRACKS often drive the emotional trajectory of a story. A view of the ocean is just water until you hear the two notes from Jaws. HARMONY and DISSONANCE are experienced physically. We hold our breath - together - until the phrase is resolved.

Music Overview

STORYTELLING / LITERATURE/ LANGUAGE

Sacred texts

Most religious groups have writings that represent their core tenets. The books and sometimes words that come from the books are treated with reverence. “The Word” is a tangible, earthly representation of the divine and is treated with careful ceremony.

Words have enormous power. Reading them, touching them and repeating with others draw us together.

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Sacred texts

Storytelling

The telling and retelling of stories is at the heart of most faiths. Myths, allegories and parables teach us about creation and provide inspiration for living our best lives.

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Storytelling

Prayers & meditations

Each faith provides scripts to help its members in their spiritual practice. The formats, language – even the intentions – vary across religions. Once memorized, these stay with people throughout their lives, serving as an easy connecting point with other members.

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Prayers & meditations

Creeds and professions of belief

There are few statements we make in our lives that have more significance than our public statements about our beliefs. These indicate the core of our values.

Sharing these commitments builds trust and communion among the group.

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Creeds and professions of belief

Storytelling Overview

GOSSIP is, perhaps, the most ubiquitous form of storytelling. What and who gets talked about (and why) feeds us all a steady stream of warnings about straying from what our culture accepts as appropriate. It makes many of us run away from our home groups to find ourselves reflected in a positive way with others. Fictional HEROES and protagonists help us understand the challenges we will all face by modeling a culture’s core values. Western stories tend to celebrate a ‘might makes right’ approach, which is contrary to some eastern sensibilities. Whoever gets celebrated in our stories serves as role models. We all want to be celebrated. CHILDREN’S BOOKS may seem to be about hungry bunnies or silly chickens, but kids pick up on all the powerful cultural messaging going on in the background. Gender roles. Consideration of others. Consequences for misbehaving (isolation?). TELLING (and retelling) THE STORY about how a group began, or how the world began, is a powerful way to induct new generations into a group. Consistent MYTHS, heroes and journeys give us frameworks for today. RELIGIONS have SACRED TEXTS where the words themselves – touching the words – is like touching lightning. Reading also broadens our understanding of the world and of ourselves. We see we are not alone which can help us heal and hold on for better days. We develop empathy for those who are different from us. We can live in their skin for a while. And, finally, MEDIA. Everywhere we turn we are exposed to stories about people who flew too close to the sun or who put themselves above others and paid the price. And endless stories about SPORTS and ENTERTAINMENT STARS – the most common heroes today.

Storytelling Overview

FASHION & APPEARANCE

Hairstyles

Many religions have a position on how individuals should wear their hair, formally stated or not. Even in environments where diversity is thriving, you are likely to see similarities – working within common guidelines.

For those religious groups with strict guidelines, you can risk membership if you stray too far. It can be interpreted as a rejection of a basic tenet.

Hairstyle treatment, along with attire, can be a very public way of communicating your faith to the rest of the world. It is both a differentiator and a way to identify people who share those beliefs.

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Hairstyles

Grooming

Guidelines about men’s facial hair are common, informing not only IF a man has a beard, but how that beard is to be groomed.

This is another very visible way of demonstrating adherence – or not.

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Grooming

Attire

Caps, veils and hats. Skirt length or even pant length. Colors. Head covering – or no head covering. Member attire when they are in the public is highly visible and tightly defined in some religious communities. These guidelines can highlight important values, and, in some cases to differentiate members from non-believers.

Often there are general rules about how to dress for religious services and ceremonies. “Dressing up,” is seen as a way of showing respect to one another and to the proceedings. Showing up in shorts or an offensive t-shirt can get you marginalized – if not actually removed.

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Attire

Officials and celebrants

In many faiths, those in charge of leading people through prayers or ceremonies adorn themselves differently. They wear vestments that are symbolic of their beliefs and history, or which add formality and celebration – showing effort and worthiness to give thanks. Hierarchy within the organization can also be on full display – evidence of power and authority.

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Officials and celebrants

Fashion Overview

Our bodies come pre-wired to connect. They are on high alert and ready to respond and build connections. But with billions of people milling around us, how do we increase the odds that we can find a real connection? Welcome to the world of connection marketing. We are all in the business of telling passers-by who we are. Something as simple as ATTIRE is actually never simple. It speaks volumes about our financial status or age or ethnicity. Our HAIR. Our own unique texture and curliness is ready to be fashioned (and ready to resist our best efforts to control it). We put on faces – sometimes enhanced with GROOMING or MAKEUP.  We dress to belong, following DRESS CODES, UNIFORMS and CULTURAL EXPECTATIONS. Wearing flipflops to a baptism might send a message that we didn’t respect the ceremony and the values it represents. BODY ART, including tattoos and piercings, is often an ‘in your face’ statement about resistance or belonging. Cultural expectations related to gender can dominate and intimidate. Each step into non-binary fashion invites curiosity and, in some cultures, the wearer can risk marginalization. Teens, as they work to find their niches, sort out into identifiable styles, from low-slung jeans to popular logos to $1000 sneakers. To belong means to honor the ‘code’ to the extent that you can.

Fashion Overview

VISUAL ARTS

Symbols

Most religious groups use a range of images and symbols to enhance and broadcast their beliefs. These can be highly stylized, with each element representing a key part of the story. Where the finger points has significance. The color of the robe. The number of stars.

People often wear these symbols as a way to communicate to others. These pins, although small, send a big message about identity and belonging.

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Symbols

Statues and paintings

Museums are filled with extraordinary religious art objects. Statues like the tiny Venus of Willendorf (30,000 BCE) to enormous Buddhas have supported the practice of faith. Cave paintings to Egyptian vases capture sacred narratives.

This is a powerful reinforcing loop – faith inspires art which inspires faith. These creations inform and enhance people’s religious experience and become representative of specific beliefs.

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Statues and paintings

Jewelry, bumper stickers

Many people proudly announce their faith in their everyday lives with symbolic pins, rings, pendants, stickers on their homes or car windows, bumper attachments and stickers. These also help people find connections with people they might not otherwise know.

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Jewelry, bumper stickers

Visual Arts Overview

It’s easy to think of appreciating the visual arts as a passive activity. Looking. Not touching. Not engaging with it. But, as fast as they eye can see, we absorb the IMAGES and the stories that imagery tells. Recent research has shown how subtle an element in a picture might be and yet it can have a profound effect. Toddlers were shown a picture with an activity in the foreground and a bookcase in the background. On that bookcase, when there is an image of two people happily facing one another, these toddlers are significantly more likely to help the researcher pick up spilled toys than those who had a different picture on the shelf. What we see can affect what we do. Many religions have recognizable SYMBOLS, (the Star and Crescent, the Cross, the Star of David) which not only inform all the rituals, but also identify one’s faith to others in the community. LOGOS & BRANDS are designed to represent a company’s values, and people often wear or drive or drink the products they feel represent the group with which they want to be identified.  Some ILLUSTRATIONS & PICTURE BOOKS teach children that moms carry purses and dads have fun– even if no word is written. FLAGS symbolize what is important about nations or schools or clubs. Any damage to these symbols can stir controversy and anger.  Who and what gets hung on our walls are seen as being worthy and important. And, finally, we have FAVORITE THINGS in our lives, memorabilia – like mini-sculptures – that continue to carry warm feelings and memories for us. Simply seeing them in our space helps us feel connected to the moments and the people they represent.

Visual Arts Overview [gs-fb-comments]