Questions for Chapter 1

Saint Bernadette (Norman Rockwell)

10 a
Recall a time when you experienced the presence of a person who was physically absent or the presence of a saint or the presence of God.

10 b
If you had to come up with some descriptive adjectives or phrases for the experience you just recalled, which ones would you use?

11 a
Describe an experience in which space and/or time felt sacred, precious, or important (for example, an experience in nature, being in a historic building, or when something special happened in your life).

11 b
Name some things (objects, sounds, smells, writings, rituals, art, music) that can elicit spiritual experiences or experiences of the sacred for you.

12 a
What is something that has mana for you?

Name someone who has charisma in your eyes.

12 b
If you think of a mystery as a spiritual reality that is experienced but only partially understood, what sorts of things would you consider mysteries?

When are some times that you felt you were in the presence of mystery?

13 a
During his lifetime, how might Jesus have been someone through whom people experienced the presence and power of God?

How do images and stories of Jesus mediate the mystery of God to you?

13 b
How have you experienced difficulty finding God in your life or seeing God at work in the world?

Which images or representations of Jesus don’t work for you?

14 a
In what ways have science and secularization made it hard for you to experience mystery?

What are some other characteristics of contemporary life that interfere with the experience of mystery?

Name some religious symbols or activities that do not speak to you as much as they did in the past or as much as they did to a previous generation.

14 b
What are some ways that we perceive social realities rather easily through symbols (for example, uniforms and other kinds of special clothing)? 

Think of a stable and hierarchically organized society (such as a family, a tribe, a club, a team, a workplace, or a military organization) in which rules of behavior and social position are fairly clear. Give an example of the effectiveness of symbols or rituals in such as society.

Describe something that happened to you that you would be willing to call a peak experience or a plateau experience in a nonreligious context.

17 a
Name some conventional signs and some natural signs. Give some examples of signs that are simply informative and signs that are also symbolic.

17 b
Give some of your own examples of symbols that can have an emotional impact on people.

17 c
Think of a symbol that can mean different things to different people.

18 a
Think of a symbol that has more than one meaning for you.

18 b
Using examples, discuss how ads and commercials use symbolic elements to manipulate people into buying products.

19 a
Use your own examples to discuss the surface and deeper meanings (or overt and covert meanings) of religious symbols such as objects, images, and even stories.

19 b
Come up with some examples of symbols that no longer speak to people even though they were effective in the past.

Name some archetypal symbols that have spoken to you in nature or that have appeared in your dreams.

21 a
If myth is a symbolic narrative that expresses sacred meaning in story form, discuss the deeper meaning of a biblical story of your choice.

21 b
To see for yourself how stories are always expressions of something that is understood, think of an idea that you would like to express in story form. Then think of a story that might convey that idea to those who listen to it.

Think of a Christmas or Easter pageant that you have participated in, or a movie that you have seen about the life of Christ. What effect did that dramatic enactment of religious truth have on you?

23 a
If you are familiar with symbols from other religions, name some that do not speak to you and, if possible, some that do.

23 b
Think of two stories that have the same essential meaning, or suggest two stories that would convey essentially the same message.

24 a
Remember a time when you felt really close to someone (a parent, a friend, a loved one) and enjoyed being in their presence, maybe even to the point that you felt you were communicating even without speaking. How is this similar to your experience of God’s presence?

24 b
Recall a time when you as a child were taught how to behave (or how not to behave), or when you as an adult corrected a child’s behavior. How does proper behavior relate to worship? 

24 c
Recall a childhood experience of play-acting or pretending to be someone in a make-believe story. How are religious services structured like a drama, with a beginning, middle, and end

25 a
Recall a time during childhood or adolescence when you learned the rules of a game or practiced an activity in order to do it well. How does knowing what to do at a church service affect your experience of worship? 

25 b
Recall a time when you rejected an adult ritual as empty or meaningless. If possible, think of a time when a previously meaningless ritual became meaningful to you. What is your reaction when you attend a ritual that feels meaningless? 

26 a
Think of some family rituals (e.g., summer vacation, Thanksgiving dinner) that help to pass traditions and values from one generation to the next. How does this apply to participation in worship? 

26 b
Personal development can be helped or hindered by institutional religion. Think of a time when religion helped or hurt your personal growth.

27 a
Think of a symbol or ritual that made an impression on you when you were younger. What kind of impression did it make? 

27 b
Give an example of what may have been a liminal period in your life.

Name some liminal groups besides those mentioned in the text. 

28 a
Describe a feeling or state of liminality that you experienced in worship. 

28 b
Describe an experience of communitas that you have felt in a secular or religious setting. 

29 a
Name some groups or events in which people probably have the experience of communitas. 

29 b
Think of a time (possibly a religious ritual) when you wanted to experience communitas but were unable to. 

29 c
Think of a symbol or ritual that initially you did not fully appreciate, but that later became more significant to you. 

30 a
Give an example of how you became the person you are today through the process of ritualization. 

30 b
Give an example of how a religious ritual enabled you to express a religious ideal or to experience the importance of a religious belief.

Last modified: Saturday, 16 May 2015, 12:41 AM