Author: Danielle Sherman
On Monday, Nov. 10, students gathered in lower Herrick to discuss religious stereotypes in an event sponsored by the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life.
The event started with a disclaimer by Emily Sanderson (junior), who put on the event along with Nina Pine (junior) and Hannah Dreitcer (junior). “Oxy is not as diverse as the world in religion,” Sanderson said. “We are not trying to represent all religions, just the main ones on our campus.”
“We want to promote more inter-faith programming and dialogue at Oxy, and so we designed a series of events where we could all collaborate,” Pine said about the purpose of the event. “We also organized these events to raise awareness about religious diversity at Oxy, and religious stereotyping as a form of intolerance,” she added.
A panel comprised of five Oxy students, each representing different faiths, discussed the myths and truths of some main religions present at Occidental College. The religions discussed were Judaism, Buddhism, and three different groups of Christianity: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Progressive Christians Uniting.
Each student presented information through a PowerPoint presentation, beginning with Emily Still (sophomore) of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Still compared the way Christians are viewed to the way Christians should act if they are following the word of Christ.
“People think Christians judge, and that they want to save everyone,” Still said. “But Jesus [saw] people for who they were are loved them [. . .] Jesus didn’t judge, and called on people not to judge.”
Still also discussed the stereotypes of Christians being hypocritical and sheltered. She and Dreitcer discussed the differences between the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, which is an international organization with a core set of beliefs, and the Progressive Christians Uniting, which is a small group on campus.
William Keeyaani Bighorse (sophomore) presented the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Mormon Church. Keeyaani focused on the Mormon side of Proposition 8. His PowerPoint included a slide showing how people stereotyped those who supported Prop 8. “Yes on Prop 8: Yes to bigotry, Yes to discrimination,” it said.
“On one side of the argument you have the idea that you are equalizing marriage [. . .] on the other side you have protection of traditional marriage,” Bighorse said. “It’s important to understand that the church is approaching this issue as a moral issue, not as a civil rights issue.”
Ellis Raskin (junior) presented Jewish stereotypes. One myth was that Jews are all the same, which Raskin showed to be false by explaining that there are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Constructionist Jews. Another myth he discussed was the idea that Judaism is just like Christianity.
“It is true that we have common roots,” Raskin said. “But this is a huge generalization of Jews and Christians.” His PowerPoint highlighted the main differences between the two religions.
The last myth Raskin discussed was the idea that there is an International Jewish Conspiracy. “We do not control the world’s wealth and resources [. . .] there are no plans to take over the world,” Raskin said.
Pine, who grew up in Nepal, discussed Buddhist stereotypes. “Most of my stereotypes are Western, because back home we are all Buddhist,” she said.
“The Buddha is not a theme for personal or home décor,” Pine said, while showing pictures of Buddha soap, body butter, and bed sheets. “The Buddha [. . .] is highly revered [. . .] the marketing of the Buddha is highly offensive.” She discussed the fact that the faith is regarded as being easy and relaxing. “It is not taken seriously,” she said.
Wynette Whitegoat (first-year) and Andrea Cornelius (junior) were not on the panel, but they shared some Native American generalizations. “Not all tribes use teepees,” Whitegoat said. “We don’t go around passing around a peacepipe,” Cornelius added.
Following these presentations, the audience was free to ask questions. The relationship between religion and social justice was the main topic discussed.
The event was followed by a discussion of religion on liberal arts campuses, held on Tuesday, Nov. 11, and an event discussing religious stereotypes in the mainstream media, held on Wednesday, Nov. 12.
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