The Functionalist Approach On Religion Essay

The Functionalist Approach On Religion Essay

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When it comes to the study of religion, there are certain methods and protocols that must be followed in order to analyze a tradition or practice from an objective standpoint. This is why most scholars who study religion utilize the functionalist approach in order to look for a particular function that religion plays in society. One of the key components of this approach is Methodological atheism, or remaining suspicious of supernatural claims. In addition, the functionalist approach breaks down religious claims into social functions and focuses on what purpose a religion serves for the insiders who practice it. This approach involves asking questions such as who is making a claim, about what, and what purpose it may serve to the society that implements this claim. The functionalist approach and be applied in order to analyze the function of religion for those in the documentary “Jesus Camp.” In order to analyze religion in “Jesus Camp” from a functionalist approach, I will discuss the documentary in relation to habitus, legitimation, and claims to authenticity.
In the documentary, “Jesus Camp,” a group of evangelical Christian children and their Pentecostal children’s minister are filmed and interviewed. These children attend a camp that is intended to intensify their beliefs and practices. These children engage in behaviors that include speaking in tongues, making promises to God, learning to be soldiers for God’s army, and learn the beliefs and practices that are critical to being a part of the evangelical Christian subculture. It is the minister, and adults of the Pentecostal congregation’s belief that these children are the generation that can invoke change in the country and bring the nation back to God. These practices an...

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...ey seek to legitimize their practices and behaviors to both insiders and outsiders. As an effect, this leads to an intensifying of beliefs for insiders and maintains authority for those who are leaders in the church. Claims to authenticity can serve as somewhat of an ultimate legitimation for all beliefs and practices within a religion for those who are influenced by such claims. Claims to authenticity can have numerous cultural functions within a group, and therefore are important to consider when taking a functionalist approach to the study of religion.
Through taking a functionalist approach when studying the religious practices in the documentary “Jesus Camp,” we are able to gain insight into what cultural functions things such as socialization into a particular habitus, legitimation, and claims to authority serve for this group of evangelical Christians.

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