Chapter 14: Navigating Multiplicity in a Binary World: A Javanese Example of Complex Religious Identity

The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion - George D. Chryssides

Katherine Rand [+-]
PhD student, Claremont School of Theology
Katherine Rand, MPP is a PhD student in practical theology at the Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA (USA), with a focus on clinical spiritual care. Her research seeks to assist those working in clinical, educational, and congregational contexts to better support individuals shaped by more than one religious tradition. She rejects the a/theist binary and works to expand our scholarly understanding of individuals who have non-mainstream approaches to religion, including those who might be termed “spiritual-but-not-religious” and “nones.” In 2013 she received a research grant from the Henry Luce foundation to conduct qualitative research in Central Java, Indonesia, with individuals who have complex religious identities. Katherine identifies as religiously plural or as having a complex religious identity; more specifically, she would call herself a cultural Christian with a strong religious educational background in the Episcopal tradition, a person with secular commitments, and someone who has studied and practiced Buddhism in a number of forms/schools/countries for more than two decades.

Description

Existing, theological interpretations of complex religious identity ‒ that is, spiritual formation influenced by more than one religious tradition ‒ fail to consider fully the positive, integrative, and adaptive dimensions of this expression of spirituality. In this chapter the author presents findings from a qualitative study of Javanese individuals with complex religious identities, which challenge the assumption that people who draw from multiple religious traditions do not have spiritual depth because they take a cafeteria or bricolage approach to spirituality. The participants in this study are spiritually and intellectually independent, deeply committed to their spiritual life, and likely to have mystical conceptions of God. They must find ways to integrate these multiple religious traditions in an environment that, while religiously plural, still enforces singular religious identity. The study focused on two questions: (1) How do people with complex religious identity in Java, Indonesia, understand and explain their spirituality? (2) In what ways do people with complex religious identity respond to and navigate the norms and conventional interpretations of their traditions? These questions were engaged through two months of field research and in-depth interviews in and around the city of Yogyakarta in 2013. The study was informed by hermeneutic phenomenology, critical theory, and by the author’s primary disciplinary lens of pastoral theology, and used a grounded-theory approach to data analysis. Though the research conducted is particular to the Javanese context, the data suggest universal aspects of complex religious identity that deserve further study.

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Citation

Rand, Katherine. Chapter 14: Navigating Multiplicity in a Binary World: A Javanese Example of Complex Religious Identity. The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 270-290 Nov 2019. ISBN 9781781793442. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=27464. Date accessed: 23 Sep 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27464. Nov 2019

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