Journal Article

An Anchor and a Sail: Christian Meditation as the Mechanism for a Pluralist Religious Identity

Jonathan Mermis-Cava

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 70, issue 4, pages 432-453
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
An Anchor and a Sail: Christian Meditation as the Mechanism for a Pluralist Religious Identity

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This study examines the religious identity project of an interdenominational association of Christians who practice a ritual called “Christian Meditation.” While maintaining denominational affiliation, Christian meditators also employ the symbolic boundary of religious pluralism to demarcate their religious identity. They must therefore balance their sense of openness with denominational commitment. Within their identification as Christian meditators, these individuals not only surmount this challenge, but paradoxically also enhance and increase denominational activity. This paper utilizes data from participant observation, in-depth interviews, and supplementary sources to explain how this is accomplished. Compared with Dillon's (Michele Dillon, 1999. Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power. New York: Cambridge University Press) finding that “core” traditions can be used to transform religious identity, I argue that the “invented tradition” (Eric Hobsbawn. 1983. “Introduction: Inventing Traditions.” The Invention of Tradition, edited by E. Hobsbawn and T. Ranger. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–14) of Christian Meditation also serves this purpose. Via its multidimensional structure of meaning, the ritual simultaneously operates as an anchor that maintains, enhances, and promotes denominational activity and a sail that allows institutional boundaries to be crossed.

Keywords: identity; pluralism; symbolic boundaries; invented tradition; meditation; silence

Journal Article.  9222 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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