Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges

Warner, R. Stephen. “Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges.” Sociology of Religion 58(3):217-238, Fall 1997.

“Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges,” the 1996 Paul Hanley Furfey Lecture delivered by University of Illinois at Chicago professor R. Stephen Warner, shares findings from the New Ethnic and Immigrant Congregations Project on the role of embodied ritual to bridge boundaries between religious communities and individuals. Placing great stress on the “congregation” over the “parish” as the “prototypical local religious form in the United States,” Warner finds that rituals involving the body and enacted within particular congregations create, not merely express, social solidarity among community members, including and especially immigrants and other cultural minorities. By means of participating in ritualized activities—including music and ritual motion as featured in Warner’s address—persons both within and outside the particular religious community bond together and create new communities of inclusion; that is, embodied rituals serve to create and sustain both particular boundaries as well as cross-boundary bridges. Warner closes his article with reference to Virgilio Elizondo’s concept of “mestizaje” to point out the importance of religion’s role to create a “new common ‘we’” (from Elizondo’s book Galilean Journey [1983])—both cultural and religious—within contemporary American society.