When the concept paradigm is used in Sociology it denotes theoretical perspectives pertaining to social phenomenon. In regard to Foundational paradigms Masters of Sociological Theory offers two distinct categories for consideration irrespective of whether it is a classical or contemporary framework. (Cozier,) They are Functionalism and conflict. Foundation sociological thought projects that society or institutions can operate based only from these two major paradigms even though other schools of thought project some eleven in the social sciences. (Tang, 2010). The church as a sociological entity then can be viewed from either paradigms as attempts are made to fulfill its role in being opium to people. (“An Outline of,” 2002). Conflict paradigms are associated with the assumption that conflict is inevitable since it is a means of creating balance; whereas symbolic paradigms project that individuals’ interactions are influenced by interpretations and ascription of meanings towards important symbols in to their social world. (Blumer, 1969) This discussion, precisely, forges an analysis of how the church emerging as part of the religious institution functions within these paradigms.
Sociologically the church is classified as acceptable religious practices pertaining to Christianity. Within its structure lies conformity to social laws as inevitably it must operate as a part of the social structure.
The purpose of church in reality is to point the way for humans to develop spiritually since society’s responsibility is to create a perfect social being. The major conflict within the confines of church and society arises in regard to perspectives of values, which are inconsistent with those advanced by society.
For instance, contemporary issues that face the church include same sex marriages, abortion and sexual indulgence. Clearly, the church says that its sacred book denounces a man cohabiting with another man or a woman likewise. Society has developed biological theories to justify this practice outside the church.
Another conflict then arises when orders of this sacred book are reviewed, it is discovered that Jesus after whom contemporary Christian practices are patterned is quoted to have said; “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (“Holy Bible,” 1995) Therefore, excluding ‘whore-mongers,’ as they were termed by Jewish fanatics contradicts the very tents of modern Christianity.
Then structures of the church and varying doctrinal interpretations have created profound conflict in the institution itself. Just examine how conflict paradigms have allowed for denominational differences to emerge in society. While in some cases it has forged religious prejudice Christian denominations are now seeking alignment for a greater understanding of human spirituality.
Functions within the church can pose conflict as well since in transition from human consciousness to spiritual entails interacting with each other. Members must show love being a value taught by Jesus, but seems to produce a practical conflict. We find that Priests sexually molest boys within the confines of church. It is difficult to address from within and without its parameters. Hence, conflict paradigms must be applied for comprehensive resolutions of this violation to privacy.
Church- Symbolic Paradigm
The concept of symbolic paradigms has emerged from the sociology of Symbolic Interactionism advanced by American Sociologists, Cooley, Mead and Blumer. (Blumer, 1969) The primary assumption is that people relate to objects, institutions or culture based on a preconceived meaning of what it is to them individually as well as how it relates to society.
Hence the Bible, church building, church choir, members, priests, pastors, congregation, doctrine, ushers, Sunday school, worship celebration are all artifacts of symbolic paradigms when viewed from the perspective of church.
It then becomes pertinent to explore how these symbols have become enshrined in human behavior to predict degrees of interaction based on the meaning they have personally and collectively. Emile Durkheim emphatically posited that religion of which the church belongs is merely a system of beliefs pertaining to things sacred. (Durkheim, 1954)
A further assumption, then is that the Bible, church building, church choir, members, priests, pastors, congregation, doctrine, ushers, Sunday school, worship celebration are all sacred things with superimposed belief paradigms. As such, discussing the church in relation to symbolic paradigms it is imperative that a relationship between the symbol and the interaction is assessed.
The function of “leader” in relation to “members of the congregation” and ‘interpretations of Bible’ can be assumed as the basis of symbolic paradigms within a church organization. Repeated interactions and gratification derived from such contact determine the meanings established thereafter. This explains reasons for large and small congregations; devout and haphazard members; perceptions of anointed priests; lay-ministers and people who hate church and church people. Symbolic Paradigms are responsible for this perception.
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