On Friday, Jan. 22, BOOM: A Journal of California hosted an evening at the Alumni and Visitors Center celebrating the release of the journal’s latest issue entitled, “Getting Religion.” The night was filled with music, food and drinks along with a forum aimed at discussing the role of religion as well as defining what it means to be religious in California.
Hosted by UCR History Professor Jennifer Hughes, Friday’s forum, entitled “California Getting Religion,” began with a series of academic reflections discussed by scholars and contributors — specifically by professors Luis Leon from the University of Denver and Patrick Polk from UCLA. These talks were then followed by an open forum — which was moderated by Jason Sexton, the guest editor of the journal’s latest issue — between the audience and several professors and writers.
In trying to answer if California is growing more religious, Leon began his reflection by first analyzing and contrasting the painting American Progress by John Gast, which symbolized manifest destiny, to paintings created by artist Katie Dorame that reimagined what the Spanish missionaries looked like to Native Americans. Leon then answered that in order to characterize California’s religion, “it depends on what we mean by religion — whose religion?” Leon then took excerpts from the articles in the issue to corroborate his point of describing California’s religions as “a body without organs,” or a “mosaic” with “no discrete social formations.”
In his poetic reflection, Patrick Polk reminisced about the late Eagles band member Glenn Fry and alluded to the song “Hotel California” by the Eagles throughout his discourse. Polk’s metaphor for “Hotel California,” as he explained, is essentially openness to diversity. Polk concluded with the notion that much of the narrative when it comes to religion in California “works in positive, integrative, therapeutic tracts.” Polk then inquired about the limitations of religious authorities in a societal context.
Finally, the evening concluded with an open forum. UCR religious studies professor Amanda Lucia discussed the idea of many religions seeking solace in coming to California “where no one else would let them be.” Lucia emphasized the notion of these religions having freedom and the ability to build in California. Another highly discussed topic was on the question of the dichotomy between various religions in California, and those same religions around the world. Overall, as Philip Clayton from the Claremont School of Theology put it, California embodies the idea of “reconciliation of the irreconcilable.”
Friday evening’s celebration was hosted by the Office of the Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the Department of Religious Studies, as well as the UCR Center for Ideas and Society. BOOM: A Journal of California is a journal published quarterly with the intent of creating a discussion pertaining to the diverse societal and cultural issues that both California and the rest of the world face. The University of San Francisco will also be holding another celebration of this winter’s issue on Feb. 29.