Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 30

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN US - Cleveland church groups are strong precisely because group members share in homogeneity and engage in implicit and explicit practices to keep different others at bay. To the extent to which a group is strong, it is more likely to protect the purity of its identity by preventing different others from joining. Different others blur the distinction between our group and other groups, thus compromising unique group identity and, by extension, group strength. This is why churches that have achieved success, at least in terms of longevity and solvency, are typically composed of people of the same color. Social psychological research shows that simply reminding people of their identity as Christians by exposing them to Christian concepts like Bible, sermon, heaven, and Messiah leads them to engage in prosocial,9 generous,10 cooperative, honest,11 and less hypocritical12 behavior, but only toward fellow church-group members.13 Exposure to Christian concepts increases aggression toward non-group members,14 willingness to exact revenge on non-group members,15 and support for violence toward non-group members.16 These findings lead psychologists Norenzayan and Shariff to conclude that “religious prosociality is not extended indiscriminately: the ‘dark side’ of within-group cooperation is between-group competition and conflict. The same mechanisms involved in in-group altruism may also facilitate out-group antagonism.”17 In other words, with respect to intergroup contexts, the mechanisms that contribute to homogenous group formation 9. Pichon, Boccato, and Saroglou, “Nonconscious Influences.” 10. Shariff and Norenzayan, “God is Watching You.” 11. Randolph-Seng and Nielsen, “Honesty.” 12. Carpenter and Marshall, “Examination of Religious Priming.” 13. Aneesa Shariff, “Ethnic Identity and Parenting Stress in South Asian Families: Implications for Culturally Sensitive Counselling,” Canadian Journal of Counselling 43, no. 1 (2009): 35–46; Norenzayan and Shariff, “Origin and Evolution.” 14. Brad J. Bushman et al., “When God Sanctions Killing: Effect of Scriptural Violence on Aggression,” Psychological Science 18, no. 3 (2007): 204–207. 15. Vassilis Saroglou, Olivier Corneille, and Patty Van Cappellen, “‘Speak, Lord, Your Servant Is Listening’: Religious Priming Activates Submissive Thoughts and Behaviors,” International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 19, no. 3 (2009): 143–154. 16. Jeremy Ginges, Ian Hansen, and Ara Norenzayan, “Religion and Support for Suicide Attacks,” Psychological Science 20, no. 2 (2009): 224–230. 17. Norenzayan and Shariff, “Origin and Evolution,” 62. 29