Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: A Chorus of Faiths: A Program That Builds Interfaith Youth Leaders

Activity 2: Stories of Religion

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • An assortment of newspaper articles addressing religion in modern life
  • Art materials including color pencils, markers, crayons, and old magazines to cut up, scissors, and tape or glue
  • Plain paper, one sheet per team

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Alternate Activity 1, Video Stories of Religion, which covers the same material as this activity. If you have the equipment to stream and share video clips from the Internet and if a media-based activity better suits this group of participants, you may wish to substitute the alternate activity for this one. Both are meant to precede Activity 3, Religious Pluralism.
  • Decide how to create pairs or teams.
  • Cut or print out diverse news stories in which religion plays a role. You will need a different news article for each team. Find these in local and national newspapers during the weeks before this workshop or visit online sources. The Religion News Service has a varied selection: "A Bloody Crime in New Jersey... ", a New York Times article from 2005, is a good example.

Description of Activity

Participants identify prominent stories about religion in the world and articulate how those stories influence public perceptions and world events.

Form pairs or groups of three. Give each group an article. Ask groups to have volunteer(s) read the article aloud and then discuss:

  • What story about religion and inter-religious interaction do you see in this article?
  • What impression does the article give about how people of different faiths interact?

Give groups about five minutes to read and discuss their articles. Then, distribute art materials and ask each group to create a drawing, collage, poem, or prose piece that illustrates that story. While they work, move around the room and ask if anyone would like help understanding particular words in their article or identifying how their story is about religion.

After 10 minutes, bring the groups together. Invite each small group to show their work and discuss the stories they found. Ask:

  • What different stories about religion and religious people are out there?
  • When you watch the news and talk to your friends, do you hear any other big stories about religion?

If participants have difficulty understanding what you mean by "a story about religion," give examples such as:

  • ...the story that America is a Christian nation and other religions are anomalies, that is, that people who practice other religions are not really Americans
  • ...the story that religious young people are naive.

Tell the group a common story about religion is the "Clash of Civilizations" story. Originally posited by political scientist Samuel Huntington in the 1990s, this is the idea that the world is divided into a few major religious groups and these groups will inevitably be drawn into conflict or war.

Continue the discussion with questions including:

  • Do you agree with any of these stories? Disagree? Why?
  • What is your life experience with how people of different religions interact or should interact?

End the discussion by noting that while stories about religion such as the Clash of Civilizations story and "all religious people are conservative" are certainly prevalent, as Unitarian Universalists we believe in the dignity of humanity, and therefore we believe in another story about inter-religious interaction. That is the story of "religious pluralism," or "interfaith cooperation." Tell the group they will explore this idea more fully in the next activity.

Including All Participants

Comfort with reading aloud can vary widely. Do not put any youth on the spot to read aloud; always ask for volunteers. Be ready to help readers with difficult words.