- Exploring Religion and Diversity in Canada: People, Practice and Possibility ed. by Catherine Holtmann
My plan in structuring this review is to outline the main features of the text, followed by a short review of each of the chapters and conclude with a critique of the work.
This edited work is one of a kind in academia. I was very impressed that the structure of the studies of religious diversity is directed not only to fellow academics but to students and a wider public whose interest is in religion in the Canadian context in the second decade of the third millennium. Each chapter is structured in such a way to offer coherence to the material. The first part of each article begins with a real life story of persons who illustrate the text that follows. [End Page 359] Data, both quantitative and or qualitative, supply the facts and figure of each of the topics. Two summaries end each of the chapters with challenges/opportunities and an abundance of further questions and resources, both in print and digital form.
For academics, pastoral workers in religion, counsellors and social workers, I highly recommend this work. I was impressed with the authors offering to the reader sound data (both quantitative and qualitative), real life stories, summaries of the findings, and challenges that the reader might engage in.
Most of the articles stem from a major research project called Religion and Diversity Project led by Professor Lori Beaman of the University of Ottawa. The Project involved 37 researchers, 24 universities in Canada, France, Australia, England and the United States. The researchers were sociologists, political scientists, religious studies scholars and those from the legal profession. Their data sources are impressive: from surveys, qualitative methods, video narratives and discourse analysis.
Topics include four institutionally based religions (or non-religious): Protestant, Catholic, Muslim and religious nones. Six areas of research included immigrant women and social networks, religion and domestic violence, religious and sexual identities, religion and education, religion and heath, reasonable accommodation (legal implications of religion in a secular environment).
In the paper on immigrant women and religious social networks, Catherine Holtmann weaves the story of two immigrant women (one a Christian and one a Muslim) in New Brunswick and PEI. Her key finding is that these women are proactive in creating social capital by engaging in life-giving social networks. Both women experienced acceptance from their respective places of worship.
Nancy Nason-Clark wrote of the dark side of the links between religion and, especially, violence against women in intimate relationships. The church environment is not so much the locus of the violence (the family is) but, sadly, is not a place that a victimized woman can go to for help and support. One of her findings was that only 10% of pastors were equipped to meet the need of these hurting women. Nason-Clark offers this advice that intimate partner violence will never be eradicated until there is an offer of best practices to those who suffer and to challenge social structures that privilege some people more than others.
The third chapter is devoted to a very controversial topic, sexuality and sexual identity among youth in Canada. Heather Shipley utilized her study form the Religion, Gender, and Sexuality among Youth in Canada Project as part of the larger Religion and Diversity Project. Her data came from a non-random sample of young adults (aged 18-25) concerning their religious and sexual identities, values, and choices. The sample consisted of an online survey, semi-structured one-on-one interviews and video diaries. The general findings consisted of nine religious (or not) affiliations and questions of sexual identity (male-female-trans), definition of sexuality (lesbian, gay, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, no definition, queer and asexual). A final set of questions were asked of ten different sexual practices acceptable within marriage and outside of marriage. One [End Page 360] misconception is that these youth frequently engage in casual sex. Only 25% of the respondents did so. Another interesting...