Religious Domain: Freedom
I did not originally intend to conduct in-depth explorations of how graduating seniors came of age in the religious domain. I included a few interview questions about the role of organized churches in community life but otherwise had not identified religion as a main area of inquiry or even feasible in a study involving public schools. Federal courts have effectively purged public schools of explicit religious curricula and practices. 14 Despite the ban, traces of religion do remain, as it is difficult to cover material in social studies, literature, and other subject areas without some familiarity with Judeo-Christianity. There also are occasional disputes over curricular material, school holidays, and other matters with religious overtones or that rub against religious beliefs. But although there are vestiges of religion in schools and lingering debates, I did not think it would be possible to collect much data on how religious cultural processes unfolded in the particular schools I had chosen for my research.
But I changed my mind and research design. 15 when it became clear that religion loomed large in the lives of graduating seniors. So large, in fact, that I felt compelled to delve more deeply into navigations of religious theological crosscurrents. Seniors were thoughtful and very serious about their religious identity and integration work as they sorted out their beliefs in God and the supernatural; held fast to, or broke away from, affiliations with organized religions; indulged in religious critical consciousness; wrestled with morality; and sought spirituality. Much of this work was carried out in communities and families, but it also took place in public high schools where students engaged in some of their most intense work as they sought freedom of, and from, religion.