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Professor researches how young adults view religion, spirituality

August 03, 2012

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From coffee shops to tattoo parlors, Monica Miller has spent months visiting local gathering places to ask young people how they view religion and spirituality. So far, more than 300 surveys have shown that Portland millennials have a deep interest in issues they consider spiritual, but little interest in organized religion.

“I think Portland is unique in that sense,” Miller, a visiting assistant professor of religious studies, told the Portland Tribune. “If there is a growing religion in Portland, at the center of it is not God but social and political issues, and that’s new. I have never had a young person (elsewhere) tell me their world view is combating poverty or combating hunger or combating racism or homophobia.”

This research is part of Miller’s Remaking Religion project, which uses “street corner culture ethnography” to gauge ideas, perceptions, and understandings of religion. Several students from Lewis & Clark are research fellows, helping conduct surveys and analyze information for the project.

Students are also benefiting from Miller’s exploration of religion and hip hop, the topic of her recent book and a class she’ll teach at Lewis & Clark in spring 2013.

“What is often done with religion and hip hop, is that religion is that which is sacred, and hip hop is that which is secular,” Miller says. “That is the very divide I’m trying to transgress, and Religion and Hip Hop finally settles the score between the sacred and the profane. For me, the question is ‘What do the uses of religion in hip hop culture accomplish for competing social and cultural identities?’”

Learn more about Monica Miller’s Remaking Religion project in the Portland TribunePortland Mercury or on OPB Radio’s Think Out Loud. Read about her book, Religion and Hip Hop, in the Skanner and NextGen Journal.

Read more from the Portland Tribune