|By Mikael Lundmark
The Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeå University, Sweden
Post Conference Ressources
PowerPoint – download here
Audio Presentation – listen here
Audio Q&A – listen here
CV – open here
This is an ongoing project in the field of psychology of religion building on semi structured in-depth interviews with 20 practicing Christians living with cancer. Additional longitudinal data are collected from half of the group through follow-up interviews conducted over time periods varying between 6 months and 5 years. The aim of the study is to investigate 1) the function of religiosity as a variety of coping mechanisms and 2) how the changed life situation due to cancer affects religiosity. In order to explore the function of religiosity in coping we need to examine those aspects of religiosity that are important components in religious coping. To give one example, praying can, on a psychological level, function in different ways depending on the kind of prayers being conducted (colloquial, petitionary, ritual, meditative etc) and when they are conducted. Preliminary findings show that several informants have changed their praying pattern in the process of struggling with the changed life situation.
The project has now reached the analysis phase where content analysis is applied on the transcription of the interview material. The protocol for the initial interview is designed to both collect narrative data on a more general level (life history, narrative tone etc) and answer specific questions about the informants’ religiosity, especially focusing on prayer, ritual and religious literature. The protocol also allows capturing other aspects of religiosity. So far, the analysis of the material shows a strong dynamic interdependence between religiosity and the changed life situation due to cancer. When deconstructed in its many multi faceted components, it becomes clear that religiosity is not just one coping mechanism but several, and different aspects of the informants’ religiosity are differently important at different times during their struggle with cancer. Two especially intriguing findings are the coping function of strong religious experiences and the mechanism of giving sacred meanings to medicines or medical/surgical interventions. It is clear from the analysis conducted so far that not only does religiosity function as a variety of coping mechanisms when struggling with cancer but religiosity is also changing as a consequence of the struggle with cancer precisely because religiosity functions as coping mechanisms.