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It is no longer a secret that sociologists and other researchers have for some decades now shown immense interest in penetrating various subcultures to understand their operational dynamics and members’ way of life. In the past, the term “subculture” aroused raw emotions as it was often associated with groups of teenagers engaged in antisocial behavior or underworld crime syndicates involved in organized criminal activities.
However, as demonstrated in this essay, some subcultures exist for good causes, though they are overly misunderstood by society due to strange behavioral orientations. This paper provides some background information of one such subculture known as the Arrow of God and its significance to the wider culture.
The arrow of God is an underground religious subculture within the local community which seems to have revolted against the teachings of the contemporary church to form a splinter group with a well-formulated hierarchy of authority and binding rules. The subculture, consisting of about 300 local community members, is known for its great secrecy and strict adherence to what members refer to the “covenant of God.”
However, news of the subculture has filtered through to the public domain due to some people who used to be part of the group but have since been expelled due to various reasons, key among them being a failure to follow the strict religious rules.
Observations of the group revealed several pertinent issues that characterize subcultures and other groups created to fulfill a particular purpose. First, group members do not shake hands but use hand gestures and a symbol of a cross to greet other fellow members. An interview with an influential member of the subculture revealed that the group considers the act of shaking hands as dirty and unwanted by virtue of the fact that their bodies should personify the holy body of Christ.
Second, women members of the group are not allowed to wear short dresses or trousers, not mentioning that they are not supposed to show their hair. Men are not supposed to shave their beards and are required to wear some specially prepared chains to demonstrate their identity and submission to the rules and regulations of the group.
Third, an interview with another member of group revealed that admission to the subculture is a closely guarded affair that is only initiated by the group’s top brass under the direction of the religious leader, known as the rector.
The interviewed member acknowledged that “the rector interviews potential members and administers the special sacrament, which is intended to bind the recruits to the oath of secrecy, religious cleanliness, and submission to the rules and regulations of the church.” It was noted that the member referred to the subculture as the “church”, implying that the group deems itself as a fully-fledged religious outfit.
Some members of the community with prior knowledge of the religious subculture revealed that the group demonstrates strange ways of praying, eating, and relating to outsiders. Upon closer observation, it was indeed discovered that members pray while facing a particular direction, which they believe is where their deity resides. Additionally, members believe that they have healing powers and do not have to visit health institutions to get cured of their afflictions.
It was also observed that members of the subculture do not eat meat, drink alcohol, or use some of the conventional items used in the consumerist society. The interview with the senior member of the group revealed that the group is not bound by materialism and believe in sharing their resources and assisting the disadvantaged members of the society.
The member said that “Arrow of God members are bound to keep their bodies as clean as possible for Christ and to dedicate their resources to the posterity of mankind, as no living creature will ascend with its earthly belongings when that time comes.” The leader also said that members of the subculture decided to start the group upon the realization that conventional religious organizations were increasingly preaching prosperity gospel that encouraged materialism at the expense of spiritual fulfillment and transcendence.
Lastly, it was observed that the subculture had initiated several community-based projects that they use to reach out to the less-disadvantaged members of the society, such as the homeless and the mentally challenged. One of the interviewees confided that “Arrow of God is not interested in material gains, but pulls financial and material resources to assist the less disadvantaged as that is what God would have wanted.”
Another interviewee complained that modern churches are embroiled in reaping off their worshipers to build expensive churches that mean nothing for the society since these “palaces” cannot feed the disadvantaged or provide medicine to the sick. Still, another member argued that “many churches lie to their congregations to tithe for God while it is a well-known fact that these tithes go into the pockets of fake and irrational pastors.”
These statements demonstrate a philosophical shift of thought, from encouraging materialism and unaccountability in religious affairs to supporting the less disadvantaged members of society. They also demonstrate that members of the subculture revolted against the mainstream culture due to divergent views on what should be the function of religious organizations in contemporary times. In a way, the subculture seems to provide a second opinion on religion.
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Significance of the Subculture to the Wider Culture
This subculture is part of a larger culture of Christians who believe in God and life after death; however, the subculture seems to have revolted against many of the things done by contemporary churches and many of the teachings of Christianity. Depending on one’s beliefs and religious convictions, it can be argued that the Arrow of God provides a second opinion to religion and avails members of the larger culture with a viable alternative.
Although the group is somewhat feared at the community level due to its secrecy and strange behavioral orientations, it nevertheless provides an opportunity for people sharing their philosophy and religious convictions to join and achieve spiritual fulfillment.
The subculture is definitely in conflict with many of the established norms of contemporary religion, including a rush to materialism and predisposition towards prosperity gospel. Consequently, it may continue to be viewed negatively by members of the mainstream community irrespective of the fact that it was initiated for a good cause.
This essay has successfully detailed the background information of the Arrow of God subculture and illuminated its significance to wider Christian culture in the community. It has been observed that the interests of the subculture conflict with those of the wider culture and that its formation was somehow informed by the need to address the dissenting views.
Lastly, the essay has touched on why the subculture may continue to be viewed negatively by members of the wider culture irrespective of the fact that it has been engaged in uplifting the lives of the less disadvantaged in the society.