Tuesday, January 23, 2007

caught up in the spirit

"I have a soft spot in my heart for literalists because I used to be one," he said in the film. "There's nothing wrong with a fifth-grade understanding of God [or the Bible], as long as you're in the fifth grade." - Rev. Laurence Keene

The past weeks have seen more attention (so it seems) and substantial dialogue on the religious right. Much is do in part to the new Chris Hedges book and also the interview with Jim Wallis.

Maud Newton has a heartfelt and darkly humorous "testimonial" on Jesus Camp -the embattled evangelical summer camp for kids which has been accused of brainwashing.

Jodi Dean speaks on the film Hell House which follows a local church's efforts to gain converts using "alternative" theater during Halloween. She describes the believers as loving and earnest - something that shouldn't be lost upon observers. This human diminsion is real and we have to come to terms as to why people are turning increasingly to carismatic faiths and cultist fantasies of escape, Utopia and of course revenge. The world is evil and the believers are the beleagured weathering the constant venom of that world. All zealousy is based on some form of this. Even Scientology places itself in opposition to modernity through the filter of psychiatry.

Seemingly right on cue there is another piece with Chris Hedges, this time at alternet.

The Radical Christian Right Is Built on Suburban Despair.

The engine that drives the radical Christian Right in the United States, the most dangerous mass movement in American history, is not religiosity, but despair. It is a movement built on the growing personal and economic despair of tens of millions of Americans, who watched helplessly as their communities were plunged into poverty by the flight of manufacturing jobs, their families and neighborhoods torn apart by neglect and indifference, and who eventually lost hope that America was a place where they had a future.
This despair crosses economic boundaries, of course, enveloping many in the middle class who live trapped in huge, soulless exurbs where, lacking any form of community rituals or centers, they also feel deeply isolated, vulnerable and lonely. Those in despair are the most easily manipulated by demagogues, who promise a fantastic utopia, whether it is a worker's paradise, fraternite-egalite-liberte, or the second coming of Jesus Christ. Those in despair search desperately for a solution, the warm embrace of a community to replace the one they lost, a sense of purpose and meaning in life, the assurance they are protected, loved and worthwhile.

There has been, along with the creation of an American oligarchy, a steady Weimarization of the American working class. The top one percent of American households have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. This figure alone should terrify all who care about our democracy. As Plutarch reminded us "an imbalance between the rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics."

Believers, of course, clinging to this magical belief, which is a bizarre form of spiritual Darwinism, will be raptured upwards while the rest of us will be tormented with horrors by a warrior Christ and finally extinguished. This obsession with apocalyptic violence is an obsession with revenge. It is what the world, and we who still believe it is worth saving, deserve.
Now consider that millions are believing that position in some form or another - not in refugee camps but at the local strip mall.

* Also I'm sort of surprised I'm only coming to this website now but the Evangelical Right is a great place to catch up on all things theocratic.

image: HLIB

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