Saturday, June 30, 2007
Friday, June 29, 2007
For those who have not heard of the film, the director follows a group of three kids to a Jesus Camp in South Dakota lead by Pentecostal "Pastor Becky." The kids are all homeschooled (one mom tells her son "Isn't it amazing how science proves nothing?"). The kids walk around giving tracts to adults (at one point this annoyingly self-righteous child walks up to a group of older African-American men and asks them "If you were to die right now where would you go?" They answer "Heaven." She pushes "Are you sure?" "Yes," they answer obviously annoyed. She leaves them and says to her friend "I think they're Muslim."), they speak in tongues, lay "slain in the spirit," dance in war makeup (not kidding). It's all pretty horrifying (minus the wonderful scene at the end where they meet Ted Haggard who preaches against homosexuality). The children are called "promise breakers," "hypocrites," and "sinners." At the end of these sermons, they stand at the front sobbing. Some confess to disbelief and that they know they'll go to hell for such a lack of faith. They are preached to about politics. At one point the adults bring out a cut out of George Bush. It is set up against the background of a huge American flag. And then the kids lay hands on the cutout and pray for Bush. They have a speaker come to them to preach against abortion. He puts red tape over several kids' mouths, I suppose to represent the fetuses? The kids parrot words that are frighteningly echo those of the adults in the movie. The adults express admiration for how extremist Muslims indoctrinated their children so young. And Pastor Becky tells a radio show host that more churches should practice indoctrination.
Now I'll be honest that my gut level reaction is repulsion and fear that these scary people are out there. And I know they're a minority but it's an 80 million person minority. I feel sick for these kids who not really being taught but indoctrinated. And I know it's not just religious extremists who indoctrinated. I have a few friends who do this with atheism and their kids. I guess it's that H and I try so hard to impose our own biases etc onto the kids. We're always clear that beliefs are ours not the whole worlds, etc. And I am not so naive as to think that our kids do think many of the same things we do but we do encourage them to not just accept what we say. It's annoying to have their constant questioning but I think in the end important towards developing free thought.
And I grew up in a Pentecostal church. I went to a Jesus Camp when I was young. And I know that first, this stuff does scare the hell out of you. I still wake up late and worry that I'm wrong and I'll burn in hell. I don't know if you ever escape that fear. Second, I also know that you get caught up in the atmosphere of these places, and you tend parrot what's going around you. You likely will go home, and be "on fire for the Lord" for a few days, maybe even weeks, but then it settles down and life returns to normal. Third, we did a lot more at Jesus Camp than just get indoctrinated. We coupled up, and snuck around night to hold hands and kiss. Fourth, people are not for the most empty vessels waiting to be filled. Imagines from the media, all too often fall upon the trope of brainwashing to explain extremest religions, and really people are often capable of thinking other thoughts. They often are not able to maintain such total extremist beliefs for long periods of time. This has all been academically documented (see David Chidester's Suicide and Salvation about Jonestown).
But still...these kids are dressing up in war makeup and calling themselves warriors for God. And that's my fifth point about Jesus Camp. As kids we reveled in that feeling of chosenness. We felt special, close to God, chosen to lead his people to heaven. There is something heady about feeling you are chosen by God. It's a powerful feeling that separates you from others. If you further this by keeping your kids out of school, going to church five days a week, and constantly repeating it, then you get kids who are going to end up believing this...wanting to believe it. They think they're persecuted, that the world is turning against them, and they are definitely apocalyptic. I read this again and again in the memoirs I just read about Mormon Fundamentalist cults. These women fall back again and again on this idea they were special, and they never fully let go of that idea.
David Byrne (of Talking Heads) has a great blog. His latest entry is about modern liberal belief coming into conflict with traditional closed of beliefs. He quotes scholar, Jonathan Haidt concerning this. It's an interesting conversation, and this man basically contends that those who live in large metropolitan areas are forced into a more individual concept of morality while those living in closed communities preserve a more traditional attitude towards purity. I have a lot of issues about this and I do need to Haidt more to make a fuller critique (which I will) but for now I think it is true that Westerners do tend to push their liberal agenda. And there are many scholars who point to this ethnocentrism (Said, Mahmood ). I get this. And I see how it's problematic. Iraq is a prime example of the messiness of this stance. But and this is a big But can this be an excuse for ignorance about others? For abuses on human bodies? For oppression both physically and emotionally? And let me be clear that it's not just Non Western (whatever the hell that might be) that perpetuates these kind of conservative abuses. There are many many groups both religious and nonreligious in the US that engage in abusive behaviors. And my major dilemma as a scholar, and as someone who is interested in religious violence is how does one approach this topic. Can we approach with an understanding that does not necessarily endorse such behavior? Is there room in religious studies as a discipline for a critique of religious practices? Is my own liberal bias preventing me from understanding other forms of agency (something Mahmood argues eloquently)?
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Camille and Umberto measuring out apple butter. This takes forever I might add but it's a good way to learn fractions.
Stirring the wet ingredients. This is a job I don't mind handing off to those who have more energy.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
I appreciate your presence with just my eyes.
I can also make conjectures.
There is in each thing an animating essence.
In plants it's a tiny nymph that exists on the outside.
In animals it's a remote inner being.
In man it's the soul that lives with him and is him.
In the gods it has the same size
And fills the same space as the body
And is the same thing as the body.
For this reason it is said that the gods never die.
For this reason the gods do not have body and soul
But just body, and they are perfect.
The body is their soul,
And they have consciousness in their divne flesh.
Umberto's reaction to the very large rat snake.
A California king sanke. He was too mean to get taken out. I guess he bites...a lot.
Umberto and Camille petting a Burmese Python.
Friday, June 22, 2007
"I always depend upon a molecular assemblage of enunciation that is not given in my conscious mind, any more than it depends soley on my apparent soical determinations, which combine many heterogeneous regimes of signs. Speaking in tongues. To write is perhaps to bring this assemblage of the unconscious to the light of day, to select the whispering voices, to gather the tribes and secret idioms from which I extract something I call my Self. I is an order-word." From A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari, 84.
And yes, this means that I am going to keep blogging. I think that all this blogging is important in my life right now. I am struggling not only in my thesis but in my own life towards this notion of what creates an I. So for those who like to read my blog, you can offer up a candle and an order-word of thanks to Deleuze.