Monday, May 25, 2009

Post No. 120: "Taking Cover Under the Canopy of Religion"


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Last week, we saw an interview of a Ku Klux Klan member. He made frequent reference to segregation as having been sanctioned by God.

More recently, one of our “supporters” suggested that we “sprinkle” our articles with Biblical references to generate more interest, particularly because God has chosen to assemble more of his passionate followers here in the Southeast.

(In a previous article, we noted our repeated requests that God speak to us, all to no avail. We actually envy those special people to whom God speaks. They’re apparently doing something we’re not, despite our willingness to participate in a conversation. The Logistician’s Father long claimed that he was simply not trying hard enough.)

The segregationist and our supporter, in conjunction with the noise generated over the President’s Notre Dame Commencement speech, reminded us of a blunder candidate Obama made on the campaign trail. In April 2008, he said that it was not surprising that working class citizens, in small cities decimated by job losses, might cling to guns and religion to deal with their frustration.

Many felt that Sen. Clinton would benefit enormously from this misstep.

And perhaps she ultimately will.

And so it was timely that C-Span aired a presentation entitled, “God is Back,” sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “Taking Cover under the Canopy of Religion,” was coined by one of the panelists.

We learned that the “mega church” is actually an American invention – an extension of free market capitalism. In the 1970s, some religious leaders realized they were living in a very competitive environment. They suspected the application of business principles and marketing, along with getting more involved in the media and politics, would drive growth beyond their missionary efforts abroad.

One of the panelists noted that “Religion, American Style” has done so well in these “emerging markets,” that they have taken the business of religion to a new level. The growth has been particularly noteworthy in Guatemala and South Korea (where one mega church boasts 830,000 members).

It’s not just a matter of more people personally following religion, but rather the reassertion of religion as a force in life. Per the panelists, globalization is stoking the demand for religion.

China has roughly 1.4 billion people. Despite its purported communist underpinnings, it could become the largest Christian nation, Buddhist nation, or any other type of religious nation. Many suggest that the central authority of the Communist Party is fragile and subject to fracture.

The branch of Christianity most successful in riding this wave has been Pentecostalism, which places emphasis on a direct personal experience with God. (Perhaps that’s the ticket.) Globalization is driving insecurity, because change makes people insecure.

Insecurity historically has driven an apocalyptic attitude, and concern about impending doom. Pentecostalism also has a sociological element, which provides uprooted people with a philosophy in which they can emotionally invest.

To many, the Pentecostal Church service is the spiritual equivalent of infotainment. Entertainers from Ray Charles to Elvis Presley traced their musical roots to the melodies and arrangements they learned as children on Sundays.

As with everything in life, the panelists acknowledged a downside. When religion is at its most passionate, it is also at its most intolerant.

And most dangerous.

More blood has been shed in the Name of God, through religious wars, than for any other political purpose.

One perhaps counterintuitive aspect of the mega churches is the focus on small units to drive the agenda. One reason that Islam has grown so rapidly is that individual mosques have tremendous control and autonomy at their level, as opposed to functioning under a huge, centralized bureaucracy.

The strength in this approach is that it empowers people. The weakness? Doctrinal inconsistency, subject to variations of all types, and manipulation.

Our friend the Laughingman abandoned a Mormon heritage, traceable to Brigham Young’s initial march across the plains and mountains, to become an Episcopalian (not least to insure continued access to the company of Rev. Davenport’s daughter). Forty five years later, he remains a 4 times a month church goer… not least because he has discovered that getting down on your knees once a week, and reciting the Litany, is good for one’s sanity as well as one’s soul.

We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us, but thou, oh Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.”

He likens religion to a human operator’s manual. Pay attention to the Ten Commandments, and you can get through this life without causing harm to yourself or others. Ignore them, and it is hell living with the consequences.

We guess that candidate Obama got it wrong. Imagine that.

22 comments:

  1. Obama's statement regarding religion and guns may not have been popular, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. I actually agree with the statement. Many Christians are born in the trenches; people forget about religion until they need it. The fight or flight instinct kicks in and people will arm themselves with guns and religion to create a strong offense. he instinct is necessary for survival but many have not evolved their reactions to an intelligent level. Primitive zeal then becomes bothersome to those that are able to "keep their heads about them while others are losing theirs."

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  2. I wonder whether if Obama had not made reference to "guns" in his statement, whether people would not have been as offended by the statement.

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  3. I think it would have offended equally. It is the "cling to" reference that I think was the offense. I, personally, disagree with the premise that More blood has been shed in the Name of God, through religious wars, than for any other political purpose.

    Though I have no doubt that religious wars have caused great suffering and misery, they are far outnumbered by wars of conquest and greed and liberation. The Second World War alone saw the deaths of millions, soldiers and civilians, just by itself and it was not a religious war nor a war about religion. Wars, even those said to be about religion, are more often about gaining territory, riches, or control than about religious differences.

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  4. Douglas wrote: "Wars, even those said to be about religion, are more often about gaining territory, riches, or control than about religious differences."

    Now this is interesting; very interesting. Are you suggesting that there are those in our society who paint their motives as religious in nature, when they actually are not?

    If so, how can we tell the difference?

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  5. "Man is a curious animal. He has left the only experience of joy he has here on earth, and that which he will risk life, limb, fortune, and even his queer Heaven itself for... sexual intercourse... out of his paradise. Prayer takes its place."

    -Mark Twain

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/twainlfe.htm

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  6. Inspector, in our society? Why limit it to our society? Throughout history, religion has been used by those who seek power for themselves. Cardinal Richelieu comes to mind immediately. Most kings have wrpped themselves in religious trappings and sought the blessing of a church for their place on the throne.

    How do we tell the difference is, indeed, the question. And one for which I have no answer for others.

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  7. Douglas: We can live and work with the fact that you have no answer, as you SO appropriately stated, "for others." You, like us, apparently recognize the problems associated with proselytism.

    We would imagine that the doctrine of caveat emptor also applies here.

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  8. Douglas: What about the U.S. invasion of Hawaii in 1893? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii

    Was that non-imperialism based?

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  9. There have been a few, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War and, of course, the wars with the Native Americans. Hawaii is another example of imperialism on our part but it goes back farther than 1893 and it involves more countries than us. The Hawaiians might have been better off if they had tossed Captain Cook off the islands when he first arrived.

    But we released most of the lands we claimed as "spoils of war" (exception: the southwest US) and have offered independence to several possessions and territories. We had no colonies, no vast empire.

    Some might say the US empire is one of economic domination. Others, like myself, would disagree.
    Still others might say we installed "puppet governments" and meddled in the politics of smaller nations. That might be so. It also might have been counter-meddling, in response to other nations meddling in those smaller nations' politics.

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  10. That might be so.Might be? You question that?

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  11. Don't you question anything you are told that fits within your worldview? Or do you simply accept it because it was what you believed (or wanted to believe) already?


    Yes, I question that and said why.

    I tend to question a lot of things.

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  12. You did not say why. That we have installed (and later dis-installed) puppet governments and meddleed in the politics of smaller nations is not even a matter of dispute: it is history, plain and simple. If you don't know that, you should choose other topics on which to comment.

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  13. rodak, your reading comprehension is sometimes as poor as mine. "That might be so" is an affirmative statement.

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  14. **"That might be so" is an affirmative statement.**'

    No, it isn't; it's an equivocation. "might be" is not equivalent to "is."

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  15. I wish I had a less overused term than Religious Right to plaster to my opinion here but it is still the brand that sells. Thinking maybe Religious Self-Righteous, or Jesus Love Us, but He Can't Stand You or JLUBHCSU for ease of transcription. Anyway, following is a review I did for my blog, after reading a book, mentioned in the next paragraph. I believe it is applicable to the post on which I am commenting. My summary reflects my ongoing examination of where the hell I came from and who WERE those people in my wilderness. They may be the same type of terrorists described in this book. One thing is for sure, as ever, their religion is a canopy and just big enough to cover the chosen few. As the crowded mass of perfection underneath meets prospective entrants, somebody naturally has to go. This evolving purification maintains the elect and survival of the fittest, the rules changing form and substance like a lava lamp, and just as dated and tacky.

    Another post follows, it was too long.

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  16. Just read an autobiography of Anne Moody called "Coming of Age in Mississippi". She was one of the first to participate in a sit-in at Woolworths and was on the front lines when the NAACP emerged in Mississippi. Every word on every page drips with the agony, horror, hope, devastation, faith, lack of faith, vision, exasperation, and committment of a young woman who was called. She wrote the book in 1968.

    At the end of the book (384 pages), she is boarding a Greyhound to Washington to testify of the attrocities in the South, especially in Mississippi. Little Gene Young is full of hope and natural excitement as he tries to stir Anne out of her weariness in well doing. I can just see this kid in my mind now, big brown eyes and flashing grin. Here he is, just like any other kid who, no doubt, was just hopping up and down over the prospect of an adventure. Unlike most other kids though, he had not had the inalienable right to walk in and out of a candy store without being under suspicion, cross the street without looking to see who was on the other side, covet some plaything or suit of clothes through a shop window without being shooed away, with added insult to injury muttered under some old fart's breath, or worse, screamed at him. Any childhood curiousity could not be enjoyed with youthful absent-minded abandon. He could have been the little boy who had acid thrown in his eyes by an old white man who was mad because he was peeking through an opening in the fence around his yard. He might have been one of the children whom Robert Kennedy encountered when the Senator arrived to see the hunger and poverty, changing the priorities, for just a moment, of addressing prejudice, racism, justice, freedom, and voting rights. He might have been one of those children, lined up on the steps of their shack, self-consciously bouncing against the wood frame siding, whom when asked by this compassionate man, "Have you had lunch yet?", answered, "No sir, not yet." He, with hereditary pride, would probably not have spoken the shameful truth that growled from his little stomach. The "No sir" part gets to me. Some loving guardian had taught this child the very thing absent in the makeup of men and women two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight times his age - RESPECT! A child, innocent, black, hungry, denigrated, poor, reduced, and forgotten through no fault of his own. Here he is, nurturing a couple hundred years of character, sweetness, and goodness compared to every other person's singular suffocating breath and wasted mind. But here is little Mr. Young, we would be about the same age. I hope he is out there somewhere, saying "YES WE DID!" He says, "Moody, we're gonna git things straight in Washington, huh?" As the other bus riders are singing "We shall overcome", Anne Moody ends the book with "I wonder. I really wonder." This book made me ache, grieving about the culture I grew up in, little girls in their white dresses and patent leather shoes bombed to death in Sunday School ( I bet the bombers would claim to be "pro-life" ), innocent adults left bloody and mashed like dixieland road kill, something left to fill a buzzard's gullet. The mentality that annihilated, in great measure, black people's lives, carefree childhoods, hopes, and opportunities seethes today - different time, same shit. We may not be witnessing a genocide or holocaust, for the moment, but the virus of narrow-mindedness has mutated, morphed, and metastasised as attempts are still being made to "cleanse" the land by the most vocal pledgers of allegience, and perverters of the culture of life. As these provincial reactionaries proudly reach the crescendo of "with liberty and justice for all" they should just as well remove their hand from their hearts, grab their so called "principles" and customized "morals" and fist it where the Son of God don't shine.

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  17. Thanks much Kip for your very thoughtful comment, and the recommendation of other books to read.

    For virtually any group which contends that God sanctions their conduct, from their perspective, they need look no further for justification, or consider the views of others.

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  18. As we type this, there is a fascinating discussion between Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens being aired on C-Span2 Book TV, about the self-censorship of many media outlets out of fear of reprisal from religious forces.

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  19. I wish I had a less overused term than Religious Right to plaster to my opinion here but it is still the brand that sells. Thinking maybe Religious Self-Righteous, or Jesus Love Us, but He Can't Stand You or JLUBHCSU for ease of transcription. Anyway, following is a review I did for my blog, after reading a book, mentioned in the next paragraph. I believe it is applicable to the post on which I am commenting. My summary reflects my ongoing examination of where the hell I came from and who WERE those people in my wilderness. They may be the same type of terrorists described in this book. One thing is for sure, as ever, their religion is a canopy and just big enough to cover the chosen few. As the crowded mass of perfection underneath meets prospective entrants, somebody naturally has to go. This evolving purification maintains the elect and survival of the fittest, the rules changing form and substance like a lava lamp, and just as dated and tacky.

    Another post follows, it was too long.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Don't you question anything you are told that fits within your worldview? Or do you simply accept it because it was what you believed (or wanted to believe) already?


    Yes, I question that and said why.

    I tend to question a lot of things.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Inspector, in our society? Why limit it to our society? Throughout history, religion has been used by those who seek power for themselves. Cardinal Richelieu comes to mind immediately. Most kings have wrpped themselves in religious trappings and sought the blessing of a church for their place on the throne.

    How do we tell the difference is, indeed, the question. And one for which I have no answer for others.

    ReplyDelete

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