Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"We're kind of being trained to be warriors."

One of the creepiest elements of organized religion is the way it emotionally manipulates and puts blinders on the young in order to indoctrinate them. This video (via Andrew Sullivan) is terrifying. It's an ABC News clip about a new documentary called "Jesus Camp." Granted, the images in the video come from a Bible camp in North Dakota, and honestly, I'm not really afraid of what's happening in North Dakota. I figure the 400 people there are lonely and cold, and what they're doing isn't likely to greatly influence the rest of us. Hell, I imagine that Minnesotans and Montanans derisively refer to N.D. as "flyover country."

But I'm sure this is happening in other parts of the country as well, and it's quite scary. The author interviewed in this clip, Lauren Sandler, has a new book on the subject of Christian youth culture. It's worth checking out. I saw her read from it and answer questions last week at a Manhattan church, and her overarching point is that the organized and impassioned radicalism of the 1960s is back today, it's just occurring on the opposite end of the political spectrum. That gives me a serious case of the shudders. Because as much as I hate hippies, if you're going to replace them with the girl in this clip who's saying "No more...no more!," well, then I'm going to be doing my best to colonize Jupiter pretty soon. Who's with me?


Blogger Fox said...

Ok, I’m terrified too. After viewing that clip I can’t see any difference between the Madras of Islam and the Bible camps of Christianity. Of course that is not a revelation, at least for me anyway. I hold that all monotheistic religions are responsible for most of the ills in the world, that these religions are a drag on the ability of the human conscience to evolve, and that they should be fought tooth and nail by secular peoples until they are forced to die a death of attrition. But that’s for another day. What I really want to say is that you cannot hate hippies.

The minute I read that exclamation I imagined you with a flat-top hair cut and a skinny tie—as if you were the school principal in 1962—sputtering and wagging your finger at those long haired ne’er-do-wells.

I was a child in the nineteen-sixties and cannot claim any real identity to those who were the real youth movement at the time. I do remember watching TV and seeing hippies and seeing those that derided them. I never sided one way or the other (being seven or eight at the time) but I know one thing. To hate hippies is to turn yourself into a dragon. There will almost certainly never be a youth movement with such a universal appeal as the Counter Culture. Yes, it was corrupted by silliness, but the core of it was constructive and beneficial and the generations that have spawned since have proved only one thing, that capitalism won the day. That apathy and self-centeredness and career placement and deal-making have won out over peace and love and screw the man and communal living.

You can’t hate hippies because you run the risk of hating hope. Idealism is not hate-able, nor is it silly. It would be glorious if we, as a nation, could find that level of excitement again. I hope we will.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Jamal Alsaffar said...

You want the simple answer? Vote damnit. And just don't vote every four years in the "big" ones. It's the local ones where change and eventually movements on a large scale begin. Thus the saying "all politics is local."

You want proof? Bush is where he is because of a grass roots local effort started in the small towns of Texas in 1993 by you know who--Rove. Ann Richards, God rest her beautful soul, was the first big victim of it. The rest is history.

So vote up or shut up I say.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After viewing that clip I can’t see any difference between the Madras of Islam and the Bible camps of Christianity.

You mean, no differences other than the fact that Christians aren't walking into pizzerias and blowing themselves up, along with a few dozen kids? And flying planes filled with dozens of people into tall buildings filled with hundreds of people? And plotting to bring down the tallest building in LA? All as a means of doing God's will?

Yes, some Christians are weird, overzealous, and kinda creepy. As are some atheists and agnostics, Buddhists and Hindus, environmentalists and animal rights activists, Republicans and Democrats, football fans and baseball fans, music buffs and movie buffs, frat boys and cheerleaders. Every time people get together based on some shared passion, some of those people are going to be kind of wacky about it.

But a) that's not the fault of the religion, it's the fault of the wierd people; and b) that's not the typical person. Most Christians are normal people. If people watch this and assume that it provides an example of all Christians, then that's no different than watching Hoop Dreams and assuming that all black people can only escape the ghetto through basketball.

I spent a summer going door to door, collecting donations for the Sierra Club, and you could have just as easily dropped that camera in on one of those meetings, as incredibly passionate as those environmentalists were. We actually started one meeting by sitting in a circle, and the group leaders gave everyone a hypothetical: If you could get rid of one invention in the history of mankind, what would it be? You know, as a way of getting to know each other. And people's choices -- the car, air conditioning, refrigeration, electricity, oil -- were so absurd I actually started laughing.

Christians aren't the only wierdos out there. I hate to sound like a broken record, but if people think this is representative of all Christians, they should actually get to know some Christians.

What I really want to say is that you cannot hate hippies.

Of course you can. Do you want to know why I think hippies were one of the silliest cultural movements of all time? Here's why:

There will almost certainly never be a youth movement with such a universal appeal as the Counter Culture... You can’t hate hippies because you run the risk of hating hope.

To me, it's not the philosophy of the hippies that's so off-putting -- although free love, peace, and drugs were hardly unique or enduring as rallying points -- it's the arrogance that attended it. The suggestion that the hippies were somehow more culturally relevant or effective or unique or anything than any other movement before or after them is just silly. Were the hippies really that different from Kerouac's Lost Generation? Was their appeal greater than the SNCC? What about the French Revolution? Were they more hopeful than the Enlightenment? Were they more effective than the Communist movement in Europe?

You want proof? Bush is where he is because of a grass roots local effort started in the small towns of Texas in 1993 by you know who--Rove.

Damn you, Bush! Damn you for espousing a slightly different viewpoint than Al Gore and John Kerry!

Here's an example of how I think people are blind to their own hypocrisy. You use the name "Rove" as a kind of "res ipsa loquitur." He's the Keyser Soze for hard-core lefties. They can't actually say what he's actually done, but they just know he's behind everything evil in the world. Just say his name, and the mind conjures all sorts of evils to fear and dread.

So how is that any less an article of faith than the belief in God and the Devil? You don't even need an argument as long as you can say his name twice (but not 3 times, for fear that you'll conjure his ghost!). At some point, it stops being about arguments and starts being about belief.

And I assure you, it's no less creepy.

-- Comish

3:07 AM  
Blogger JMW said...


People here don't want to get to know Christians. They "know" them already, the way that some southerners "know" all the rude, heathen Yankees they've never met.

I'm sort of on your side here -- in the sense that the documentary clearly focuses on an extreme group in order to make its point. Also, many who have seen the movie have already noted that these kids are, in a way, the most likely to not be like this when they grow up, since people raised in such strict circumstances often react against it as they learn more about themselves and the wider world.

And I agree that, at this moment in history, to compare this with the Islamic schools isn't spot-on. BUT, this is still scary. Even if it's a limited sample, even if it obviously doesn't implicate the millions of Christians of more moderate stripes, there's no reason we all can't get behind the idea that this STRAIN of Christianity -- with its aggressive, lockstep brainwashing of little kids -- is terrible.

From the Times review of "Jesus Camp" today:

"Ms. Fischer (the leader of the Bible camp) understands full well that the indoctrination of children when they are most impressionable (under 13 and preferably between 7 and 9) with evangelical dogma is the key to the movement’s future growth, and she compares Kids on Fire to militant Palestinian training camps in the Middle East that instill an aggressive Islamist fundamentalism. The term war, as in culture war, is repeatedly invoked to describe the fighting spirit of a movement already embraced by 30 million Americans, mostly in the heartland."

Oh, and I love the Sierra Club people naming oil as an "invention." Priceless.

And hippies. Hope and idealism are two very different things, I think. Hope is indispensable. Idealism is silly. And to me, the hippies represented the silliest kind of non-rational idealism -- the loose, intoxicated notion that "hey, if we all just love each other, nothing can be bad, right?" It's a feeling I've often had at the end of a bar, and I don't mind indulging it, but you know it's not really a widely applicable world view if you've ever met some, uh, people.

11:27 AM  

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