September 13, 2006 8:46 PM
I just wrote the previous post about programming in part as a distraction from writing about another Salon article. “Come as you are” by Lauren Sandler describes a mega church in Seattle where “hipster” culture mixes with religious fundamentalism and they preach a subservient role for women in order to have as many babies as possible in an attempt to repopulate Seattle with conservatives. I can’t bring myself to write much about it because the whole subject horrifies me. Not because some people would find it an attractive way to live (I can actually kind of see the attraction and besides people can live as they want) but because of the brazenness and openness of the desire to make us all live as they do.
But it mostly just depresses me. First because, these evangelicals who can see their way through to worrying about corporate greed, and the Walmart-ization of the world will turn around and vote for Bush, of course, because he’s so loudly a Christian who agrees with them about the things that impact only themselves like gender roles and marriage, instead of someone who might actually do something about those causes that impact other people. But even more than that, it bothers me to no end that religion and community so often go hand in hand with anti-intellectualism.
I can see the draw of religion. I was brought up Catholic (if of a pretty liberal variety) and although I haven’t been to church for some time, I still consider myself to be a Catholic. The religion in my upbringing is important to me and, frankly, if the Church were moving in a better direction rather than a worse one, I might feel compelled to get more involved again.
I can certainly see the draw of tight knit communities like the ones described in the article. People need communities and as we get more and more mobile it is harder and harder to maintain them.
But why, oh why, is it so obvious to so many people that being intellectual means being secular and being either excludes having a caring community?
To young evangelicals, our secular world is devoid of the type of love they seek, not parental love or fraternal love or even erotic love, but an even bigger love — a love called agape. When Christians describe God’s love for his children this is the word they invoke, a love so powerful one is moved to proclaim it on car bumpers and coffee mugs. Hand in hand with certainty, agape is what this generation longs for today — a love that will soothe the pain of breakups and breakouts, heal the wounds from shattered families, make bearable the awareness that we are each a solitary speck in an illimitable world. It’s the emotion that secularism, enraptured by its logic and empiricism, refuses to engage.
What!? Isn’t that what secular humanism is supposed to be all about? “It takes a village” and all that?
My guess is that love isn’t really the word I should be focusing on from that paragraph. It’s certainty. And that is what is so threatening about intellectualism and secularism as well as what makes people conflate the two. The instant that you start admitting that you can use your brain and the evidence to come to a conclusion that’s not already written down—that might be in conflict with one that was already written down, then, for some people, certainty goes out the window. What can you believe in if everything could be disproved? My reaction: You have far less faith that you believe! Faith is about believing in things that you can never have any evidence for, not avoiding using your eyes and your brain for fear you might be forced to change your mind about something.
Still, just once, I want to read about a mega-church built on the idea that we can better ourselves and our neighbors through empowerment, social justice, and by learning all that we can about the world in order to be critical of authority.
Update: Pandagon has a slightly different approach to the same article. I definitely recommend reading it after you read the original to get the creepy taste out of your mouth. I also like the comment about the zombies. Nuanced it’s not, but spot on it is.
Update 10/16/06: Grrr… Aparantly because I linked to the front site of Pandagon as well as the individual post, Movable Type would send a TrackBack ping to whatever the current top entry was on Pandagon whenever the entry got updated in certain ways. So now I feel like an ass for unintentionally spamming them. So my bad. I’ve learned my lesson. Never, ever, ever link to the top page of a blog!