You may know of journalist Matt Taibbi because of his articles in Rolling Stone and his reporting on Real Time with Bill Maher.
Next month, Taibbi’s book The Great Derangement will be published.
Matt discovered in his travels across the country that the resilient blue state/red state narrative of American politics had become irrelevant. A large and growing chunk of the American population was so turned off—or radicalized—by electoral chicanery, a spineless news media, and the increasingly blatant lies from our leaders (“they hate us for our freedom”) that they abandoned the political mainstream altogether. They joined what he calls The Great Derangement.
Taibbi tells the story of this new American madness by inserting himself into four defining American subcultures: The Military, where he finds himself mired in the grotesque black comedy of the American occupation of Iraq; The System, where he follows the money-slicked path of legislation in Congress; The Resistance, where he doubles as chief public antagonist and undercover member of the passionately bonkers 9/11 Truth Movement; and The Church, where he infiltrates a politically influential apocalyptic mega-ministry in Texas and enters the lives of its desperate congregants. Together these four interwoven adventures paint a portrait of a nation dangerously out of touch with reality and desperately searching for answers in all the wrong places.
Part of his book recounts a trip to an overnight Christian fellowship. He found out about the retreat from advertising at that aforementioned church — Pastor John Hagee‘s Cornerstone Church.
Here are a few excerpts of his faith-based weekend, courtesy of Rolling Stone (names below were changed in the book for privacy reasons):
… there is something very odd about modern Christian men — although fiercely pro-military in their politics and prehistorically macho in their attitudes toward women’s roles, on the level of day-to-day behavior they seem constantly ready to break out weeping like menopausal women…
[Pastor Phil] Fortenberry then started in on a rant against science and against scientific explanations for cycles of sin. “Take homosexuals,” he said. “Every single homosexual is a sexual-abuse victim. They are not born. They are created — by pedophiles.”
The crowd swallowed that one whole. One thing about this world: Once a preacher says it, it’s true. No one is going to look up anything the preacher says, cross-check his facts, raise an eyebrow at something that might sound a little off. Some weeks later, Pastor John Hagee himself would assert that the Bible predicts that Jesus Christ is going to return to Earth bearing a “rod of iron” to discipline the ACLU. It goes without saying tht the ACLU was not mentioned in the passage in Ezekiel he was citing — but the audience ate it up anyway. When they’re away from the cameras, the preachers feel even less obligated to shackle themselves to facts of any kind. That’s because they know that their audience doesn’t give a shit. So long as you’re telling them what they want to hear, there’s no danger; your crowd will angrily dismiss any alternative explanations anyway as demonic subversion.
A team of twenty of the world’s leading scientists wouldn’t be able to convince so much as one person in this crowd that homosexuals are not created by pedophiles.
By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. You make this journey precisely to experience the ecstacy of beating to the same big gristly heart with a roomful of like-minded folks. Once you reach that place with them, you’re thinking with muscles, not neurons.
By the end of that weekend, Phil Fortenberry could have told us that John Kerry was a demon with clawed feet and not one person would have so much as blinked. Because none of that politics stuff matters anyway, once you’ve gotten this far. All that matters is being full of the Lord and empty of demons. And since everything that is not of God is demonic, asking these people to be objective about anything else is just absurd. There is no “anything else.” All alternative points of view are nonstarters. There is this “our thing,” a sort of Cosa Nostra of the soul, and then there are the fires of Hell. And that’s all.
I can’t say much about the first excerpt; I’m no expert on the modern Christian man.
But as for the others, I did notice in my own church visits that there was very little time (if any) for questions even when the pastors said some ridiculous things (even outside Biblical stories).
My own fact-checking did reveal errors in what some pastors said.
I did hear unnecessary attacks on non-Christians.
I want to be more optimistic that Christians who attend these types of churches have the mind to disagree with at least some of what they hear. Taibbi makes me think this happens far less than I imagine. I haven’t come across very many people who think like Hagee, but they obviously exist.
To those of you know who more about this: Is this problem as rampant as he makes it out to be? Have any of you attended these retreats and had similar experiences?