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Merchandising Christianity

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

What surprises me the most about Southern Baptist and Baptist churches is their concern with materialism, while being materialistic. I know, specifically, at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, which has thousands of members, uses their membership to profit their school. While they obviously don’t only try to attract large audiences so they can make some money, there is literally merchandise everywhere as soon as you walk in, and Jerry Falwell’s sons certainly are not lacking financially.

This is what Thomas Road’s Sunday service looks like

 

Not only do they sell Bibles, self-help books, t-shirts, jewelry, etc., they also sell education. In class on Tuesday Dr. Mathews talked about how preachers were worried about the youth because it seemed like believers may be dwindling, so in order to keep their congregation size that is who they need to attract, and in order to do so, they need to attract them while they’re young.

Since our parents influence much of our lives, we basically have to listen to them through all of high school. Like I mentioned in class on Tuesday, Liberty University has a program where, if you attend their high school for four years, you can attend their University for free. Most parents take advantage of this opportunity, because who wouldn’t want a free college education from an accredited institution? However, when these high school students become college students at a college they might not even want to attend, it is almost too late to go somewhere else. Even if you don’t go to their high school, though, they give so many scholarships, and it is pretty easy to get them, that it is an incredible option for people who may never be able to go to school. Liberty University can also offer their students so much, so they might not want to anywhere else.

Therefore, Liberty University tries to recruit students to their school, probably just like any other school, because they always need more students, but also to recruit youth to God, which is most likely their primary goal.

A Very Negative Association: Personal Reflection and the Religious Right

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Say Jerry Falwell in public and you’re likely to get a very negative and a very positive response.  Let’s face it, he’s a guys people either love or love to hate.  Most students here on campus do not care for the man and what he stood for but there are many outside our academic setting who have no problem with him or his message.  Even within my own friend group there is a sharp divide.  Many of my more conservative Christian friends think highly of his school, although not all, while others of my Christian friends feel as though he portrays a very negative image of Christians.  This, I suppose, is an example of the so called ‘culture wars’ which have apparently ravaged our country lo, these many decades.

Growing up, I often felt like a fish out of water when it came to religion and social issues.  I am, as many of you know, a Presbyterian but in Floyd County, Virginia that counts for religious diversity.  The great preponderance of people in Floyd are Baptist, Brethren, of Church of Christ.  We have one Methodist, one Lutheran (both in town), and two Presbyterian Churches (one in town).  The very small Catholic congregation met, until very recently, in the basement of the Lutheran Church (how’s that for an historical funny?).  I knew fundamentalism and the revivalist fever existed– how could I not being so

Channeling My Inner Hippie

surrounded by them?– but they were things I never actively participated in.  In short, I got to be the Conservative Democrat/Southern Democrat caught between the staunchly religious conservative right and the hippie liberal left (there are a surprising number of hippies and communes in Floyd County).  Most of what I had to say, when I said it, rarely endeared me to either side for too long.

Channeling My Inner Angry Jesus

I remember one day in spring, during gym, we went out to play tennis.  I was and am a poor tennis player but I was having fun clumsily whacking the ball around with a friend when I overheard the most startling conversation.  Three of my classmates were walking around the court allegedly looking for their missing tennis ball.  I was simply shocked and disgusted.  They went on about the various ills of society.  I learned that everything started to go downhill after the Civil War.  Black people should be back in their proper place as slaves in the field for the white man since they were inferior and stupid to the white man (really funny in hindsight considering how these three were possibly the dullest tools in my schools proverbial shed).  I’m afraid they didn’t use ‘black people’ either but I’ll let you guess at what they said instead.  These three went on to tackle the issue of women’s suffrage and liberation.  Basically, women just needed to get back in the kitchen and keep their mouths shut.  Now, these three were not what you might call religious or devout in their actions and professions but they did go to church (their family churches, that is, which is an entirely different sort of dysfunction if you ask me).  Their justification for these beliefs was simply that it was surely what God intended for them (their own cultural Christianity–and yes, I mean for that to be taken diminutively).  These notions serve as a personal example of what many people find so objectionable to the propositions the ‘Religious Right’ puts forward for their political platform year in and year out.  And while certainly not all, perhaps not most people in the Religious Right harbor sentiments exactly like that which I related it is often what people on the Left and the Religious Left fear.  Although, Jerry doesn’t really need the help of these three ‘friends’ of mine to offend:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-CAcdta_8I[/youtube]

To be fair to the other side:[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPxikuLAw_Q[/youtube]

Those two videos express something of the different opinions expressed by those around me in my childhood.  Fortunately, we were all able to enjoy the Jamboree and our beloved Bluegrass music!

But now, to lighten the mood, a personal and very lame joke:

“You know, it’s just so difficult to talk to the Religious Right.  They’re never wrong!  And don’t get me started on the Religious Left.  They’re never around to talk.”

Hey homeboy, get a clue

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Any religion that survives for long periods of time has to be adaptive but still retain enough of itself to continue. Also Religions interact with the day to day lives of their followers so its not surprising that Christianity is intertwined with many facets of our modern day commercially fueled media, even though it may seem cynical to us (and probably a lot of it is to some extant). To many of these people, spreading the word of their god is not only intrinsically a moral imperative but also the only chance for the salvation of many people. Also, getting heard by the masses these days isn’t cheap in terms of time, money, and other recourses,and so I guess I’m ok with people making money off of it, although it does seem pretty hypocritical to take it to such extremes of commercialization. Also, though a lot of Christian music/movies/etc. seems pretty forced and cheesy, I do appreciate the effort and recognize how hard it must be to strike a balance between advocating what you perceive as the unchanging truth of the world and the lifestyles connected to it, and connecting with the younger generations, particularly for older leaders who may have been raised pretty conservatively in the first place.

Save the Family, Save America?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

I have a weird fascination with Liberty University. Almost an obsession really. Not because I wish I went there, or I really like the idea of going to a school with a curfew for students who are allegedly adults, but mainly because I think its really fascinating that people would agree to go to a school with so. many. rules. and such… conservative philosophies. That doesn’t really have much to do with my blog, I was just putting that out there.

Anyways, that being said, I was pretty excited that one of the readings this week was by Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University. He really is an intriguing guy. I think what I was interested in from this chapter was his view on the family. On page 106 he says “The single most important influence on the life a child is the family.” He then goes on to talk about how the “playboy” culture and feminism are ruining the family structure, and in turn ruining all of America.

Right now I am taking Sociology of the Family, and this article really reminded me of what we have been learning about in class. To Jerry Fallwell’s credit, the “traditional” family structure really is changing in America. Last week we learned that 48% of first born children are born outside of the context of marriage. We also have learned that the divorce rate is at around 50%, depending on how you calculate it.  We also learned that more and more people are living together without getting married. These statistics would probably make Jerry Falwell cry like a little baby. So part of me thinks that Jerry had point, the family IS changing, its hard to even define what “family” is anymore. I think that we can all agree that Jerry gets a little off his rocker when he blames feminism for the demise of society. I think that Falwell is concerned about the way he sees families changing, and rightfully so, they ARE changing, but he only sees that as a bad thing, which I think many people, including myself would argue isn’t necessarily bad at all. So what does to Jerry do to save American families? He goes after the youth, the future family makers of America. He opens a University, a great way to reach the youth, especially considering the massive size of Liberty. As we read in the article about Christian music, Jerry Falwell is not the only one trying to reach the youth. In fact, many many evangelicals are reaching out to the youth, via music. As we have discussed, music is a power way to reach the youth, but I wonder how effective it really is. People are still having sex out side of marriage (fun fact I read in a couple of places that only about 3-5% of Americans actually wait until marriage to have sex), people are still having babies, getting divorced and being feminists. So I don’t really know how much the ploy to reach the youth is really going to work, but hey I suppose it is their prerogative to give it a try.

Finally, since we are talking about Christian music I thought now would be a good time to share one of Katty Perry’s first songs, you know just for kicks and giggles.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFvXOChyqdA

What is Family? – A Sociological Perspective

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Some of this week’s readings hit home for me. The one that REALLY reminded me of my childhood was the Rock n’ Roll one, because I knew exactly what and who they were talking about and how music can channel your inner Christian spirit. And well since some of us have experience something similar with Christian music I came across this:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/33-ways-you-know-you-were-a-youth-group-kid

and I thought it would be fun to share and laugh about the old times for some of us. And if you didn’t experience the music then just check out the link anyways because it has something to do with the reading. 😉

MOVING ON…

I want to talk about Falwell. Where to begin? I don’t know what’s more frustrating: him writing a book about how people need to live their lives or that there are so many people who still think like him today.

As sociology major, one of the things we study is family. Even though there is no actual definition for family, other than it’s an institution and is a part of a person’s socialization, what I have learned sociologists define as family varies from person to person. I think that family is a group of people, whether the head of the house-hold is a man and woman, a single parent, a same sex couple, or anything else I haven’t thought of, that are related by blood or not, who live together and care for each other and consider themselves a family. So, Falwell’s definition of family doesn’t make sense to me. He says family is a man and a woman who are legally and spiritually united.

Falwell doesn’t believe that family can come from anything else but a man and a woman. He mentions that men and women shouldn’t divorce because they will raise a broken family. He says that same-sex couples can’t raise a family and I don’t think he mentions why other than because God created man and woman to raise it. Honestly, coming from a Christian background and understanding his perspective, I think he may think that children raised by same-sex parents will create gay children or will create pedophiles. I only say this because I know many Christians and non-Christians think like this. Like I said when I defined family, I don’t think this is true because a family can come from a single parent or a same-sex couple because they are more than capable of raise great responsible children.

One example is Zach Wahls, who was raised by a same-sex couple. He defines what family is to him, how he was raised and who he has become.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMLZO-sObzQ[/youtube]

Sorry Falwell, but the definition of family has changed in the past 30 years and will continue to change, because ultimately, family is the people who care for you, know you and love you unfathomably.

Feelin’ Groovy

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5hLGmTH-Ds
That’s Amy Grant and Michael Smith, the two musicians who were sleeping with each other, performing together.  Actually I was originally just looking for music videos by Amy Grant (my girlfriend apparently used to be a huge fan) but the first few results for her name are actually performances by her and Smith, which is pretty funny.

My favorite article this week was the article about Christian music. Jerry Falwell successfully rallied his Christians in the early 1980’s, but they are having trouble holding on to today’s younger generation.  Rock music has been implemented now as a tool to try to attract today’s Christian youth, and has been extremely successful.  The fans described in the article and probably any one of your Christian friends is a testament to how strong a following Christian rock music can be.   I was never surrounded by very much Christian music, but who hasn’t heard this song/band before?

If you’ve never heard of them, they’re actually really good and were one of my favorite bands in the 10th grade.  Anyway.

I think youth tends to often feel a very strong connection with anything they feel is speaking to them, so if a horoscope happens to describe your day perfectly or if a song plays on the radio that matches your mood, you feel a connection to it.  I don’t know enough about music theory or the history of music’s usage but it seems obvious that music has always been an outlet for expression and something for people to find solidarity with.  With Christian rock, it’s unsurprising that a fun, lively, often catchy medium for spiritual messages would be easy for young people to really identify with and hold on to.  I don’t know if I’m explaining this part very well, but I recently saw an article showing the sway music holds in general with youth that dealt with young Christians today.

In the article, you read the perspective of a young woman who has left the church and struggles to understand or identify with various aspects of it. The woman lives in a conservative town in the mid-west and attended a Macklemore performance where the artist performed this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0  

She and the rest of the audience found comfort and solidarity and freedom of expression in a place that often stifles those feelings for anyone who doesn’t fit into the status quo.  The article also singles out the religious message pertained in the song as well.

I feel like every time I start these posts I have a general idea in mind and then end up just rambling, so once again, this has been a post.  If nothing else, enjoy the music!

Muscular/Beautiful/Awesome/Really Cool Christianity

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Alright, I have to come clean. This week’s readings have been particularly relevant to me because…dare I say it…I’m in a worship band! I’ve gone to all the youth conferences, all the Christian rock concerts (that I was coerced into attending as an angsty 13-year-old. I’ve lusted after these married-by-18-but-definitely-a-virgin-until-then Christian front-men (typically lead guitarists). I’ve rocked out, moshed/prayed with strangers/jumped in an otherwise rock-concert-y way to Chris Tomlin, Newsboys, The Fringe, and of course, Hillsong. Even writing this blog post has brought me back to times of my youth (middle & high school)–I was an outcast, but these cool, beautiful, God-fearing youth-centered (and of course super-attractive) Christian bands made me feel like I was a part of something.

It’s a formula. How do we take a message that’s old as dirt, societally regarded as outdated, incredibly convicting, and get young people to think it’s really cool? YOU GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhYuA0Cz8ls[/youtube]

When I was in the youth group at my home church, I used to go on these annual trips to a youth convention called Acquire the Fire. 2-3 days of tight-knit, concentrated, rock-band-wielding, sex-ed-discussing, sinfully-convicting youth-oriented worship-time. We had rap groups come, rock groups come, skits, movies, anything and everything that would make it cool! I remember one particular year, after rocking out to some good ol’ rap, the youth pastor took the mic, and started talking about how our world is sinning by accepting “homosexuals.” The crowd started cheering. Me, however, I wanted to vomit. Nothing like a good, ole fashioned fundi-message to ruin the mood.

But this all reminded me of the muscular Christianity that came into existence at the turn of the century. In order to attract the youth (same idea), one had to beautify, or in this case strengthen/masculinize Christianity. The same ideas exist today. In order to get across this “outdated” message, you need to give the people what they want: sex and rock & roll. A hot frontman to tell you to remain abstinent until marriage while strumming his guitar, sounding as if he’s climaxing (oooohh yeaaaah, oooh God, oooooh yeah–check any worship track, you’ll hear it), but remaining deep in worship.

This reading, however, talks about female worship bands…not so different, I suppose:
“All four of the Point of Grace women are in their mid-20’s, with glamorously wholesome looks. Indeed, from their airbrushed CD covers and record shop display posters to their carefully scripted concert patter, Point of Grace is not-so-subtly being positioned as the sort of pristine feminine ideal Christian boys are supposed to go for.”
Again, as with “Take the Young Stranger By the Hand,” we see sex being used to sculpt the “ideal” young person of God. If people are attracted to these people, they’ll want to be just like them, and part of being just like them is worshiping God. Get ’em with the sex and rock & roll!

What are you arguing here, Jerry?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

For me, it seems like Jerry may have been pulling the wool over America’s eyes.  But, perhaps his intentions were more pure than we think.  Keep n my mind I disagree with 100% of the ignorant things this book listed as the problems with America.  But, let us keep in mind that his book was published in 1980.  The height of the Col War is in full effect, and people are more scared of commies than the boogey man.

Is the hellfire coincidence?

 

In a very roundabout and incredibly insensitive way, I wonder if old Jerry Falwell was attempting to keep America closer to the white and blue rather than the red.  With literature as inflammatory as his book, I think it possible that a clean America isn’t exactly what Jerry was going for.  It may be possible that Falwell makes this outlandish and hurtful claims in order to draw the reader in.  Like a 6th grader learning to write essays, Falwell has hooked the reader with interesting subject matter.  Also like a 6th grader, Falwell has mortally insulted a large swath of people.  But that isn’t the point.  The absolute ridiculousness of his work makes it very noticeable, and then possible for readers to see the real message.  Stick with capitalism America.

Jerry Falwell Anti-Communism

Right Wing Fun…

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

My man Jerry was quite the interesting character, his opinions on child care, abortion, women and homosexual rights were unique to say the least.  Through the media, playboy lifestyle, and a general straying from the role and responsibilities of the individuals in a family.  The notion that the fall of the family unit began at the heart of the woman being plagued by the media and the man by the playboy lifestyle- the way to solve this problem is through going to see your pastor.  Thus in the end, it comes down to the woman coming closer to god and being more devoted to the husband of the family.  An example of this would be praying or reading a bible.  The bible is a perfect text in which all aspects of life can be judged and given proper guidance.  Fundamentalists- not so much fun after all.  And in the end the sexual revolution was the beginning of the friction between fundamentalist and the post war feminism throughout the United States.

Why do I care about the FUNdamentalists in the first place?  Because they control the majority of Virginia politics.  Their opinions on same sex marriage, abortion, birth control, and education have all been linked to the CBN in Virginia Beach.  Hell the current Governor of VA was educated at Regent University- Pat Robertsons’ School which mandated prayer until recently.  They even attempted to have a planned parenthood shut down after it first opened…

[youtube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU1taFr17QU[/youtube]

 

 

An Apostate in the White House(Extra Credit)

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

First of all, when I started reading “Southern Baptist Apostate: Bill Clinton’s Fight with the Religious Right” by Seth Dowland, I had absolutely no idea what an “apostate” was.  I looked up a definition online and found that according to Dictionary.com, an apostate is “A person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.”  So when Bill Clinton campaigned to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving in the military, he became what Southern Baptists did not even realize could exist within their community: an apostate.

According to the article, Southern Baptists believe that “the most important relationship was between an individual and God, and no church could stand in the way of that relationship,” so the idea of a Southern Baptist apostate was strange.  However, Clinton’s campaign and resulting ostracism from that community brought to light that the Southern Baptists had aligned themselves with the Christian right.

As we have seen in this week’s (and the past couple weeks’) readings is the theme of the family unit in American society as viewed by the Christian right.  According to the article, the Southern Baptist community felt threatened by the increasing influence of both feminism in the gay rights movement in American society.  Like we discussed in class today, authors like Falwell argued that women were straying too far from home.  They wanted lives outside of their husbands and children.  In Falwell’s opinion, these women were supporting the playboy culture by taking the Pill, making it possible for both men and women to have multiple sexual partners without the consequence of an unwanted pregnancy.  Because women didn’t want to be housewives anymore, they were physically breaking down the family, which was considered to be the most important component of a successful society.  Without two parents present to educate their children to be upstanding members of their community, the community at large would fall apart.

It seems as though the Southern Baptists described in Dowland’s article share these sentiments.   To the Southern Baptists Convention, feminism was wrong because it suggested that abortion was okay.  The goal of a man and a woman was procreation, and abortion destroyed that aspect of a marriage.  Morris Chapman, the CEO of the Executive Committee of the SBC, said, “The fabric of America is the family unit, the husband, the wife, the mother, the father, the children.”  Support of feminism and support for abortion would physically tear American society apart, in the eyes of the SBC.

This also extends to gay rights. Again, we have this issue of procreation.  A homosexual couple cannot biologically conceive a child, meaning that sexual intercourse would go against the religious and social norms of the community.  Because Clinton supported gay rights, he was not exactly welcomed back to the Southern Baptist community with open arms.  Even though Southern Baptists believe that every person has equal right to an individual relationship with God, Clinton became an apostate because he rejected a doctrine of the Southern Baptist community.  He worked to take away the ban on homosexuals in the military.  While there have been many closeted homosexuals in the military, it seems to be those open about their sexuality who come under fire.

I think it’s so strange that anyone would look at a gay man or woman and tell them that because of their sexuality, they are unfit for the military.  Gay or straight, we are Americans, and we all share the right to love and protect our country, and work for the betterment of other areas in the world.  Unfortunately, I think it is that view that makes me and anyone who supports gay rights an apostate of sorts, because most religious doctrine in America believes that homosexuality (the act at least) is a sin.

I think another objection that some may have about openly gay men and women in the military is that many children look up to American soldiers.  They idolize the people who they believe represent freedom and justice.  Some may worry that if children idolize gay soldiers, the sexuality of their children may be influenced.  This really isn’t a perfect argument though.  It’s kind of like saying that if a child grows up with gay parents, that they themselves will be gay, or that a gay teacher will make his or her students gay.  This is an unfortunate myth, which seems operate on the supposition that gay men and women are defined by their sexuality, and that it flows into all aspects of their lives.  They stop being men and women because all that other people see is “gay.”  They almost stop being human, and their individuality is replaced by stereotypes and assumptions.  Instead, I think we should focus on being proud of our men and women overseas, who give up so much of their own lives to protect ours, rather than scrutinize their sexuality.