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On Circling the Wagons

August 12, 2006

One of my favorite TV shows is the amazing 30 Days, the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock, the guy who made Super Size Me. This week’s show placed an atheist woman in the home of a Christian family for a month. As always, it was fun and informative to see the interactions between the people, and to see where my empathies lay. No surprise here– I was down with the atheist and her kind critique of the family’s huge church and their giddy and wide-eyed drive-by of the mega-church in town. “That seems like a lot of money invested to me,” she said, to hoots around our house. And the Christian father’s lack of compassion, aversion to abstract thought, and complete ignorance of any form of morals or ethics that wasn’t dependent upon theism or revelation was irritating, to say the least.

But enough of the cheap shots. The more subtle theme that struck me was how the two factions expressed and affirmed themselves: by meetings. The Christian family took their guest to church, where they sang about common ideas and listened to a message about shared values. If I remember it right, one of the services was about the imperative to spread their particular Christian message to absolutely every person in the world. In their evening Bible studies, they discussed their feelings of persecution and spoke smugly of the godless folks who disagreed with them. In return, the atheist woman took her hosts to an atheist church, where folks talked about how they felt marginalized by the dominant Christian culture, and how they only wanted some space to pursue their ideas. In short: they knew they were right, and met regularly in a deserted restaurant to talk about it and to pursue legal recognition of their group by the state.

And I wondered, is this all any of us do? Can we only get together with like-minded people to affirm one another and to complain about our own persecution? To shrilly cling to our own rightness and views of the world? I eagerly wanted someone– anyone– to put themself out of their comfort zone and to try to really learn something. I wanted someone to put themself in a place where they might do something to serve someone else: to put feet to their noble claims that they were the ones who wanted to help others. And then I wondered why I don’t do the same thing.

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5 Responses to “On Circling the Wagons”

  1. Wow. That’s kinda convicting to think of… What do you think you are? Some kind of prophet or something? Get back to talking about your kids man…

  2. kate says:

    But don’t you feel like — like that’s the rest of our life? That’s the other — hm, what’s six times 24 hours, plus 22 more hours for Sunday — that’s not spent in church? I desperately NEED a couple of hours a week with people who believe THE SAME AS ME, to reaffirm that I’m not nuts. I’d like to think that, if I were the last person alive who (fill in the blank as you will — believed in God, loved God, what have you), I still would. But I feel such a need to be with people who also have faith in the same thing. Is there really anything wrong with that? If we believe it, why should we ridicule wanting to tell others about it? If church is only about service, then aren’t we actually a service club?
    Sorry. You touched a nerve, obviously.

  3. sonja says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and thinking about this.

    My first reaction was that maybe it’s a place thing. That some places are more like this than others.

    Then some old friends of ours came for dinner. We’ve known this couple since we all were teeagers together in fife & drum up here in the mountains of Vermont. The wife now listens, no worships, to Rush and Hannity & Colmes. We had a conversation about the current problems in the Middle East. And I was able to hear her out (but only by chewing my tongue bloody). But I thought to myself, during the course of that conversation, that most of our persecution is percieved. No matter what our core set of beliefs as a group, we are not, in this country, persecuted … not by a long stretch. But we may believe that we are persecuted and marginalized because of the talking heads we listen to and follow.

    Then I began to wonder, just why is it so important that we (in our smaller groups) feel this sense of persecution and “otherness”? Why do we feel this need to overcome and be outsiders, even when almost all of us are insiders? It’s kind of weird when you get right down to it …I haven’t got any answers, but it’s where I’ve been thinking since I read this post.

  4. [REDACTED] says:

    Dude, the answer to everything is in the monkeysphere!

  5. Lora says:

    sometimes i’m afraid i’ve just switched my “us’s” & “them’s” for a new (tho much more enlightened and hip) set……..which once again illustrates that i am the problem.

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