Thursday, May 29, 2008

Taibbi on Christians and Harry Potter

Joel at Crummy Church Signs links an interesting article in Rolling Stone entitled "Jesus Made Me Puke" by Matt Taibbi. I have many things I'd like to say about Taibbi's article, many, many things, most of them uncharitable. But for now, I will merely content myself with a long quote that I find interesting, though it has next to nothing to do with the intent of Taibbi's article.

To give you the backdrop to the quote here, Taibbi is "undercover" at an oddball Christian retreat. Being "undercover," he plays it up as if he had to sneak in, so he acts as if he's seeing something Christians don't want outsiders to witness. In reality, he hasn't found some secret underbelly of Fundamentalism. All he's found is an example of the Deliverance Movement [insert joke about the Southern U.S. here], which combines pop psychology with funky demonology* and elaborate exorcisms that appear, usually, to involve listing demons' names.** The Deliverance Movement is not a secret; you can read about it on the Internet, and it's not identical with Fundamentalism. The Deliverance Movement would raise the eyebrows of most of the Fundamentalists I have known, and I think they would call it heresy (that's only my own personal experience, of course, but since Taibbi uses personal experience as an excuse to generalize about "the Religious Right," I figure I should at least get to generalize about Fundamentalists).

In the following quote, the character Taibbi calls Fortenberry is the self-consciously macho leader at this Deliverance Movement retreat, who peppers his talks with anecdotes:

Fortenberry told a story about a nephew of his who called him up one night. "Both of his kids had fallen on the ground in respiratory distress, half-conscious, writhing around, gasping for air," Fortenberry said. "And I said to my nephew, I said, 'It isn't something they've done. It's something you've done.' "

The crowd murmured in assent.

"I told my nephew to look around the house," Fortenberry continued. "I said, 'Do you have a copy of Harry Potter?' And he said yes. And I said, 'That's your problem.' So I told him to go get that copy of that book, tear it in half and throw it out the window. So he does it, and guess what? Both of those kids stood up completely recovered, just like that."

He snapped his fingers, indicating the speed with which the kids had jumped up in recovery. The crowd cooed and applauded. I frowned, wondering for a minute what life must be like for a person mortally afraid of toothless commercial fairy tales. It struck me that Phil Fortenberry's nephew was probably more afraid of Harry Potter than Macbeth, which to me said a lot about this religion and about America in general. [more...]

*When I say funky, I mean really funky. Check out this quote from GreatBibleStudy.com, a Deliverance ministry:
Some of the most popular and destructive soul ties are formed during an adultery or fornication. 1 Corinthians 6:16 warns us not to have sexual relations with a prostitute because we become one flesh (flesh as in soul realm kind of flesh, not a physical flesh) with that person. This ungodly soul tie is like a rope between two persons that demons can use to their advantage to cross from one person to another. If that person had demons tormenting them, and you had sex with them, it unites the two persons, and therefore a soul tie is created, and the demons tormenting that person can also have rights to torment you. [more...]
Now that I think about it, that sounds like a cool basis for a horror movie.

**Unimaginative names, too: names like "Anger" or "Sexual Abuse," or if they're casting out Catholic demons, they might list Marian titles, sometimes blasphemously altered. Apparently the days of cool demon names like Belphegor and Ashmoday are long gone.
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