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Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case. > Revolution > America’s Church (04-16-06)
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America’s Church

Richard Tebrick, Moderator the Ecstatic Subject
April 16, 2006 - Omaha, Nebraska
[Featuring huge blocks of text ripped directly out of Wikipedia.]

Each people seeks a god, its god, precisely its own god, and for that people its faith in that god is the only true faith. When a people wishes to share its god with other peoples, this merely signifies that the decline of that people has begun. When the gods become the common property of the earth’s peoples, the gods die … I exalt the people into a god.
– Dostoyevsky, as Shatov in The Possessed.

Today is Easter, and if you are a Christian, it is the anniversary of the single most fabulous event since the creation of the universe. As a Christian, what you think happened is that roughly 1,973 years ago, somebody came back from the dead. My parents are devout Roman Catholics who live in a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. I went to their church today, the church I went to as a child, and witnessed the state of some people with this belief.

The Roman Catholic church has defined itself as “the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter” - the Pope - “and the bishops in communion with him”. It teaches that it is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus for the salvation of all people. This Church traces its origins to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, in particular Peter, the leader of the Apostles, who is traditionally regarded as the first Pope. It rose to prominence in the fourth-century Roman Empire, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan in 313. From 380, Christianity was the Roman state religion.

According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church (ISBN 88-209-7710-9), the Church’s worldwide recorded membership at the end of 2003 was 1,085,557,000, over half of the estimated 2.1 billion Christians.

Roman Catholicism, if I may, is as much an Italian religion as Protestantism is an English one, and the effects of its trans-Atlantic transposition strike me as downright alarming. By which I mean to say that it is not working here. In a building whose decorum and architecture could most generously be described as marginally imposing, surrounded by $75,000/year type families in jeans and Sean John t-shirts, listening to a aging pastor give a homily that no one would describe as rousing, I started to have my doubts about the very possibility of a religion maintaining any element of its character during or after its spread to another national culture. Needless to say, the experience of the Catholic mass, which was engineered and is absolutely dependant on being semiotically and architecturally sacrosanct, was not. The contrast of the solemn language and the perversity of its’ mall-like atmosphere seemed, and if I could think of another word for this I would use it, pathetic.

The kind of observation we don’t make at is that the people in that church need a community of worship in about the same way they need a supermarket. Within two blocks of this church, incidentally, is a supermarket which has changed hands three times since my childhood, while the church of which I speak has remained for all intents and purposes quite the same, disregarding two additional statuary elements. So we strike that notion from the record.

I personally can think of two moments in America’s religious history in which its national character emerges, and for what it’s worth, their combined sects of followers constitute every American lay-individual I’ve ever met or seen who is absolutely ecstatic about their belief structure. (We must disclaim non-demoninational televangelists for the moment as primarily predatory, and again the kind of boring observation we don’t make at is that money is America’s god. Emphatically, we don’t make that kind of observation.) Which is to say that if America has ever had a non-rhetorical, non-political religious moment, these two are it:

II Corinthians 6:17 - “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.”

  1. The Baptist Church emphasizes a believer’s baptism by full immersion, which is performed after a profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. A congregational governance system, based on Biblical references, gives autonomy to individual local Baptist churches. In the late 1990s, there were about 43 million Baptists worldwide, 33 million of them living in the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention, like rock, jazz and cowboys, appeals to a sort of rugged-individualistic thread so wrapped up in the United States’ national rhetoric. Like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Hollywood movies, it was spread primary by zealous evangelism, that is, by making the most noise. Yelling, rolling on the floor, being our own bosses: Infinitely more attractive to those from whence I come than the pious austerity and absolute heirarchy of Rome’s church or godforbid the sedate, polite workship of the English.

  2. Scientology is a new religious movement based on a system of beliefs, teachings, practices, and rituals that was originated as a philosophy in 1952 by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. The central practice of Scientology is “auditing”, which is one-on-one communication with a trained Scientology counselor or “auditor”. The auditor follows an exact procedure toward rehabilitating the human spirit. Most auditing uses an E-meter, a device that measures galvanic skin response. It is ostensibly a lie-detector. Scientologists have claimed benefits from auditing including improved IQ, improved ability to communicate, enhanced memory, alleviated dyslexia and attention deficit problems, and improved relaxation; however, no scientific studies have verified these claims. Indeed, an Australian report stated that auditing involved a kind of command hypnosis that could lead to potentially damaging delusional dissociative states.

    Also, in Scientology doctrine, there is a character called Xenu, an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy” who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to cause problems today. These events are known to Scientologists as “Incident II”, and the traumatic memories associated with them as The Wall of Fire or the R6 implant. The story of Xenu is part of a much wider range of Scientology beliefs in extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in Earthly events, collectively described as space opera by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

    Now this, friends, is an American religion. Leave it to the people who brought you Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy to try and convince you to tell them your dirtiest secrets in order to find out a space monster blew up the earth and now it’s populated with millions of space ghosts. That is what we like around here. Give us a religion like that.

But there’s a new American these days: Too rough-around-the-edges for Protestantism, but not nearly rough enough for the Baptist Church, too wacky for Orthodx Christianity or Roman Catholicism, but not wacky enough for the Hollywoodesque world of Scientology. I am talking, of course, of the suburban upper middle-class American. There’s a lot of money to be made here: these people are hungry for a way to assign some sort of spiritual construct to their "normal" lives.

Thus, I announce, in cooperation with the community of true believers, the School of Religion Design, whose first project will be none other than the First Christian Church of Suburban Galilee. Behold our foundational passage:

1 Chronicles 6:76: And out of the tribe of Naphtali; Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, and Hammon with her suburbs, and Kirjathaim with her suburbs.

Prepare, readers, for a very exciting moment in the history of the United States.

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