Matt Taibbi goes undercover with the Christian Right.

I just finished reading “Jesus Made Me Puke by Rolling Stones reporter Matt Taibbi. It’s a fascinating look inside what goes on during an “Encounter Weekend” put on by the folks at the Cornerstone Church, a megachurch you may recognize as it’s headed by Pastor John Hagee whom we’ve discussed here before. Here’s the ending of the article that should provide enough of a taste to make you read the full thing:

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 ecstasy 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.

If you read the whole thing and aren’t troubled by it then you should read it again. It’ll make you appreciate the more liberal Christians a whole lot more by the time you’re done.

The article itself is an adaptation from Taibbi’s upcoming book The Great Derangement and I’ll be looking forward to reading the whole thing once it’s available.

15 thoughts on “Matt Taibbi goes undercover with the Christian Right.

  1. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to read the article and Taibbi’s book. Oh and also the Daily Show episode I recorded. Shit! I got a lot of catching up to do.

  2. Yeah, I figured that out last night, CD. Got it added to my Wish List, but I’ll be sure to check out your review.

  3. I think he’s related to the Demon of Prosecuting Hate Crimes Against Homosexuals maybe? Or is the Demon of Incorrectly Filed Taxes?

  4. I’m in the middle of finishing the article, but if people need more motivation to read the article, here ya go…

    What I settled on eventually was something that I thought was metaphorically similar to the truth about myself.

    “Hello,” I said, taking a deep breath. “My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes.”

    LOL!! It’s almost too much. I still have trouble understanding how the fuck he got away with that.

  5. The need to point out the dangers of ideological group-think, of promoting religious ecstasy in lieu of considered wisdom, etc., etc., is a very real one.  One reason why I’m an Episcopalian, rather than a Pentacostal or Southern Baptist.

    That said, Taibbi hardly entered into this research with an open mind, based on just the first few paragraphs of the story: 

    … anything to hold off my plunge into Religion. … …a puddle of heavyset people milling around … glassy eyes … smiled queerly … resting his hand on my shoulder. … I had visions of some charismatic ranch-land Jesus, stoned on beer and the Caligula director’s cut and too drunk late at night to chase after the minor children, hauling me into a barn for an in-the-hay shortcut to truth and freedom.

    Even while he is pointing out behavior in the article that is clearly goofy, his need to gild the lily by explicitly pointing it out as clearly goofy only makes me wonder about how much of what he saw, or recorded, is colored by his fear of, and contempt for, the people he was around (just as I expect a right-wing fundy “going underground” at a gay spirituality retreat would express similar fear and contempt). 

    While I don’t necessarily doubt at least some of the conclusions Taibbi came to, it’s clear he was already at least partially to those conclusions before he began his “investigative report.”

  6. ***Dave: Yes, our world view is clouded by our culture and experiences. Criminal Justice courses teach that cross-cultural eye witness accounts are much less trust worthy than those within the same culture. Objectivity is VERY rare. Taking this into consideration, the conclusions may still have some validity. It can certainly be entertaining, at least.  wink

  7. At first I had the same thought as Dave. But then I read that he had been going to the church for a few weeks.

    I had been attending the Cornerstone Church for weeks, but this was really my first day of school. I had joined Cornerstone — a megachurch in the Texas Hill Country — to get a look inside the evangelical mind-set that gave the country eight years of George W. Bush.

    So for the author this wasn’t a first time gig or a shoot from the hip kind of thing. Yes it was his first time attending the retreat, but he was attending the church for awhile to get a sense of what it was like. So I think his opinions can be taken with a little more than a grain of salt. And if he opines something that seems a little racy, well I’ll have to read his book before I assume he has a bias.

    Then again is it possible to not have even a little bias when going through such an experience? I mean Hagee is a nut.

  8. I always assume bias in everything I read, but I also look to see if the author is at least attempting for some objectivity as well. I try to be as objective as I can, but I know my own biases creep into everything I write.

  9. As I said, a lot of what he says sounds plausible (and scary) enough (which might reflect my own biases as well).  I just feel as well that the ad hominem language he uses, from the get-go, hurts his case.

  10. His journalistic approach is pretty much guaranteed to be different than your average newspaper or The Wall Street Journal, since with music journalism you’re expected to run opinion pieces 24/7. Maybe it would bother me if he weren’t writing the article for Rolling Stone, but I don’t see how he could have gotten the article in the magazine if it weren’t a review but a report.

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