Everything but the longing: Peter Bebergal: “I have begun collecting psychedelic music again, almost twenty years after I traded my entire original collection for bag of pot, mostly seeds and stems. I have been scouring Web sites and magazines, trolling greater Boston’s underground record stores and talking to people about this resurgence of psychedelic music and asking around to learn which is the essential Incredible String Band LP (The 5000 Spirits of the Layers of the Onion, obviously). What am I looking for in this music? It’s something quite different today than when I was eighteen. Since then, I’ve learned that psychedelia is not about the actual reality of other worlds, but the desire to experience them. And contained in this desire is necessarily a world-weariness…. efforts to fulfill this desire often involve a lot of effort with very little reward, fasting that only leads to more hunger, prayer that reveals the emptiness, meditation that quiets everything but the longing.”
More by Bebergal on the new/old mysticism of pop and the band Akron/Family at Killing the Buddha.
Good God, best business practices: “So successful are some evangelicals that they’re opening up branches like so many new Home Depots or Subways.” Sniping from the secular left or the anti-consumerist right? Nope. Just plain reality from Businessweek, which headlines a special issue on evangelical America with a story on evangelicalism as big biz.
“This year,” says the mag, “the 16.4 million-member Southern Baptist Convention plans to ‘plant’ 1,800 new churches using by-the-book niche-marketing tactics. ‘We have cowboy churches for people working on ranches, country music churches, even several motorcycle churches aimed at bikers, says… a spokesman for the Southern Baptists.” Is that shallow? Democratic? Who cares. The question Businessweek asks is: Is it profitable?
The lead story gets a few facts wrong — claiming, for instance, that Billy Graham never mixed pulpit and politics (martial law, anyone? Billy called for it in the late ’50s). But overall, it treats evangelicalism as just another business model, value-free. Will Christian conservatives screech at the moral relativism of this approach, or will they coo over the approval implicit to it? Businessweek aims for the latter, with a series of gushing “online extras” to help you, too, achieve the evangelical business dream — guides to evangelical jargon so you can fit right in, profile of evangelical “entrepeneurs” you can emulate, Wharton MBAs on what’s so great about God.
Put a C-note on Fred: Terry Gross’s Fresh Air NPR progam is taking a Crossfire approach to the question of Christian conservative power by inviting onto today’s show Dr. James Kennedy, from the right, and Frederick Clarkson, from the left. Of course, they’ll be separated, Fresh Air-style. Leaving aside his religious beliefs, Kennedy is a pure propagandist, unbound by any relationship to facts. His account of American history has no documentary support. Why he deserves this kind of respectful hearing is beyond us. Clarkson, meanwhile, is an honest broker and a brilliant researcher; but he’s also a culture warrior. We’re glad to see him get the air time, but we question Gross’ decision to pair a propagandist with a street fighter. The best that can result from such a situation will be a brawl. That’s cool. Only, Gross will get in the way, preventing the real fun. We’ll tune in nonetheless. Our money’s on Fred and the facts.
Silver ring thing bling: The ACLU is suing the Department of Health over its financial support for the Silver Ring Thing, a conservative evangelical teen abstinence program which requires graduates to sign a virginity covenant “before God Almighty.” Question: Is there any interpretation of church/state separation by which federal money for such a program is appropriate? We’re serious. We really want to know. And if there isn’t, then why is the press playing this as a third-tier story? If a presidential administration was discovered to be funneling money to business cronies, that’d be a page one story. Why doesn’t religious cronyism matter?