Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

May 8, 2008

Matt Taibbi and The Great Derangement

Filed under: culture, politics, religion — Tags: — codesmithy @ 8:46 am

Matt Taibbi is a columnist at Rolling Stone. I heard him briefly on the Rachel Maddow show talking about his new book called “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire.” Alternet has excerpt from his book called “An Atheist Goes Undercover to Join the Flock of the Mad Pastor John Hagee.” (h/t

Taibbi talks a little bit about American dispensationalism which is aptly described in Kevin Phillips’ book “American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.” I was sort of surprised by some of the terms used on the retreat, especially the emphasis on “normal” because I came across that term when I was reading “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper with Cecil Murphy. At the time, I thought it was fairly innocuous term but seeing its exact usage in another context makes me think I might have missed some dog-whistle subtext in “90 Minutes in Heaven.” I’m sure part of Murphy’s contribution was to guide word choices like that one which allows those deep in the community to make deeper connections or draw parallels between Piper’s and their own experience. It makes me curious what other implicit framing of Piper’s story existed in the book, however I don’t really have the time or the undivided interest to conduct a research project on the matter. Although it could be coincidence, I highly doubt it.

Some amazing points are what fundamentalists say amongst themselves such as:

Fortenberry then started in on a rant against science and against scientific explanations for cycles of sin. “Take homosexuals,” he said. “Every single homosexual is a sexual-abuse victim. They are not born. They are created — by pedophiles.”

Some weeks later, I would be at a Sunday service in which Pastor John Hagee himself would assert that the Bible predicts that Jesus Christ is going to return to Earth bearing a “rod of iron” to discipline the ACLU.

I can’t help but be reminded of scenes from Jesus Camp when Taibbi describes the demon vomiting session and speaking in tongues.

Taibbi comes to the following realization after he graduates:

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.

Is this how a government fails? Is it like in “Animal Farm” where debate is drowned with the bleating of sheep? How does one restore the independent mind?


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