ragarding public space and processions
This weeks reading for Deborah Kapchan's class "The Book of Jerry Falwell. Fundamentalist Language and Politics” rasied some of the themes I've been thinking about in Tourist Productions, and to my paper for this class, ragarding public space and processions
So if anyone is interested here is my responce....
This weeks reading focused on a number of cultural events that fuse American politics with Christian Fundamental beliefs, including, Roe verses Wade, the teaching of creationism in public schools and televangelism. In “The Book of Jerry Falwell. Fundamentalist Language and Politics” ethnographer Susan Friend Harding’s approaches the fundamentalism through the analytical lens of the performativity of rhetoric, tracing Jerry Falwell’s career as an inroad to the rise of Christian fundamentalism as a force in American culture wars. One of the subjects that she investigates is the remapping of Israel by the Christian dispensationalist movement. Harding understands the Protestant co-opting of the Zionist movement as a remapping of biblical history on the physical and political typography of the Middle East. The concept of a sociological map super imposed upon actual land is highly reminiscent of a reading recently assigned in BKG’s course “Tourist Productions.”
Two weeks ago we looked at Thanatourism, or the tourism of historical horrors. One of the articles titled Memory in the new Berlin discussed “The Topography of Terror” described the touring of Berlin to experience the Socialist State. I was fascinated in how tourism, through an embodied narrative, can provide multi-dimensional experiences of time and place. Throughout “The Book of Jerry Falwell,” Harding references the fundamentalists belief of “Being in the world, but not of the world.” In a touristic sense, the Calvinist inheritance of pre-destination has shaped born-again Christian into spiritual tourists.
The liminal dimensions of born-again faith is exasperated under the pressure of the conflict in the Middle East. By locating a specific space, time is reconfigured according to faith as a means of collapsing past, present, and future. “Typology remains the reigning mode of reading the relationship between past and future events in many born-again Christian communities.” (229) I am interested in the role of faith as a contingent factor in the evaluation of temporal constructions. One way that temporal delineations of past, present, future is collapsed through the enactment of a biblical narrative. As Harding relates, born-again belief in that the world is experiencing the end of times. They read the world according to an apocalyptic narrative, and conduct their lives in anticipation of the rapture. The political conflicts surrounding the Middle East, as the bible stage, are read by fundamentalists as a realization of a prophetic narrative. Harding underlines this to be reverse reading of history, beginning with an anticipated future then processing to biblical origins, locating the present as defined by these two poles. In a sense they are tourists of the present, whose actions reaffirm a lived narrative. “Christians through their actions today cannot alter God’s plan, but they may be enacting it. Their actions may prefigure or typify the events of the Second Coming of the Lord.” (230) Through embodiment, born-again Christians realize a living cultural map based on typography outlined by a strict and literal interpretation of the Bible.
The embodiment of typological belief speaks to the toursitic characteristics of born-again ideology. A primary component to the touristic experience is the re-location of the physical body in a foreign space. The experience of an alternate space often, if not to some extent always, corresponds with an alternate experience of time. The tourist, by locating themselves outside of familiar surroundings, are able to play a part of their own imaginings. For the secular tourist this is experienced as escapism, while for a tourist of faith, it is a potentially transformative experience through which the word of God might be realized.
This section is currently a particular interest to me because I will be researching this year’s Pax Christi Good Friday procession. Every year the Peace and Social Justice Catholic organization Pax Christi stages the stations of the cross, a marking of Jesus’s journey to crucifixion. As an anti-war statement the procession begins at the United Nations and ends at the recruiting center in Times Square. I have been interested in how religion purposefully re-arranges temporal and physical constructions for affective spiritual experience. Harding describes, “To the born-again ear, biblical stories are not allegorical, nor do the merely represent history. They are history, past and future.” (230) Meanwhile, rather than a literal belief in the Bible the mission of Pax Christi is to create an allegorical parallel to current reality. In reading Harding’s work, it was interesting to reflect in the differences and similarities between the Protestant and Catholic employment of narrative and embodiment as pedagogical tools.