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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: May 21, 2005
Latest Update: May 22, 2005

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Topic of the Week:

Adversarial Control or Love?
Democratic Choice of Religious Belief

This topic was prompted by an article in the New York Time series: Class Matters, especially the article relating to religious belief: On a Christian Mission to the Top: Evangelicals Set Their Sights on the Ivy League by Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick, on Sunday, May 22, 2005. Backup.

I found this article hard to read, largely because I so fervently believe in separation of church and state. Two things make me feel that way: one, I expressed in my concern for Pope Benedict XVI's refusal to accept the Lutheran's objection to the "supremacy" of the Catholoic church, and the other I expressed in teaching illocutionary understanding. I object to the cocept of proselytizing to the one "right," or, I guess, "supreme" God. My reason for these objections is that if I insist that "my way" is the right way and impose that on anyone, by offering food, aid, trade, life, afterlife, love, whatever in exchange for agreement, that is neither an illocutionary contract, nor a governance contract. It's not illocutionary because I'm not taking the Other's perspective, culture and understanding into account. It's not democratic governance because democratic governance requires that every citizen or member of the society governed by the decisions made in governance discourse be allowed to have his/her validity claims heard in good faith. Once again, this amounts to not listening in good faith for the "Other."

On the other hand, I share many values with Evangelical Christians, as I do with those of most beliefs, including atheism. I deplore the continuing reliance on the plastic intimacy of pornography and prostitution, including ads that sell with sex. But we aren't the only ones having trouble with this. So are the Evangelical Christians, as I reported recently. That might be because none of us knows how, as we mature into a global urban-led population how we will deal with the need for acceptance, security, sense of esteem and love, that allows us to enter real relationships instead of reassuring ourselves with the fantasy of pornography and prostitution. I was horrified by a Channel 4 news report Saturday night that many women are having affairs outside marriage. Like the Evangelical Christians, I was horrified because this is contrary to the values and beliefs with which I was reared, and I had to think twice when a young woman asked, "Would you rather pretend that it's not so? Or would you rather listen (in good faith) and try to understand why it's happneing and what can be done about it?" Tough question for a lot of us. And why am I surprised when men have been having affairs outside of marriage for eons now? I'm afraid for how this translates into divorce, effects on the children, greater poverty for women and children, and tremendous stress on communal institutions, like extended families, schools, housing, and the labor market.

Same thing with the class question. Does class matter? And what does Evangelical Christianity have to do with class? Early Evangelical Christians were associated with lower class Christianity, and engaged in less than middle-class dignity with talking in voices and other openly emotional behavior at large meetings, as they communicated with God. As a small child I was taken to these meetings. They were ardently attended in the South by Catholics as well as protestants. In the South, where Episcopalians, or Catholics in Catholic Louisiana, were considered upper class, Evangelicals were considered lower class. Over the years, as the NY Times article explains, Evangelicals have moved upwards into economic and status success, so that the label of lower class is no longer accurate. But the elites of the East Coast do still pretty much predominate in the Ivy League colleges.

"The most striking example of change in how evangelicals see themselves and their place in the world may be the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. It was founded in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1914 by rural and working-class Christians who believed that the Holy Spirit had moved them to speak in tongues. Shunned by established churches, they became a sect of outsiders, and their preachers condemned worldly temptations like dancing, movies, jewelry and swimming in public pools. But like the Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations, the Assemblies gradually dropped their separatist strictures as their membership prospered and spread.

"As the denomination grew, Assemblies preachers began speaking not only of heavenly rewards but also of the material blessings God might provide in this world. The notion was controversial in some evangelical circles but became widespread nonetheless, and it made the Assemblies' faith more compatible with an upwardly mobile middle class.

"By the 1970's, Assemblies churches were sprouting up in affluent suburbs across the country. Recent surveys by Margaret Poloma, a historian at the University of Akron in Ohio, found Assemblies members more educated and better off than the general public."

On a Christian Mission to the Top, at p. A 23.

As I went through the article I found references to Tim Havens' mother's concern for what might happen to him in an Ivy League college as a freshman. I couldn't imagine what she meant precisely by this fear for him. Tim gave several indirect references which didn't make sense to me:

"But his modest means did not stand out as much as his efforts to guard his morals. He did not drink, and he almost never cursed. And he was determined to stay "pure" until marriage, though he did not lack for attention from female students. Just as his mother feared, Mr. Havens, a broad-shouldered former wrestler with tousled brown hair and a guileless smile, wavered some his freshman year and dated several classmates.

" 'I was just like, 'Oh, I can get this girl to like me,' " he recalled. " 'Oh, she likes me; she's cute.' And so it was a lot of fairly short and meaningless relationships. It was pretty destructive.' "

On a Christian Mission to the Top, at p. A 22.

I didn't see why dating classmates at Brown University was a problem, except for that reference to staying "pure" before marriage. He clarified in the next paragraph that the a cappella Christian choir helped him in his sophomore year rededicate "himself to serving God, and by his senior year he was running his own Bible-study group, hoping to inoculate first-year students against the temptations he had faced. They challenged one another, Mr. Havens said, "committing to remain sexually pure, both in a physical sense and in avoiding pornography and ogling women and like that." Mr. Havens is now engaged, but notes that his is a "chaste romance": ""I didn't kiss her until I asked her to marry me. . ."

On a Christian Mission to the Top, at p. A 23.

Though I respect his commitment to respect marriage, I'm not sure that I believe the solution to avoid future divorce consists in not dating and/or in not kissing until engagement. That's a pretty difficult standard and one that goes way back in time. Remember mythos and logos, and how mythos tends to look back in time to the good old days that were. Not. Those good old days have been romanticized by our memories, and many in this world are looking forward. This is, in fact, one of the ways Karen Armstrong tells us that fundamentalists are different from modernists, in looking back to a "golden age," and wanting to go back literally to their perception of how things were then.

I find the upwardly mobile movement of evangelicals generally into the middle and upper classes an important lesson in how an excluded group can make a meaningful difference, even when excluded by those in power. Those are the lessons I hope we learn from this. Not one of forcing all the strictures currently embraced by evangelicals on pain of "buringing forever in Hell." To this end I included one of the letters to the editors, which says so clearly hat Christianity is about love, not about control and adversarialsim. love and peace, jeanne

NEWS, Announcements, and

Current Discussion Topics:

  • The serenity prayer: from Sarah, Message No. 4553 that so many of you appreciated:
    god grant me the serenity to accept the things i CANNOT change, the COURAGE to change the things i can, and the WISDOM to know the difference.

  • Learning Records for Spring 2005 I have records for 44 students. If I missed you, you must let me know. jeanne

  • Learning Records with Grades for Spring 2005 Most of you should be up. I've gone back all the way to 4400. If your name is missing from grade sheet, e-mail me immediately. If your learning record is missing, that's OK, just remind me to get it up. jeanne

    You can call me at 323-374-4982. I'll get it if I'm at the computer. jeanne

  • Instructions page for joining transform_dom and transspan

    Famous People and Concepts We Should Have Heard Of, But Often Haven't.


    • Gordon Fellman - Professor at Brandeis. Author of Rambo and the Dalai Lama. Important for Fall 2005 courses.

      Conceptual Linking

    • adversarial compulsion - Being competitive just for the sake of winning. From Fellman's Rambo and the Dalai Lama. Fellman's discussion of adversarialism.

    Jeanne's Lectures for Spring 2005

    Visual Sociology

    • Clouds

      WTC devil's face in clouds. . . . WTC devil's face in clouds.
      2001 CNN . . . . . . . . . . . . 2001 Stellar Images

    • Faces in the Cloud Urban Legends Site. Notice that visual imagery is open to myriad interpretations, most of which depend upon what you expect to see. These are reported as cloud images between the Twin Towers on September 11. Note images are copyrighted. They are used here for teaching purposes only.

    • Dinosaurs

      Changes in color and outline of Sara Krulwich's New York Times Photo on p. B 29 of Weekend Arts, May 13, 2005.

    • "A Tyrannosaurus rex in 'Dinosaurs' " A modified version of the photograph by Sara Krulwich in the New York Times on p. B 29 of Weekend Arts, May 13, 2005.

      Changes in color and outline of Sara Krulwich's New York Times Photo on p. B 29 of Weekend Arts, May 13, 2005.

    • Sara Krulwich's actual photograph of the dinosaur in the New York Times on p. B 29 of Weekend Arts, May 13, 2005, and on the Internet.

      I made changes in the photograph to try to capture the same feeling I had when I saw the dinosaur in the paper. It was truly scary. But the photo looked just like any old history museum photo. Not the same feeling. So I tried scanning in the image from the printed version of the paper, but it was grainy, and didn't give the effect I wanted either. So I decided to play. About twenty-five experiments later I had the version above, which blurs the background and gives some of the feeling I was looking for. The colors worked for me, and focusing directly on the dinosaur worked for me. Iused My Corel Photo-House program. I'll bet lots of you have similar photo programs. Try them. Play.

      See Playing with Dinosaurs for lots of versions I experimented with. And one of the most abstract in this week's topic painting. I didn't paint that. I just "swirled the image with the colors, outlining, and blurring that I liked, and voila! Abstract Art. I like it. It was fun! jeanne See Links only version of Playing with Dinosaurs Easier to load, won't take as long, and you can just link on each picture as you want to see it. jeanne

    Academic Support

    Using Academic Language Effectively

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search:

    and Careers

    • Resumes:

    • Letters of Recommendation:

      • Letters of Recommendation: How to get me to respond to your request. Many of you need letters. If you will follow this format, I can do them quickly and make them good.
      • Dog Letters If you do not give me adequate information, but do manage to get my attention, you may end up with a dog letter. That is a letter that says that you work well with people, that you are enthusiastic, that you persist at getting things done, and that everyone likes you. Of course, my dog gets along well with people, brings his ball to them, is enthusiastic, and persists at getting them to take his ball. Everyone likes my dog. That's a dog letter. It's so general it could be about my dog. jeanne

    • Career Options You Might Not Have Considered

      • visual media and their interdependence with other means of knowing to understand that we are not totally rational creatures deciding things apart from our feelings and values. Wolfowitz (new President of the World Bank to aid developing countries AND principle advocate of the Iraq War) might feel very differently when he is exposed to visual and aural images of the poor developing countries that have not before been his primary concern. So we want to know how best to present those developing countries visually. And we might find that we can have a career doing that sort of thing, so it does reflect on us as individuals. Added April 2, 2005.

    That Was Fun! Sneaky Strokes and Flying Good Dogs

    Flying Dog is also a painting by Zhang Kai. Best I've ever come across to illustrate our site with magic numbers and unicorns and whipped cream cats and now, flying dogs:

    Index of Nice Things We've Said to Each Other

    Flying Good Dogs: Whenever something happens in class that works out well, that inspires you, that helps in studying, whatever, take a few minutes to send us an e-mail. We'll post it where all of us can learn from it, including other teachers.

    You can also send an email to the Who to Take Site: