The corporate-religious-complex

Interesting quote from a Sunfell post on Daily Kos that I picked up via Jesus Politics, a good blog that I just discovered which seems to be collecting lots of stufff about religion and American politics/culture:

Rev. Rod Parsley, a pastor of the World Harvest megachurch in Ohio…declared, “We’re not Democrats. We’re not Republicans. We’re Christocrats!”

“Christocrats”. Straight out of the preacher’s mouth. That might also lead to another term that seems to be percolating under the surface of the metasphere: the idea-meme of the corporate-religious complex- that synergistic, and potentially fatal (to our country) blend of Gilded Age corporate greed and hard right religious fervor. The corporate-religious complex has replaced the military-industrial complex as the driving force behind our government. If we plan to keep our country, this complex must be derailed, the synergy spoiled and the perpetrators sent off chasing their own tails.

Shorting the corporations to ground will take some brave lawmaking, and a lot of time- one giant at a time. They have to return to being responsible citizens. Doing the same to the Christocrats will require a lot of deep study of what makes them tick. Someone mentioned the ‘flock mentality’. That needs to be understood, but the followers are not sheep, or stupid. But they are intellectually lazy, since they accept the pap fed to them by their leaders. We must understand that they have a monstrous persecution complex and a deeply held belief that they/we are living in the “End Times” and that the Bible- particularly “Revalation”, is literally true. We must also understand that their leaders have fed them gigantic lies and are the embodiment of the ‘wolves in sheeps clothing’ warned about in the very Scriptures they believe are literally true.

It’s a tough nut to crack, but it is crackable. They’re human beings, with a huge cross-shaped chip on their shoulder. If that wood could be used for something useful, to build a bridge, perhaps, we could find a way to talk them down from their Apocalyptic treehouse.


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From saving the soul to reinventing the self

A fascinating article in the NYT about the rise of evangelical ministries at Ivy League colleges in America. They are a deliberate attempt to reach and influence those who will hold key culturally influential positions.

Some interesting data about the rise of evangelicals in class terms:

As late as 1965, for example, a white mainline Protestant was two and a half times as likely to have a college degree as a white evangelical, according to an analysis by Prof. Corwin E. Smidt, a political scientist at Calvin College, an evangelical institution in Grand Rapids, Mich. But by 2000, a mainline Protestant was only 65 percent more likely to have the same degree. And since 1985, the percentage of incoming freshmen at highly selective private universities who said they were born-again also rose by half, to 11 or 12 percent each year from 7.3 percent, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

A range of forces were at work here:

There were also demographic forces at work, beginning with the G.I. Bill, which sent a pioneering generation of evangelicals to college. Probably the greatest boost to the prosperity of evangelicals as a group came with the Sun Belt expansion of the 1970’s and the Texas oil boom, which brought new wealth and businesses to the regions where evangelical churches had been most heavily concentrated.

And the evolution of the Assemblies of God is particularly interesting. Founded in 1914 they were originally shunned as a sect of outsiders speaking in tounges and against movies and dancing. They gradually changed and became one of the first groups to preach a prosperity christianity

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.

As they flourished, evangelical entrepreneurs and strivers built a distinctly evangelical business culture of prayer meetings, self-help books and business associations. In some cities outside the Northeast, evangelical business owners list their names in Christian yellow pages.

The rise of evangelicals has also coincided with the gradual shift of most of them from the Democratic Party to the Republican and their growing political activism. The conservative Christian political movement seldom developed in poor, rural Bible Belt towns. Instead, its wellsprings were places like the Rev. Ed Young’s booming mega-church in suburban Houston or the Rev. Timothy LaHaye’s in Orange County, Calif., where evangelical professionals and businessmen had the wherewithal to push back against the secular culture by organizing boycotts, electing school board members and lobbying for conservative judicial appointments.

The complex interrealationship between class, geography, religion and subculture is fascinatingly apparent. As is the move from a notion of saving the soul to saving or reinventing the self which ironically is a modernist concept arising out of decidedly anti-modernist movement.


Blog Talk: Sebastian Fieldler

Sebastian Fieldler in the final keynote contrasted two ideas: innovation/revolution and renaissance.

He noted Carl Bereiter’s work that innovations in education are often taken up with great enthusiasm but that most often they do not tgake root, they are not sustained because the resources and frameworks are not built or made available.

He contrasted this with Douglas Rushkoff’s notion of a renaissance as a “recontextualisation” Rushkoff writes:

I prefer to think of the proliferation of interactive media as an opportunity for renaissance: a moment when we have the opportunity to step out of the story, altogether. Renaissances are historical instances of widespread recontextualization. People in a variety of different arts, philosophies, and sciences have the ability to reframe their reality. Quite literally, renaissance means “rebirth.” It is the rebirth of old ideas in a new context. A renaissance is a dimensional leap, when our perspective shifts so dramatically that our understanding of the oldest, most fundamental elements of existence changes.

Blogs wikis web feeds are a “reconquista” of the web built over the static web. It is a reinvigoration of the early internet pioneers of the two way web. Now the prototypical tools are authoring or networking tools not just browsing tools.

But there are still problems in the educational domain:

  • We are focusing on introducing novices to blogs but not documenting onging long term usage
  • We are attempting to squeeze blogging into existing educational practices
  • Educational blogging rarely transcends temporal (semester) boundaries of educational institutions.


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Blogtalk: Storybox

Ben Hoh talked about a project using blogs with young refugeesA lot of “digital storytelling” follows the traditional narrative arc of problem/process/enlightenment in thier life story project with refugees Ben and his colleagues deliberately chose to use blogs with the idea that they are a more aggregative model that builds narrative idiosyncratically.Also explicitly talked about the project in terms of “narrative therapy” it reminded me of Marc’s comment this morning that it is ok if it’s only your mother who reads your blog – also OK if your blog is therapy, even though this is a well voiced criticism of blogs.Ben has developed a very interesting textual analysis of some of the emerging hybrid vernaculars that traverse the traumatic and the mundane and has come up with a very interesting notion of “neveryday” life:

So it is not really a matter of what these new vernaculars “actually mean” in a representational sense, but what they enable: a reconception of what used to be the spheres of everyday life and the political, into something else — into whatever space that can be apprehended with such a vocabulary. Call it “the neveryday” — an alternative platform upon which de Certeau’s model of “textual poaching” (de Certeau 1984) can be modified; in de Certeau’s model, the poacher is forever destined to be guerilla-as-loyal-opposition to “the writer”, but a “neveryday” mode of enunciation is more waywardly “queer” and less heroic, and yet also seems necessarily based on a transgressive, sometimes incomprehensibly extreme platform of an underwriting trauma, a crack in subjectivity. And while the embodied specificities of the refugee experience are irreducible, this crack is not — the coherent subject is an impossibility, and that this inevitably involves trauma; I would therefore suggest that the Storyboxers’ “neveryday”, with its underwriting trauma, could be a useful model for how both casual mundanity and affectual extremities are often modulated through each other in the blogging of the self.

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BlogTalk Downudner: Conversation and reflection

Ian McColl from UQ gave a very interesting paper on blogging in their studio based IT design course.

Lots of interesting things about studio practice (the architecture model) that could have relevance to a journalism course.

The studio stream is the defining feature of the two degrees, and students complete a studio course each semester with similar characteristics to those outlined above for Kapor’s course. There are two temporal cycles that operate through our degrees: one within each year, and the other through the three years of the degrees. Generally speaking, first semester studios (Studios 1, 3 and 5) are more divergent, emphasising designing and conceptualising, while second semester studios (Studios 2, 4 and 6) tend to be more convergent, emphasising building and resolving. There is also a progression through the years of the degree: first-year studios tend to focus on single-machine, screen-based work, second-year studios focus on distributed non-screen-based work, and third-year studios focus on socially-based work with opportunities for student-generated and student-selected projects working with academic and/or industry advisors.

Good stuff on “converstaion” from Fiedler and Schon:

Fiedler is concerned with externalising the learner’s internal conversation, and formalising the learner’s external conversation with a learning coach. In the studio process, the conversations are between the participants in the process (Schön 1987), and also between individual and groups of participants and the materials of the design (Schön 1992).



Day two, I’m a bit more relaxed today as I presented yesterday.

Mark Bernstien led a very interesting discussion to start off the day on the value of comments. He essentially suggested that comments – which are often either brief or harshly negative or hit and run – are not all they are cracked up to be. He emphasised that commentary and dialogue can occur between weblogs and this is a slower more dispersed dialogue but just as valuable or even more valuable. This proved very contentious.

Other points:

At this moment of blog triumphalism we must begin to think about “saving” the blogsphere…we could wreck the blogsphere by accident by ways we didn’t even know were harmful

Its ok if only your mother reads your weblog…it’s a better way to write home!

Many blogs are in the tail of the graph that shows the spread of blogs against blog readership: a group of A-list bloggers with big readers and then a tailing off to a big group who have few readers.

Keep the tail healthy – the people who are only ready by 5 or six are critical to the health of the blogsphere

The notion of professional journalists versus amateur bloggers rests on a misconception that journalism is a profession. It is a craft/trade. (I’d of course disagree with this!!)

Help bloggers to write better notes and make better links: make it easy to do the right thing. We can’t help the tail by regulation

Things don’t start in order we don’t put them in order because we are changing all the time

Don’t blogroll A-list blogs, cycle your blogroll.

Don’t stop linking to the tail because its easier to link to the NYT. If you link to a weblog that no one has heard of it’s a better service to your reader.

Ten tips for writing the living web