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Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by tonyb, Jun 13, 2020.
That comes as no surprise, alas.
I had thought of mentioning her as well, but aside from watching a PBS documentary on her I know little about it.
I understand, though, that the church she founded can now boast of some eight million plus souls. That’s the church’s claim, at any rate, and I have seen no reason to doubt it.
You can draw a direct line from Sister Aimee to many of the culty mega-evangelists of today -- she was a pioneer of the sort of politicized fundamentalism that really took off here after World War II, and really showed the way that media could be used to support what we'd call today a "megachurch" operation.
But she didn't have a unique and distinctive doctrine of her own to go with it, and she didn't set herself up as the sole channel of correct exegesis the way a true cult leader does. Her movement was basically a cleaned-up Pentacostalism crossed with the Salvation Army, and while it was very much out of the religious mainstream in the 1920s and 30s, it wasn't particularly unique -- you could find similar doctrines in any number of storefront churches of the time. Aimee's innovation was one of scale rather than of substance.
You can contrast her, for example, with the Father Divine movement -- which accomplished in the urban Northeast many of the same things Aimee did out west, but which also had a very clear cult aspect to it. Father Divine declared himself to be "God In Person," and set himself up as the one channel of truth -- and had very clear requirements for his followers in terms of turning property over to the movement and such as that. Aimee tithed her followers, but they didn't have to hand over their money and property to her as a matter of course.
Sister Aimee was, however, a devoted member of the cult of celebrity -- and was working on her "personal brand" long before most people had ever heard of the concept. She owed her success as much to methods adopted from the Boys as from her interpretation of the Bible.
All the world’s a stage.
Napoleon syndrome writ large.
Sinclair Lewis clearly used Aimee Semple McPherson as the model for his character, Sharon Falconer, in Elmer Gantry. And I can't help but think that the later female preacher, Kathryn Kuhlman, channeled her style.
I did a little reading up on that David Berg character.
When I was a young adult (legally adult, anyway) and kinda lost I might have been susceptible to his pitch. For a minute, maybe.
Having been in that headspace I can see how the likes of the Prophet Mo and Love Israel attract adherents. Add sex to the mix and a typically horny young fellow just might be persuaded to stick around.
I read your post and reflected on David Koresh....dude must have been very persuasive as celibacy was foundational to his cult...well for everyone else not him.
Ha! I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes with that bunch.
I consider myself fortunate to be baffled by how a person would wish to do all that Koresh allegedly did. How can a person NOT see the harm he does to others, especially the children? Or, if a person does recognize that harm, how could he remain indifferent to it?
Damaged goods, undoubtedly.
It's more important that they have convinced others that they are GOD. Any harm comes secondary or as just another satisfaction of their dominance and control.
All manner of terrible/weird stories out there about gurus, saints and political savants. A man I followed for a while (at a distance) Andrew Cohen turned out to be NOT enlightened at all but just another fake guru. My fallback position (I stole it from the Weathermen who stole it from Bob Dylan...."You don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows."...or words to that effect.
I've got a copy of Morris' 'American Messiahs' on the way... looks like an interesting read. All the ways in which that particular population is offered up for saving. I remember many years ago getting a knock on the door in Seoul and inviting in two chisel-jawed American lads who proceeded to tell me about their religion and why I needed it (although I doubt that it would have fitted in with my lapsed Catholicism): it seems to me that any attempt at proselytising must start off with populism (everyone knows that...), move into the personal and then end up in the 'argument by fear', which is usually very gentle these days. One of Morris' arguments is that cults often provided 'ways out' for women - lives were hard, safety (even in the home) was far from guaranteed, and communal living was safer (initially).
I look forward to your review.
It looks to be quite a tome. Some reviews have shown an interest in Morris' identification of the Puritans as oppressed because they were so strident and austere - the desire to separate and redeem/cleanse, etc. seems somewhat in the DNA of group identities in the later States. I got interested in all this due to a BA in American Lit many years ago followed up by an MA.
The way things are going in the world at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if more splinter groups spring up as faith in traditional govt modes begins to fail.
IT's an interesting fact - and in no way conclusive, in my mind, of the existence of 'God', or, indeed, lack thereof - that they've identifed a part of the brain that is hotwired to find some sort of 'god' or higher purpose. Certainly purpose and ritual (as opposed to mere habit) are common featurws not only of religion but also of those things which people often find as a substitute therefore if they reject the notion of a deity. Buddhism was very fashionable for a while for people who wanted a sense of spirituality but don't necessarily feel able or want to belive in a deity. I reember back in the 90s there was a real rise in interest in spirituality - and often alternative spirtualities like Wicca and such, on the basis that many felt alienated from traditional Christianity and such but still wanted something. The pendulum has swung away from faith among the masses in recent years, but it's about due a swing back. Be interesting to see what comes around.
About tne years ago here in the UK there were a bunch of groups styling themselves as "church for atheists". They'd meet together, enjoy a sense of community, sing some inspiring songs and listen to an inspiring message. Just what it says on the tin: Church, but without God. I found it intriguing as a concept. I'm a practising Methodist myself, but especially in an era when Dawkins-style sneering had become popular, I found it interesting that a group of people could take a step back and objectively see what it was tey appreciated about religion and replicate that for themselves, rather than dismissing everything because they didn't believe in the deity. I have a half way notino we'll see a lot of that sort of thing starting up in the next decade or so as well. (Puts me in mind of 'EST' from The Americans.)
I read about this - that there seems to be a structural anticipation in the brain for higher purpose, which I find very interesting. I would describe myself as religious in a very lapsed way and am probably more interested by the ritual than living after I'm dead or the idea of God (though I am moved by it and cannot bring myself to discount the notion). I'm more an Eagleton man than a Dawkins man and find it amusing that Dawkins - so drawn to publicity - was born in a time when he'll be remembered for approximately six hours.
I think our next cults are consumerist (something out of Ballard's 'Kingdom Come') and may well become more like militias and Silicon Valley longevity enclaves (already happening), or organised along some variation of internet fora hierarchies. I'd be confident that the most survivable systems will have the longest pedigrees and be practicable (I'd go and pick somewhere with the Ten Commandments in the event of a major disaster- it's a pretty good operating system), and that thousands of smaller doctrines will come and go before we even realise it. It certainly feels like very strong ideological sides are forming in many places- a problem in Merrie Olde England it ain't, but when you get countries where it's noodle-armed students against guys with guns - and I don't just mean Western ones - I'd be amazed if we're not in practice rounds for at least a few grim instances in a few years' time - and we don't seem to have sufficient preventative measures. Even our terms for discussion are contentious...
Our Church of Brexit Delivered
The Mission of Chad the Wingman
Pilgrim's Progress: Blind Saint Dominic O'Barnard
I was a partner in a 'personal development' workshop for 10 years. It was a very small, decidedly not a business. We partnered with a large organization and cross marketed. I would attend the larger groups workshops and it had a very strong 'revival tent' - evangenlical bent to it. As an 11 years old I had a fleeting experience of evangelical worship and being in this workshop (at the end when the fervor was high) it brought back very strong chills of my experience in the evangelical church. The workshop movement has waned here in this neck of the woods as I suspect the boomers that were so inclined have exhausted that route and the Gen Xers' and Millenials are not so strongly disposed to the workshop route. Perhaps they don't have the discretionary income. So yes, it will be interesting to see how they evolve their spiritual lives.
As a practicing Christian I have great fun poking my 'spiritual but not religious' friends by telling them spirituality is for those who don't have the discipline or fortitude to practice a religion so instead they dip their toes in the shallow end because it is easy. It asks nothing of them. It is either a great conversation starter or a great conversation killer.
Some friends of mine were recently discussing the difference between Christianity and the other religions when one of them made the observation, "Christianity isn't so much a religion as a relationship." I found that comment wuite interesting.
Very true but I can tell you from personal observation that having access to the public treasury and especially having the ability to raise taxes can stave off the collapse for far too long. Especially if you've figured out how to blame someone else for your buffoonery.
Hmm. There seems to be a common thread between the different institutions in this discussion.
I want one.