Friday, May 23, 2003

Metafaith of our Fathers

A revival of authoritative and authoritarian religion may be hard to credit, but that doesn’t mean that all the talk of religious revival is meaningless. It must betoken something that so many Americans want to endorse religiosity even though they certainly don’t want to live religiously. We see this in the often-quoted statistics about high rates of church attendance in the United States. The telling fact is that the self reported church attendance numbers just don’t hold up if you check them by counting the cars in the parking lot. Americans just want to believe they believe.

The Changing of the Shorts

It seems as if every analysis of the political situation begins with a phrase something like “in the wake of the shattering events of 9/11.” Even Slavoj Zizek, the left-Hegelian standup comic, fell in line by invoking the “shattering impact.” Will I suffer the fate of the Dixie Chicks if I suggest that this language is more than a little hysterical and perhaps a little hypocritical too since lots of us were and are well aware that the actual damage done to the country was not great by historical standards. On 22 August 1914, for example, the French—you know, those spineless cowards—lost 27,000 men fighting the Germans. The 9/11 attack was startling, obviously, and certainly expensive. It was also minor if, perversely, you focus on realities instead of images.

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