Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Generation Hex: Moving Beyond Bogeyman Stories

Two things converged over the last few days that brought the book Generation Hex (Harvest House, 2008) to mind. First, as of yesterday the authors are coordinating a blog tour of reviews promoting the book that runs through September 12. This post represents a supplement to my previous summary thoughts on the volume as part of the blog tour so that my apparently unique minority perspective among evangelicals can be considered. (See an example of typical evangelical responses to Generation here, and the links to other blogs sharing similar perspectives. My critical perspective in contrast with my fellow reviewers means that either I have been unfair in my assessment, or the other evangelical reviewers do not have enough of an understanding outside of this book's presentation of Wicca to produce a balanced analysis of the book.) Second, as I was promoting Beyond the Burning Times (Lion, 2008) at Ogden Pagan Pride Day over the weekend and was thumbing through this book I was reminded of aspects of Generation with the following quote Beyond by one of the co-authors, Philip Johnson, in his concluding thoughts:

Boundaries and Bogeyman Stories
I believe that at times our communities are aggravated by deep-rooted suspicion and ridicule. I am not accusing Gus [Philip's co-author, Gus diZerega] of generating a bogeyman and I do not hold all Pagans or all Christians responsible for circulating hostile tales. However, 'big bad wolf' stores are found within both communities, and they inflame the tensions. I will summarize elements of extreme bogeyman portraits from both Christian and Pagan material.

According to some Christians, Pagans worship the devil, use demonic rituals, lead an immoral life, and recruit or corrupt children through Halloween festivities, TV shows like Charmed, and the Harry Potter novels. Pagans threaten the wider community as Witch-chaplains are now appointed to hospitals and the armed services. They reject America's godly heritage that began with the Pilgrim Fathers. Former Pagans (now happy Christians) confirm in their autobiographies that Paganism is dangerous and spiritually bankrupt. In the worst hyperbole, Pagans are cardboard cut-out models of Gothic monsters.

According to some Pagans, Christians are hostile bigots. The church is guilty of colossal atrocities in history, hates other religions, oppresses women and destroys the Earth. Bible-bashers stir up community opposition to individual Pagans and group events. They are undermining the separation of church and state, and will create a Religious Reich to impose their puritanical religion on everyone. Former Christians (now happy Pagans) confirm in their autobiographies that the church is intolerant and spiritually bankrupt. In the worst hyperbole, Christians are cardboard cut-out models of Fascists.

Here each side curiously mirrors the other's story by pointing to the presence of the 'other' in the public square: 'they' represent a threat that must be negated. The constructed story reconfirms the group's identity in contrast to what is rejected about the opposition. It allows the storytellers to feel they can regain some social control and power and mobilizes them to resist alterations to civil rights in the public square. I wonder why partisans on both sides exhibit fundamentalist tendencies and seek power each other; and why such 'masculine' aggressive energy is expended in mutually wedging opponents in the public square. Are we willing to relinquish these spiritually unedifying bogeymen? Are both communities prepared to listen to Jesus?


Jarred said...

Overall, I think the quoted passage is great. I think Johnson accurately describes much of the current situation and the importance of trying to rid our respective communities of these bogeyman stories.

I am curious about his closing question in the passage, however. Perhaps the reading the rest of the book makes it clear, but I don't really understand what he means by "listening to Jesus" in this situation or how doing so would change the situation. Also, without further context, there's seems -- to me at least -- to be an implicit suggestion that "listening to Jesus" is the only way to get past this hurdle.

John W. Morehead said...

Jarred, thanks for your comments. Your question concerning the closing question is understandable in that the quote and the concluding question make more sense in the context of the book and Johnson's overall concluding remarks. Elsewhere in his discussion Johnson points out that the way and example of Jesus runs counter to stereotypes, and sometimes to the reality of perceptions of him. One of the ways this occurs is in his call to following justice and truth, and this runs counter to the perpetuation of bogemen stories. With this in mind Johnson is suggesting that both Christians and Pagans can learn something in this area from Jesus. I hope this excerpt has proved interest to you and others in purchasing the book!