Friday, August 31, 2012
Religion Dispatches - Burning Man: Fear of an Alternative Pagan Social Order
After reading the first installment of Matthews' essay, reading another form of this essay on The Worldview Center website, and listening to his two radio interviews on the topic on the Frank Pastore and Janet Parshall radio programs, I provide my critique of his analysis, which as he told me recently by phone, is the "most fair and balanced treatment of Burning Man" in print. As the reader will see, I beg to differ, as I take issue with several instances of Matthews' analysis, including his understanding of Burning Man participant demographics, the theoretical lens that undergirds his approach, and his misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Paganism.
Matthews' analysis is common within evangelicalism, not only in terms of an understanding of Burning Man, but also the fears associated with Paganism and the New Spirituality in general. This dovetails with the analysis of Jason C. Bivins in his book Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2008). In this volume Bivins describes evangelicalism as involving "a form of religious social criticism produced and sustained in evangelical engagements with pop culture." In his view, this results in 'political orientations [that] are shaped and spread by pop cultural narratives of fear and horror."
Interested readers can find my essay at Religion Dispatches here.