What If God Tells You Your Blender Is Evil ? [The Satanic Blender, Revisited]
[inside: video short in which God warns wife to get rid of the fancy new blender her husband uses constantly to make fruit smoothies. The wife tells her husband about the warning from God about the blender but the husband, apparently exerting his Biblically ordained patriarchal prerogative, refuses to relinquish his beloved kitchen appliance. Tragedy follows...]
What if a voice in your head, claiming to be God, tells you to hijack a large commercial jet and fly it into a skyscraper ? Before the September 11, 2001 suicide terrorist strikes using airplanes would have sounded merely absurd but now Americans are now familiar with religiously inspired terrorism and so the notion seems menacing as well. But, it's generally not noticed that similar sorts of religious or mystical precepts, as apparently motivated the 9-11 suicide bombers, have become embedded in certain areas of American Christian evangelical culture.
This essay concerns a recent video short on "GodTube" [a tube of God ? God in a tube ? The YouTube of God ?] and the problem is that the video is drop dead serious. The point is that if your wife warns you that God told her to get rid of your fancy new blender, you'd better listen. Maybe this is part of some weird PR driven plot to get rid of the Federal Product Safety Commission, but it's sobering to realize there are lots of Americans out there who apparently believe that God on high might just beam life-saving product safety bulletins right into their heads. And why not ?
There's a brash, or glib, but earnest quality to "The Satanic Blender" (it's not titled, so that's what I'm dubbing it) that's somehow unnerving. This several minute GodTube short is highly professional and anything but straight, and I had to ponder it for a while to decide what the message was.
The "Satanic Blender" seems to at one level be spoofing a husband who resembles John Travolta, has a deep devotion to his new blender (maybe more than to his wife), and loafs on the sofa all day watching TV and drinking fruit smoothies while his wife goes off to her day job to, presumably, pay the bills and the home mortgage.
Before leaving for work, the wife tells the Travolta-ish, loafing hubby that she's talked to God, and God has told her they need to get rid of the new blender. It's all very matter of fact. The Travolta-esque husband makes a big show of engaging in reasonable negotiation, as if these sorts of divine revelations were an everyday occurence for his wife, and the matter-of-factness made me wonder so, what if his wife informed him God told her that they needed to sell the house, emigrate to outer Mongolia, and make a living herding Yaks and selling Yak butter ? What if God told her she was actually She-RA! and was fated to conquer the World ? How would he react ?.
In response to his wife's allegedly divine message about the blender, the husband suggests she sleep on the blender question (or, actually, that she work on it given she's about to go off to her job) but, when his wife returns, he assures her that God has told him the blender is just fine. Apparently, in the domestic sphere husbands trump God, and the wife sighs, shrugs, and gives in. OK, the blender can stay. Not only does the husband get the final word, but he even cajoles her into making a fruit smoothie for him even though she's just walked in the door from a day's work.
The video seems to be, at a certain level, mocking the husband but the underlying message is that patriarchal authority trumps all. Lazy, smoothie drinking husbands get to loaf, watch TV, and make the decisions. It's in the nature of things, or that's the Biblically ordained scheme.
So, what's the message ? It's complex - 1) husbands have the final say, 2) God really does dispense vital consumer product advice , and probably more to wives than husbands because it's in the natural, or Biblical, order of thing that wives are more tapped into consumer appliances. 3) Husbands can choose to ignore advice their wives get from God but if they do they dire consequences might follow.
What might good, "Biblically sound" Christian wives take away from this ? Would they decide that, to get the final say, they should just lie to their husbands and say that God told them this or that ? The potential of such a covert domestic power struggle points back to the more pathological aspects of the hyper-domestication of the 1950's but with a twist ; first of all, in the 1950's model the men were supposed to go off to work. Conservative American Christianity seeks to reimpose the old sexual power relationships but it's less than clear that women will be so willing given that they now attain professional credentials at higher rates than do men. But there's another, maybe even deeper, cultural eccentricity inherent.
In the 1950's, Americans thought of science. It was deemed necessary for national survival. In the American national shock that followed the launch of the first rudimentary satellite, by the Soviet Union, the United States didn't seek to close the supposed Soviet technological lead Sputnik represented by resorting to magical solutions, by talking to God or concocting some sort of Cargo Cult magic to lure satellites out of the sky or somehow cause them to magically manifest. America rolled up it's sleeves and got to work. And, American parents bought somewhat dangerous but fun chemistry sets for their kids so that the nation might raise up a generation of inventors and scientists to beat the Soviets at the Space Race and win the Cold War.
Now, many Americans seem bent on cramming experience into a fundamentalist scheme in which daily, personal conversations with God are normal and reasonable affairs and can offer predictable guidance for daily living. To what should we turn, in navigating our daily lives ? Analysis ? Reason ? Reflection ? No, says "The Satanic Blender" - talk to God. Don't think - listen to the voices in our heads. A at deeper level this message could be said to represent a return to Medieval, Pre-Enlightenment thinking. It's the collapse of reason.
Might the voices in our heads be true ? Well, we can't rule that out. Nor can we absolutely rule out premonition and prophecy. But even if precognition, foreknowledge of what will happen in the future, is real, is it reliable enough to base life and death decisions on ?
We often make decisions on inadequate information or even on hunches alone and some people who base crucial decisions on hunches seem to navigate through life with considerable success. Some people just seem lucky, others not and so. Therefore, is it so unreasonable to think that God might offer us vital consumer product advice ?
More and more, Americans may be turning to magical reasoning, rather than logical and scientific thought, as a framework to navigate their daily lives. Evolution has long been under assault, and the construction of multiple "Creationist" theme parks around the country, depicting humans and dinosaurs in Edenic coexistence, hammers home the point ; magical explanations are big business, as if 70 million-odd books sold from Tim LaHaye's and Jerry Jenkin's "Left Behind" book series didn't make the point bluntly clear enough. But lately, new permutations of unreason have sprouted up to confront the view that we should first look to empirically based, causal explanations of our experience. Should we turn to prayer, rather than media reports, for information on defective consumer goods ?
Video shorts, of prominent Evangelical preacher Chuck Missler claiming to rebut the Theory of Evolution with a jar of peanut butter, and actor Kirk Cameron arguing that bananas were specifically fashioned by God to exactly fit the human hand, have proved popular to the Christian right and adherents of Evolution alike, though for different reasons.[below: video suggests the Theory Of Evolution is like throwing bit of plastic and metal into a pond and expecting they'll self-assemble into a cathode-ray tube computer monitor]
There are many forces that push American culture and politics. Pop culture, as expressed in media and consumer products, pushes American culture towards whatever best drives the bottom line of profitability. That's clear. And, a quasi-magical, or mythical, mechanism is said to push American political culture back and forth from left to right in a metronomic oscillation that never strays out of a certain bourgeoise comfort zone into radical realms.
But the American Christian right is also a force that pushes, quite hard and in a clear direction - towards theocracy and Christian nationalism, away from belief in Evolution and Global Warming, towards various schools of medical pseudo-science ("Abstinence-Only" sex ed and "Reparative Therapy" for gays), away from belief in the redistributive function of government, and towards apocalyptic and magical thinking and conspiratorial explanations of history.
Over the course of the last several decades, the movement has sought to quietly take over, attack, and destroy existing societal institutions, including political ones, while at the same time also constructing almost an entire parallel nation, an alternate reality, with dedicated broadcast media, businesses, working partnerships with powerful corporate interests, educational institutions, its own fake history and even Christian pet services, as a prophylactic against unseemly commerce with Americans defined as "secular" or simply damned: a movement knit together, besides through shared perceived struggle, "spiritual warfare" even, against enemies, by common, long term aspirations for massive societal change and eventually, some would claim, authoritarian rule, but in any case far less tolerance for religious and philosophical diversity of any sort to the point of religious supremacy.
[top, left: Chuck Missler disproves Evolution with a jar of peanut butter. top, right: Kirk Cameron rebuts Evolution with a banana.]
Lots of common foods and consumer products seem to militate against Evolution, it might seem, and it's easy to laugh at and marginalize such argumentation. But, when powerful US Senators posit Global Warming as a plot to create a "One World Government" through the United Nations [ US Sen. James Inhofe ] or meet with influential Christian pastors who allege similar conspiratorial views and organize national lobbies to bring on the Apocalypse, advocate for preemptive war, and muse on how such a war may lead to the nuclear destruction of much of the United States [ US Sen. John McCain, House GOP Minority Whip Roy Blunt Jr. ], perhaps we should turn away a bit from aspects of long term ideological drift that we find funny and towards possibly catastrophic possibilities that could arise from such views.
[ excerpted from Science & Cargo Cults, Global Warming, The Devil, and Democracy ] Last October, I listened to United States Senator James Inhofe as he described, before an audience of perhaps one thousand people, his belief that Global Warming was a hoax foisted on Americans by a conspiracy to create a satanic one-world order....
In the face of the brusque crudity of one GodTube video short attacking evolution, William Dembski's "Intelligent Design theory" is a Lexus to GodTube's Yugo, but that hardly matters ; images, and human presence, breathe life to the notion, once upon a time thought dispatched by the Enlightenment, that humans should turn to magical, theological explanations for the working of the natural world rather than to reason and logic.
[ continued, from Science & Cargo Cults, Global Warming, The Devil, and Democracy ]
Early scientists saw their work to unlock the working of nature as glorifying God's creation but now the modern American Christian right, which seems to take a dim view on that outlook, could in the end prevail through advertising and so construct, or "reconstruct" some would say, a world in which Christian wives get consumer warnings on defective blenders not from government consumer product warnings released on TV or from consumer watchdog groups but, rather, directly from God, as voices in their heads.
In his 1976 book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind", Julian Jaynes advanced a highly contentious theory, called "Bicameralism", which "argues that the human brain once assumed a state known as a bicameral mind in which cognitive functions are divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking," and a second part which listens and obeys." When humans believe they "talk to God", how do they know they aren't talking to spirits, other deities, demons, the Devil, or themselves ? How can they rule out schizophrenia, telepathy or, for that matter, secret US government mind control projects some allege to exist ?
If Christians hear, in their heads, warnings about blenders or warnings about the impending apocalypse, to whom or what do they attribute those voices ? Religious authority in Protestantism has always been an issue, but these days it may be growing quite extreme and one question for would-be Christian theocrats is this ; as posed by Talk To Action contributor Jonathan Hutson, Come The Theocracy, Whose Bible Will Rule, and how will sects, cults, movements, tendencies, and religions that now comprise the wider religious right and Christian right come to terms if they manage to successfully vanquish secularism ? What's to prevent a Hobbesian war of all against all ? Whose voice of God is the real, true voice ? With many different religious factions, the end-game in the push for theocracy could look like the current internecine, sectarian battle for Baghdad albeit in a nation armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. Or, the problem might possibly be averted if a fuzzy, sloppy, and ultimately relativistic global ecumenical Christianity came to reign over Earth so that husbands and wives, everywhere, could each talk to God about their consumer product choices and everyone would be right: or themselves, at least.
Does Evolution even deserve the lofty title of a "theory" ? No, argues one GodTube video which tars believing in Evolution as being childish at the level of the expectation that bits of plastic and metal can self-assemble into a complex consumer product. Life is much more complex - obviously, Evolution is absurd. The video isn't even presented as a parody but, rather, as a mini-documentary. "Darwin's Great, Great, Great, Great Grandson" recounts his "proof" of Charles Darwin's original theory; metal and plastic dreck chucked into a pond coalesces, a day later, into a soggy computer monitor.
There's a mystery to a road not taken by the Intelligent Design movement, which appears oblivious to the rise of research into self-emergent systems, a field that was pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Ilya Prigogine and has been furthered since in the rise of "Chaos Theory" ; why didn't William Dembski, and other architects of the "Intelligent Design" concept, opt to tie their ideas to recent scientific research on self-emergent systems, work that actually seems to validate ID in a powerful way ? The problem might have been that self-emergence is also consistent with and even supports Evolutionary Theory. In other words, the decision couldt have been tactical, or teleological, if the actual intent was to support Fundamentalist assumptions on Biblical inerrancy. Otherwise, Dembski's path makes little sense, and I expect, sooner or later, to see a Papal statement on how self-emergence reveals the built-in hand of God.
But the Catholic Church, as an institution, has been grappling with modernity longer than has Protestant Christianity and Catholicism, or the Vatican at least, seems content with accommodations to scientific modes of explanation that could be variously described as uneasy or begrudging but also flexible and creative. What doesn't bend, breaks goes the saying. American Protestant fundamentalism seems ever more in the spirit of another dictum ; what doesn't bend conquers .
There's a powerfully New-Age, postmodernist component to the new American fundamentalist spirit as well, and perhaps this is not at all new save to the range of the belief, it's spread, and the intensity with which its held ; prophets, by definition, presume to speak for God with the force of Biblical scripture. That goes with the job of being a prophet, and America has had no lack of prophets. Indeed, prophetic waves have washed over some parts of America so often that one area of New York State came to be defined as "burnt over". Mormons, Shakers and Quakers, Christian Scientists and Scientologists.... the dislocated cultural ferment of American has been fertile ground for prophetic revelation giving birth to new sects and even whole new religions....
And, it's worth remembering, too, that this is not at all a uniquely American phenomenon, that fin-de-siecle Russian culture was permeated with millennial, apocalyptic cultism, and the syncretism of South American culture has given rise to periodic outbreaks of religious revelatory fervor such as described by Euclides Da Cunha, in Os Suertos ( "Rebellion In The Backlands" ), about a 19th Century apocalyptic Brazilian cult that in effect succeeded from the Brazilian nation and was subsequently besieged, in what amounted to a minor war rather than a mere skirmish, closer to the Roman seige of Masada than to the US government siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas but ending worse than the seige of the Branch Davidians, in total destruction of the apocalyptic cult down to the last man, woman, and child.
What is without precedent, in World history as far as we know, is the rise, within a global imperial power, as some would characterize the United States at present, of an irrationalist, or pre-rational, cultic sensibility that disdains the very technological basis that gave rise to American global hegemony in the first place. Never before has a nation such as the US, whose political culture has become besieged by apocalyptic and cultic, a-rational religious forces, been armed with such terrible and even World-ending weaponry. A similar fate might befallen the Roman Empire, but that empire was not equipped with thousands of ICBM's.
[movie, below: "The Satanic Blender" again - now that you've read all that, try watching it again to see what you think now]
Incestuous amplification is propaganda gone awry, PR amok. Many on the American left fancy that leaders of the religious right do not really hold religious beliefs because they are very wealthy, or corrupt, or become disgraced in sex scandals. But, those are perennial temptations of the human condition and, even if such scandals are more common among Evangelical leaders, that does not disprove such leaders' religious beliefs.
A more likely explanation for the rise of the new religious right, as a movement, runs something like this ; business tycoons and other wealthy benefactors who sought to stamp certain ideologies on the American landscape, laissez-faire ideology advocating minimal government intrusion on business for example, found religious leaders, perhaps marginal initially on the American political landscape, who already held such ideologies. In other words, American elite funders may not have so much corrupted religious leaders as promoted leaders who, as intrinsic to their religious views, already advocated business-friendly ideas.
Such an approach would be far, far more effective, advancing leaders who, at first anyway, really did believe ; true belief has the force of conviction, a powerful force indeed.
But now, those leaders who have been so advanced, artificially through large infusions of capital, have in turn been promoting for decades now their own views. In other words, leaders of the American religious right who have been promoted to positions of great power and influence may now be less than fully controllable. Of course ; all humans have their own, unique agendas.
The assumption, a very common one on the American left, that the leaders of the religious right do not hold authentic beliefs, the assumption that they are mainly putting on a very cynical act, is a very dangerous one, because it risks a basic misunderstanding of what may, in act, be going on. Straussian manipulation is not such a clear science, and humans can be wildly unpredictable. Does James Dobson, in opposing all recognition of, let alone action on, Global Warming do so on a rational basis ? Does John Hagee lobby for Apocalypse and expanded war in the Middle East simply for personal, venal benefit alone ? Has the Bush Administration packed the federal bureaucracy with Christian conservative ideologues merely as a sop to the religious right ? And, can we afford the complacency of such assumptions, which presume that we're dealing with something that's basically, if mercenary, at least rational ? What if it's not rational ?
So, in conclusion, contemplate this ; there are young, energetic Christian filmmakers, now showcasing their wares, who believe that it makes sense for Christians to talk to God about their consumer product choices. In a few years, such young Christian media professionals will be putting out movies and some of those might be very good, a few brilliant even. I might even watch some of those movies, and, on the underlying ideology packed in, I'll be somewhat forewarned. But most American probably won't, and it may not matter in any case ; by then it may well seem fully rational, to many people, to hear God's voice, in their heads, informing them that their blenders are evil.
[blender image, above, courtesy of Rick Geary's Rubber Stamps]
What If God Tells You Your Blender Is Evil ? [The Satanic Blender, Revisited] | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
What If God Tells You Your Blender Is Evil ? [The Satanic Blender, Revisited] | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)