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‘The Kirk: Mother of War’ & 7 New Books At UCSD

Posted By metzler On November 24, 2009 @ 12:03 pm In The Story | Comments Disabled

The sociology contained in my book ( The Kirk: Mother of War ) is thus far of folk origin. I began writing to chronicle my personal experience within the Kirk and to continue the social analysis I had already began promulgating for Pooh’s Think, Part 1. But I originally had little to guide me as I sought to understand my eventual expurgation. Fairly cloistered from the news media, I was influenced largely by bits and pieces of my philosophy education over the years – notably from graduate education at the University of Idaho, which began soon after the launch of Pooh’s Think, Part 1. I received highly concentrated help towards the end of my expurgation from the new start up of Harvard Law’s The Situationist [1], which remains an important resource for me.

More recently, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and George Lakoff have been highly influential – although Dennett’s intentional stance has been a thorn in my side since 1997. I am shy to begin enumerating the others, fearing I will mistakenly leave someone out, but I will here venture what comes immediately to mind: H.L. Menken, George Orwell, Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael O’Rourke, John Bargh, Onora O’Neill, Phillip Zimbardo, Patrick Hogan, and my were-local discussion partners at Moscow’s Vision 2020 [2] list.

Likely, my folksy sociology will remain largely in tact, as it so far seems consistent with my new explorations. Yet, more research is in order. In many ways, the first inchoate version of my book was the completion of a vigorous, painful research experiment that lasted 15 years. But now I find myself at the beginning of an exciting new project that was given birth through the death of that first book. As time allows, I hope to investigate the new academic and journalistic work on religion, power, violence, communitarianism, and war. This is what I hope to accomplish on the side of still other work that is likewise already on the side: work in consciousness, the sophistication of the unconscious mind, cognitive science, metaphor, narrative, and neurobiology.

I am inclined to begin with some books on the ‘new book’ shelves at the University of California down the road (San Diego). The following is a short introduction to 7 of these books. Perhaps I can at some point actually read them cover to cover!


1) Timothy Longman’s Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda (Cambridge, 2010).

Longman lived in Rwanda from 1991 to 1993 while working on his dissertation regarding church-state relations in Africa. He returned in 1995 to work in the field office of Human Rights Watch, the year after the infamous three month genocide infiltrated Rwanda. He has finally published his findings after comparing two local Presbyterian parishes in Kibuye. On page 312, Longman writes:

Ultimately, church leaders embraced ethnic chauvinism not only because they supported political authorities who adopted an anti-Tutsi ideology but because it was a means of co-opting people back into the patrimonial network. By defining Tutsi as a threat, church leaders were able to appeal to their members along lines of ethnic solidarity and shatter the emerging class solidarity that was challenging their control.

The introduction page explains that “Although Rwanda is among the most Christian countries in Africa, in the 1994 genocide, church buildings became the primary killing ground.” My Kirk brethren might be inclined to see my interest in this book as just more whining. I am after all the ‘sucking chest wound’ [3]version of the bleeding heart and the reports about what happened in Rwanda sound very much like the glorious routs of the Old Testament. Take for example Philip Zimbardo’s report in The Lucifer Effect (2007): “One of the young men told a translator that they couldn’t rape them because ‘we had been killing all day and we were tired. We just put the gasoline in bottles and scattered it among the women, then started burning’”.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a Tutsi and “former social worker who lectured on women’s empowerment” could have helped her people, but she instead led the village of Butare into a trap, promising help from the Red Cross. “They were machine-gunned, grenades were thrown into the unsuspecting throngs, and survivors were sliced apart with machetes. Pauline gave the order that ‘Before you kill the women, you need to rape them’.” According to Zimbardo, the U.N. reported that at least 200,000 women were raped during the three month massacre.


2) William Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (Oxford, 2009).

Cavanaugh challenges the social-political research of the majority, arguing that “there is no transhistorical and transcultural essence of religion and that essentialist attempts to separate religious violence from secular violence are incoherent.” The prevailing concept of religion “that is essentially prone to violence is one of the foundational legitimating myths of the liberal nation-state.” Cavanaugh challenges as incoherent “the argument that there is something called religion . . . which is necessarily more inclined toward violence than are ideologies and institutions that are identified as secular” (4-5). While I will likely take issue with the more provocative features of this thesis, I would be surprised if I do not find a wealth of wisdom to be gained in taking issue with essentialist and timeless concepts contracted for ideological and political purposes (such as the timeless notion of ‘covenant’ in reformed theology, a thesis still unique to me as far as I know). Canvanaugh notes that the religious-secular distinction was not established through argument, but “through violence” (7).


3) Marc Hetherington & Jonathon Weiler, Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics (Cambridge, 2009).

Front, introductory material reads:

Although politics at the elite level has been polarized for some time, a scholarly controversy has raged over whether ordinary Americans are polarized. This book argues that they are and that the reason is growing polarization of worldviews – what guides people’s view of right and wrong and good and evil. These differences in worldview are rooted in . . . authoritarianism. . . . [D]ifferences of opinion concerning the most provocative issues. . . reflect differences in individuals’ level of authoritarianism.

After reading the first few pages, I suspected that Lakoff (2008) influenced this thesis. While not acknowledging influence, Hetherington and Weiler note on page 192 the correspondence:

George Lakoff’s (1996) treatment of morality in contemporary American politics tracks helpfully with our analysis in this regard . . . His conception of conservatism, which is premised on a ‘strict father morality,’ is closely related to our conception of authoritarianism.


4) Brett Whalen, Dominion of God (Harvard, 2009).

On page 6:

Ambivalence characterized the idea of Christendom, which formed a limitless community of the faithful, a cosmic congregation, but also an earthly society of believers in the here-and-now. Christendom had borders and was universal. It could be spread by the righteous power of the sword or by the spiritual grace of God . . . Within this apocalyptic ethnography, both Christian and non-Christian peoples had roles to play in the realization of history. The expectation of Christian world order relied – somewhat paradoxically – on mutually reinforcing languages of exclusion and inclusion, on the identification of God’s enemies and the promise of their ultimate redemption, or at least their opportunity to be redeemed . . . The pursuit of Christendom . . . engaged . . . the sensibilities of medieval Europe’s ecclesiastical elite, sometimes including popes themselves, who anticipated the ultimate triumph of their sacerdotal authority on the grandest of scales.


5) Michael Ryan & Les Switzer, God in the Corridors of Power (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2009).

My introduction: This book’s 500 pages appear to be a thorough analysis of the role that conservative religion has played in the religious and non-religious political Right. Ryan and Switzer, together representing American Protestantism and Catholicism, offer an abundant set of tools, from demographics to American history. Topics include media, conservative conceptual worlds, the constitution, abortion, sex, gender, science, Darwinianism, terrorism, militarism, and the contemporary Christian life.


6) Bayne, Cleeremans, & Wilken, The Oxford Companion to Consciousness (Oxford, 2009).

My introduction: This 700 page tome looks to be an excellent long-term resource. I see a good deal of mind science, and the selection of entries reveals an unusual interdisciplinary flavor. Bayne, Cleeremans, and Wilken have included an entry on ‘wine,’ and I found the latest answer we have to the question my son posed the other day: “why can I not tickle myself?” Recent experiments are detailed in an entry titled ‘tickling’.


7) David Thompson, Daniel Dennett (Continuum Publishing Group, 2009).

My introduction: Although not important research material for my book, I recommend this to the average visitor of the Wood. This appears to be an excellent introduction to the work of Daniel Dennett, written by a retired Canadian philosophy professor. I even noted a subtle play between the epistemic and phenomenal use of the word ‘seems’ [4] in the section on Heterophenomenology.

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URLs in this post:

[1] The Situationist: http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/

[2] Vision 2020 : http://mailman.fsr.com/pipermail/vision2020/

[3] ‘sucking chest wound’ : http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=665

[4] ‘seems’ : http://schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2009/10/epistemic-and-phenomenal-consciousness.html

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