Kenyan Mourning

We ignore religion at our peril.  I may be a voice crying in the wilderness here, but just because church numbers are declining it doesn’t mean religion still can’t motivate.  And in large numbers.  A New York Times story tells how 179 Kenyans starved themselves to death because their preacher told them they’d meet Jesus that way.  It’s amazing how many demons pose as angels of light, even if well-meaning.  All it takes is to hold up a Bible.  People are religious by nature and they tend to believe what they’re told.  Jonestown and Waco taught us nothing about religion.  Universities continue to hack away at its study, declaring it no longer of importance.  Meanwhile useless deaths still occur because of something that “doesn’t matter.”  Religion is so easily weaponized you’d think the Pentagon might want to get in on the action.

How am I to read without an interpreter?

Our world is increasingly secular but that may not mean what it seems to.  Belief, whether in traditional religions or not, is still belief.  We may believe we know certain things, but knowledge is a lot rarer than we often suppose.  Religion evolved—co-evolved, more accurately—with our species.  We need it, even if its gods have lost their divine luster.  And if we don’t have people who can teach us about it without resorting to mere metrics we may be on our way to perdition.  You see, here in America we tend to be a pretty literalist bunch.  I don’t know what it is about our culture, but we’re uncomfortable with metaphor.  Even so we believe in all kinds of things and then deny that we do.

My mind keeps going back to those Kenyans who, trustfully believing, starved themselves to death.  No doubt the introduction of the Bible, without proper instruction, into their culture, meant that such interpretations would eventually arise.  Perhaps inevitably.  Religious thinking isn’t a bad thing, but taking sacred texts from thousands of years ago as roadmaps for today is.  We so want answers in black and white—we want someone to tell us that life isn’t this complex and that “it’s all really quite simple.”  But it’s not.  Religion does help us get through this complex world.  Even though he was a Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau tried the monastic approach.  It works for a while, but if we all did it there’d be untold suffering in the world.  In other words, there’s no easy answer.  There never likely will be.  Until such a time as that, we should be studying religion more, not less.  And trying to make lives better, not worse.

More Water Monsters

Monster from the Ocean Floor, one gets the sense, wouldn’t have merited a Wikipedia article were it not for the fact that it was the first film Roger Corman produced.  Despite its B-movie quality, there’s quite a lot to like about it.  First of all it has a strong female lead.  Julie Blair is the only gringo in Mexico to believe the locals that there’s a monster just off shore.  Steve Dunning, the scientist, is an avowed skeptic.  The plot is cheesy—the monster is an overgrown amoeba irradiated by the Bikini Island underwater nuclear tests, and it’s killed by getting a submarine in the eye—but there are some very effective cinematographic moments.  When the young boy talking to Julie in the opening turns to stare at the ocean where his father disappeared, the framing and emotion are perfect.

The theme music for the approach of the shark, and then the amoeba, anticipate Jaws by a couple of decades, and I have to wonder if John Williams hadn’t watched Monster from the Ocean Floor.  (I’m sure even cultured people watch the occasional B-movie.)  There’s also an unexpected religion angle.  A series of episodes in the film have a couple of locals trying to kill Julie as a sacrifice to the monster.  Despite the holes in the plot, it’s remarkable that in 1954 there could be dialogue suggesting that the Christian God (“the other god” according to a local woman) isn’t the God that Quetzalcoatl is.  All the same, the sacrifice is based on the folklore that the sacrifice of the “fairest” (Julie is, naturally, blonde) will appease the monster.  Maybe not the most solid theological basis, but still, not bad for a bad movie.

I’ve recently published a piece on Horror Homeroom about women and water monsters.  Having a strong woman in a 1954 film is especially remarkable.  Julie, despite the skepticism of the scientists, takes the initiative to dive right down and see the monster for herself.  It’s only when she comes up with physical proof that the men consider that she may be right (and in danger).  Of course, the men do have to rescue her—you can’t have it all.  Yes, it’s a cheaply made movie with a paper-thin plot but it was beginning to show that a woman could take the reins and with good motives (if nobody else will do something about the monster, she will).  Although she’s the love object of the movie, she’s so much more.  And a submarine in the eye—that’s gotta smart.

Wrong Entity

In one of those weird synchronicities the universe likes to play, the very next day after I watched The Entity (2015) and wrote a blog post on it, this happened.  In yesterday’s post I noted that I couldn’t remember where I’d read about the movie, or who had recommended it to me.  I couldn’t even be sure which The Entity it was, since I didn’t write down the movie’s date.  The next morning I had the privilege of watching Claire Donner, of the Miskatonic Institute, talking about The Entity and it immediately came to mind that it was she who’d suggested I might like it (or might not).  Also, that I got the wrong one.  I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the one actually recommended yet, but it brings back to mind just how the Miskatonic Institute contributes to understanding horror.

The Institute has asked me to present a course this coming October and I will be posting more on that closer to the time.  It got me to thinking about a couple of things.  One is that I missed some major horror films growing up.  When I “got religion” in high school (I always had it, of course, and saw no problem with enjoying monsters too) I began to steer away from horror.  In college I had a dating occasion or two to watch horror, but it really only started again in earnest after being booted out of academia.  I was interviewed in seminary by a sociology grad student interested in why people watch horror, but my watching was (and still is) circumscribed by lack of cash flow.  The Entity made quite a splash in the early eighties, but it took someone in the 2020s telling me about it before I realized I probably should watch it.

The other thing Donner’s talk brought to mind is how religion and horror relate.  Such films are scary because of an existential threat—THE existential threat.  There’s nothing more powerful than God, but in such movies God can do nothing.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I suspect that’s true.  It’s certainly true of The Exorcist, with which it’s sometimes compared.  God doesn’t deliver Regan McNeil, no, Fr. Karras does.  And only by sacrificing himself to do so.  The existential threat has to involve a universe entirely out of kilter.  What is a God that’s powerless (it’s implied) to drive out evil?  The exorcism in The Exorcist doesn’t work, does it?  Yet there’s some benevolent force in the universe that gives us synchronicities and, it seems, is looking out for goodness in an often cruel world.


When you’re a regular scholar, you take notes.  I’m not a regular anything, I guess, and I’ve fallen out of the habit of noting who makes movie recommendations to me.  Many of these come from books, but I don’t always remember which book made what suggestion.  In my list of movies to watch is The Entity.  The thing is, there are at least five movies by that title.  One of them was free on Freevee, so that was the one I watched.  I’m not sure it was the right one, but since it featured something like a demon it represents my interests in Nightmares with the Bible.  This one was, for the record, from 2016, or 2015, and directed by Eduardo Schuldt.  Like Paranormal Activity, it’s “found footage” from hand-held cameras and it made me more woozy than scared.

Based in Lima, it’s in Spanish and claims to be from the dark web.  I don’t have any desire to go there (the dark web, that is.  Lima would be okay), but the movie wasn’t that frightening.  It was like Sinister and Ringu’s unholy offspring.  With a bit of Blair Witch Project as a sibling.  A curse from the Inquisition brings this into the realm of religion and horror.  Film students working on a class project learn that those who see a certain film are going to die.  Being modern people, they’re skeptical so, of course they watch it.  The thing about religion is that it’s unrelenting.  It doesn’t give up just because people stop believing.  Movies like this underscore how we keep turning back to religion to frighten ourselves.  You can guess what happens to the students.

The thing is, I’m not sure that I watched the correct one.  Film scholars now make a habit of citing movies by not only title and year, but also director’s name.  There are a lot of “Entities” out there, and if you take the article off there are even more.  I’ll probably end up watching a few of them, but since I didn’t write down which book, or which friend, made the recommendation, I’ll never know if I got the right one.  I keep a list to try to prevent myself from just going for whatever’s free on the weekend because you generally get what you pay for when you do that.  Even though I ended up a bit nauseous (from the camera movement) I was glad to have seen this.  There were some good moments in it.  And I can tick one off my Entity list. 


In retrospect, I suppose I wrote Holy Horror a bit prematurely.  Back when I started writing it, I had thought that the Bible in horror wasn’t as common as I’ve since found it to be.  I still stand by what I wrote, but I could’ve included a lot more movies that I’ve watched over the years since.  The Sacrament is one of them.  Based on the Jonestown massacre, the film sets the movie in the early twenty-tens.  A reporter for VICE is going to find his sister who’s joined a religious commune in some unspecified country.  In an effort to get him to join, she invited him to visit.  She was unaware, however, that he brought another journalist and cameraman with him.  The movie gives creepy vibes right away since they’re greeted at the helicopter landing site by men with guns.  Eventually they’re allowed to enter.

“Father,” the leader of the commune bears a resemblance to Jim Jones and soon it’s clear where this is going.  Along the way, however, Scripture gets quoted to justify their communal lifestyle.  There are many fictional aspects thrown in—the young women seduce the journalist whose sister invited him.  She makes no bones about saying they do it to convince him to stay.  The camera crew is almost convinced that this is the paradise it claims to be, but they start getting requests for help.  The writers clearly did their research on Jonestown since several details of the final weeks of the Peoples Temple are fictionalized here.  The mass suicide is shown in graphic detail.  The number of the dead, however, is only about a fifth of those who actually died in Guyana in 1978.

The movie clearly shows that the commune is problematic, but it also raises uneasy questions.  If it weren’t for the murder of Leo Ryan, would Jonestown ever have happened?  Probably, but the film shows “Father” making the point that nobody was being harmed.  That’s belied by the introduction of an abused girl and the number of people who want to leave.  It’s true of Jonestown that mind-control tactics were used and people weren’t permitted to leave, especially as Jones’ paranoia grew.  The movie leaves the viewer wondering whether utopian communes can ever work, people being what they are.  We crave our freedom, even when things look great.  The movie condemns the exercise, but not so much that it leaves lingering doubts about whether, had things been different, it might’ve worked.  And it would’ve worked, had I seen it earlier, for Holy Horror.


Not to dwell on Satanism, but the morning after my last post on the topic, while out on my morning jog, I came across a pentagram incised in the pea gravel of the bike path.  Then another.  Lest there was any lingering doubt that this had to do with the local school’s Satan club, a few feet further along a 666 appeared.  None of this was there the day before and, given that folks my age are too busy to be out scraping sigels in the sand, I suspect that it might’ve been someone younger.   Dare I say, school-aged.  Protesting or promoting I couldn’t tell.  As I jogged, I fell to thinking about pentagrams.  They’re not inherently evil and actually have an interesting history.  For most of that history it was morally neutral, if not a positive sign.

In the 1800s, during Romanticism’s heyday, it was supposed that an inverted pentagram—one with two points up instead of one at the top—was a sign of evil.  It was also in the 1800s that the contemporary king of outrage, Aleister Crowley, began what would eventually morph into modern Wicca.  Crowley liked to refer to himself as “the wickedest man on earth,” at least among his friends.  The upside-down pentagram was seen to represent a goat’s head, and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that some groups have long associated goats with demons.  Ironically, during the Nixon Administration the Grand Old Party began to use inverted pentagrams on their elephant logo.  Evangelicals who otherwise object to this “Satanic” symbol seem quite okay with it branding their political party.  Truth in advertising, I guess.

The thing about symbols is that they only have the power we give them.  The five points of a star symbol match well the pentagonal symmetry that we often see in nature: sea stars, sand dollars, strawberry flowers, and eucalyptus seed pods.  It’s pleasing to the eye for creatures with five fingers and five toes.  There’s a rightness about it, even if it doesn’t look a thing like the stars in the sky.  Is it Satanic?  No, only to those who believe it to be so.  Are there Satanists trying to take over public schools?  No.  That doesn’t mean people don’t think they aren’t.  (That last sentence is all tied up in nots, I guess.)  Symbols, by their nature, contain the meaning we assign to them.  They say to me that kids pay attention to what adults do,  so if we act grown-up perhaps—just perhaps—they will aspire to do the same.

Satanic Struggle

Around these parts folks are in an uproar about an after-school Satan Club.  The idea is an action to get Evangelical undies in a bunch, and it’s only proposed when a school system supports an overtly Christian club.  Reaction more than action, really.  Right now is bursting at the seams with indignation about something most people don’t understand.  I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve read plenty of books about Satan and many of them deal with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan.  The Church of Satan believes in no literal Devil or Hell.  It was established to draw attention but also to make a statement when Christian Nationalists start to get too pushy.  Still, people are afraid of Satanism as the numerous international panics about it have shown.  And conspiracy theories don’t help.

It seems to me that the solution to all of this is education.  People, naturally enough, react to things emotionally.  I do it all the time.  (This is one reason that Artificial Intelligence will never be truly that—humans think with their emotions as well as with reason.)  The sad thing is, there are many easy ways to correct mistaken assumptions.  The information is out there and it’s easily found.  It’s easier, however, to spout off on social media like you’re an expert on something you know nothing about.  Trump introduced a culture of outrage—did his supporters suppose nobody else was capable of doing the same?  The Church of Satan was established as such an outrage.  In a nation of literalists, they hit a nerve.

The Church of Satan does not worship the Devil.  It supports social causes and it cooperates with law enforcement when some unbalanced individuals think it means something that it doesn’t.  To my way of thinking, this creative endeavor, despite getting the attention it sought, might’ve been better thought through.  Although extremism appeals to those who, like Herostratus, crave fame at any cost, does it really move us any closer to where we want to be?  Part of the problem is that many outspoken political figures want us all to be the same as them.  White, Christian, male, heterosexual.  I really can’t imagine a worse kind of nightmare.  Humans crave variety and new ideas.  As I sit here watching a new, uninformed Satanic Panic developing in my own backyard, I wonder if we all wouldn’t do our blood pressure a favor by sitting down with a book.  And maybe learning what this really is about.  Shoving matches seldom end well.

Valentines and Bombs

So what was I thinking, posting about bombs on Valentine’s Day?  Regular readers know my fascination with holidays.  Valentine’s Day is another one of those that simply gets plowed under by the sharp shares of capitalism.  We work on Valentine’s Day, of course, after waking to news of yet another multiple shooting at a university.  Is it any wonder that we think about bombs on Valentine’s Day?  As Tina asks, what’s love got to do with it?  In 2016 we were taught that the politics of hate is how elections are won.  Surveys consistently show Americans favor stricter gun laws but congressmen love money more.  Maybe love does have something to do with it after all, Ms. Turner.

Love, it seems to me, was the best thing Christianity had going for it.  While the Gospels aren’t entirely consistent on this point, the figure we call John (not the Baptist) focuses on it.  Jesus spoke of, indeed, insisted on love.  “God is love” some radical went so far as to write.  But love gets in the way of selfish agendas.  We can wave Bibles around, and hold them up for photo ops, but they do no good that way.  Besides, love might, in some instances lead to sex.  And we know that Augustine won that argument centuries ago.  We don’t have a widely recognized holiday celebrating that dour saint, however.  Perhaps we should take a cue from the fact that nobody knows which Valentine yesterday really commemorates.  Isn’t love best when it can even be anonymous?

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

I often ponder why it seems so difficult for people to love universally.  Yes, we do annoy each other.  Yes, we have conflicting agendas.  If, however, we pause for a moment and consider we’ll see that other people have feelings just like us.  They too want to be loved and appreciated, and held by those closest to them.  This is not a bad thing.  What’s so wrong with love, after all?  We pour money into the military industrial complex and try to regulate who can love whom.  And we say we’re living the religion touted by the New Testament.  I always try to keep Valentine’s Day special.  It can be tricky on a Tuesday when work will bear its inevitable load of problems to solve.  Still, if we all paused when we faced a people-related frustration on Valentine’s Day, and said to ourselves (saying it aloud would only cause problems) “I love you” to the person causing our frustration, I wouldn’t have been thinking of bombs on Valentine’s Day.

No Doubt

The mind inclined toward doubt is in for a rough ride in an evangelical childhood.  I recall vividly my many, many hours struggling against doubt, trying, crying, praying for certainty and faith.  Many, many dark nights of the soul.  Attending college and seminary I learned of the others in history who struggled the same way, or at least similarly.  I also learned that doubt is natural and healthy, it protects us from falling headlong into the many snares and traps the world continually sets for us.  Blind faith, as I recently quoted from Kurt Vonnegut, is dangerous to everyone.  I was thinking about this again the other day as there was something I fervently wanted to happen but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe would actually come to pass.  My mind isn’t built for blind faith.

Given that, it probably isn’t any surprise that I went into religious studies as a field, even though it’s a dead end.  I still believe it’s vitally important, but that’s a belief much of the world doesn’t share.  It’s one of the few fields of study where a doctorate leaves you without job prospects if you don’t get a teaching post, if you’re not ordained.  And should doubters be wearing clerical collars and preaching to those who want to believe?  Belief is malleable.  It changes over time and it does so via its constant interaction with doubt.  It leads to a life of second-guessing and constant reassessment.  I suppose that’s why I’m baffled to see politicians with less education being so cock-sure that they’re right about things.  I doubt they know what they’re talking about.

Institutions take on lives, like people do.  Although I disagree with the treatment of corporations as individuals by law, still, I understand the thinking behind it.  The church, for example, grew to be a very powerful force in the fourth-century Roman empire.  These collective individuals had vested interest in keeping that power as the church grew more and more influential.  That dynamic still exists where even a small, non-denominational group gathers and asserts that it alone is right.  All you have to do, it tells its members, is believe.  Don’t doubt.  And if you do doubt you’ll be excluded.  Exclusion is difficult to bear.  But even doubting Thomas has hundreds of churches named after him.  Each, no doubt, has many true believers as members.  And on the outside mingle the doubters.

Natural Disasters

Like many, my heart goes out to those in Turkey and Syria suffering through the destruction and aftermath of a major earthquake.  Such natural disasters often bring out the best in people—empathy, love, and offers of support.  They lead to both tragedy and human warmth.  They also give us pause to reflect, if we will, on our worst behaviors.  Rescue efforts have been hampered, in Syria especially, by a weakened infrastructure, caused, at least in part, by foreign bombing.  And yes, the United States was part of that.  People who now feel our sympathy only months before faced death from us.  What is it about our species that makes us want to destroy one another through our own technology but then turns and wants to help when a “random” act of nature occurs?  We must prefer death on our own terms.

Image credit: Luca Comerio (1878-1940), Corpses of victims of the earthquake in Messina, via Wikimedia Commons

For me, part of this is reflected in how the so-called “culture of life” treats liberal social causes as the “culture of death.”  Those groups that support “the culture of life” are against abortion but desire no controls on gun ownership.  This is the same basic principle—we want to cause death on our own terms.  We want to play God and decide who is worth saving and who should be destroyed.  I have no doubt that if, say, a tornado destroyed an entire city block outside a convention center where the NRA was meeting that those at the conference would rush out to try to help find survivors.  When they reconvened, they would try to figure out how to protect their “right” to own and collect assault rifles.  Is this “culture of life” really worth preserving?

Meanwhile the people of Syria and Turkey are suffering.  Thousands are dead, winter is setting in, and Covid is still out there.  They need our help.  The amount we spend on aid will, however, pale next to the amount we spend on bombs, drones, and missiles.  I have to wonder if we never really stop to think about what we’re doing when we engage in behaviors that destroy others.  That weeping mother outside an earthquake-collapsed building could be the same mother outside a missile-collapsed structure.  With natural disasters we know that we all stand a chance of being victims.  We feel for those caught in the way.  Once politics enters the picture, however, and we have the ability to control who lives or dies, everything changes.


I liked Columbo.  Peter Falk was an award-winning actor, and his working-class detective character was always entertaining to watch.  Unlike other TV cops, he didn’t carry a gun.  Hearing the tragic news from California where yet another shooter killed multiple people before himself, I think about the proliferation of guns.  The New York Times runs story after story showing that nowhere else in the developed world are gun deaths remotely anywhere near what they are in the United States.  Not only do we have a super-abundance of firearms, we have politicians on the dole from the NRA who simply won’t take action because they personally stand to lose money if they do.  And apparently they can sleep at night.  As a nation, our guns outnumber people.

Estimates for the number of guns in America stand at around 466 million.  98% of them are in civilian hands, as opposed to the military.  And we have multiple mass shootings per year.  Is there any chance that these facts might be related?  Ironically, many firearms are owned by those who loudly proclaim they hate the “culture of death”promoted by those who try to make gun ownership more difficult.  I’ve written on this topic so many times before that I really don’t know what else there is to say.  Perhaps it’s time to just give up and weep.  Last year, excluding suicides, there were over 20,000 gun deaths in this country.  There have been 15,000 or more per year since 2016.  Approximately 120,000 gun deaths in just six years.  And yet nothing is done.

The public strongly favors stricter gun laws.  Government officials do not.  In fact, some Republicans are now attempting drive-by shootings of suspected Democrats.  I’m not anti-gun.  I am anti-insanity.  You see, that was the thing about Columbo.  He never pulled a gun, but he doggedly pursued those who did.  The culture of hate that has swept this country since 2016 needs to be reminded of Columbo’s message.  Guns aren’t the answer.  Pursuit of the truth is.  How a purportedly Christian movement does nothing but support the gun lobby is a mystery requiring investigation.  It has to be asked where in the Bible does this idea of arming yourself come from.  It has to be asked which commandment declares obtaining deadly force and making guns easily obtained by the mentally unstable is God’s will.  I guess that about wraps it up.  Just one more thing—what would Jesus do, really?

The Point of It

It’s not difficult to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.  Race was a construct developed to oppress.  The intention was to keep those of non-European, especially non-northern European, ancestry in servitude.  The rationale for doing so was part capitalistic, but also largely religious.  Convinced that Jesus was white, and that the “New Israel” had passed to Christianized Europe, it didn’t take much theological maneuvering to get to the point that others can be—in that mindset, should be—brought into line.  And since this religion comes with a built-in body-soul dualism, it’s not difficult to claim you’re trying to save a soul by destroying a body.  That way you can still sleep at night while doing something everyone knows is wrong.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up to such ideas.  His understanding of Christianity was more in alignment with what Jesus said and that threatened those in the establishment who found any challenge to profit heresy.  There can be no denying that racism is one more attempt to keep wealth centralized.  It’s something not to share, which, strangely enough, is presented as gospel.  There are many people still trying to correct this wrong.  It is wrong when a religion distorts its central message in order to exploit marginalized people.  The key word here is “people.”  Black people are people.  Their lives matter and every time this is said others try to counter with “all lives matter, ” a platitude that misses the point.  We need Martin Luther King Day.  We need to be reminded that we’re still not where we should be.  We’re still held in thrall to a capitalism that rewards those who use oppression to enrich themselves.

I was born in the civil rights era.  I suppose I mistakenly reasoned that others had learned the message as well.  All people deserve fair treatment.  Today we remember a Black leader, but we still have the blood of many oppressed peoples on our hands.  Those who first came to live in this country, whose land was stolen in the name of religion.  Those whose gender and sex put them at threat by those who believe control of resources is more important that care of fellow human beings.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but in King’s words, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”   If we believe that, and if we can act on it, there remains the possibility that we might actually achieve the reason we set this day aside to reflect.

Photo by Katt Yukawa on Unsplash

Dark Academia

Over the weekend I “dropped” a new YouTube video on my channel (you can see it here, or by visiting my “YouTube” page in this website’s menu).  It ended up getting a little flurry of interest (1,800 views in the first three days), prompting a friend to tell me that if you pay attention to what’s hot on the internet, you can actually get attention.  That makes sense.  What’s so hot?  Dark academia.  Of course, my video really moves to dark academia adjacent, to what happens to real people when they try to teach religion and run afoul of “doctrine.”  There’s a real disconnect here because if you earn a good Ph.D. you’ll be taught to question everything.  If you’re a doctrinal believer, you’ll question nothing.

I stopped posting on YouTube a few years back because my cheap camera no longer worked.  It lost about three episodes I shot and, discouraged and too busy with writing projects, I gave it up.  I started again because I realized my phone was capable of recording and I had a holder that would stop it from slipping.  So why not?  Topics aren’t really a problem, but shooting and editing a video take a lot more than the eight minutes that result from it all.  Finding the time to edit, and learning how to edit in iMovie, are tasks in themselves.  And I’m an old dog.  Still, I miss that classroom audience.  I’ve been told that blogging is passé, and podcasts take even longer to record.

Some people make a living vlogging.  In fact, “YouTuber” can be a profession.  Those who succeed are often young.  And let’s be honest, a middle-aged white guy in a book-lined study is a tired trope.  Well, it is, in reality who I am.  A teacher at heart, I now try to imagine a virtual audience.  When I first started doing YouTube videos I had a very difficult time imagining an audience.  I fumbled a lot—I don’t script my videos.  If you’re interested in scripted I’ve got this blog right here.  The bump in interest in my dark academia post doesn’t translate to my other videos about my books or related topics.  Still, those are the things I know best and so it’s easiest to talk about them.  And possibly reinventing yourself.  I guess that’s what I’ve tried to do here.  Sloppily, stumblingly, but nevertheless, I’ve been changing my identity.  My YouTube channel’s not that active, but if there’s interest I can explore further reflections on dark academia.

Religion in Its Place

The other day at work I virtually “met” someone else from western Pennsylvania.  It came about in an odd way.  We were both in an online author talk and my colleague put something in the chat about a particular social issue being purely religious for some parts of the country, like his native western Pennsylvania.  I immediately knew what he meant.  For those who think religion is irrelevant, look at the make-up of our government.  Those preachers in rural places wield incredible power.  Their word is law and because of the shortsightedness of our founders, the rural few have amazing sway over the vast majority of the urbanites.  We need each other, of course, but not all have educated themselves on the issues.  When they want to vote they turn to their preachers for the answers.

Interestingly enough, churches lose their tax-exempt status (and thus many can’t afford to survive) if they openly back a political party.  They are required by the law they game to remain party neutral.  Of course, depending on who appointed a federal judge, they are often willing to overlook that particular law.  You get the sense that God favors some commandments over the others anyway.  But back to the homeland—western Pennsylvania is a preacher-dominated part of the country.  That may well have been what set me off on this strange track I follow instead of a career.  We were a church-going family in a church-dominated part of the state.  If you took what you heard on Sunday seriously, we should all be studying religion, down on our knees.

My colleague brought something into focus for me.  The religiously convinced will accept no other evidence.  They’ll refuse vaccines that could save their lives.  They’ll say women and blacks are lesser humans.  They’ll even—since I pay taxes this is okay—vote Republican.  Clergy have been sidelined by much of what’s going on in society.  They are hardly irrelevant, however.  I recently had a minister tell me that if I were to make a formal “questing” status with a denomination I could pick up some preaching cash on weekends.  Without that status, this clergy asked me, “why should anyone listen to you?”  Ah, there’s the rub, you see.  Although I’ve studied religion more than many clergy, and taught those who are now clergy,  I’m not qualified to make it official.  Perhaps it would be different if I were from somewhere else.  

Jason’s Javelin

This past weekend was my third this year spent recovering from vaccinations.  The shingles jabs were worse, but this time it was a double-duty flu shot and bivalent Covid vaccine.  That’s as good an excuse as any for admitting to watching Friday the 13th, Part II.  In general I’m not a fan of sequels, but I’d read quite a bit about this one and I was curious because I hadn’t realized before watching the first installment years ago that Jason wasn’t the original killer.  I’m also not a fan of slashers, and I know that many people who dislike horror think all horror consists of such movies.  (It doesn’t.)  But still, Jason is a household name as a movie monster and I was having trouble concentrating with all those vaccines swirling around inside.

Utterly predictable, there are still a few jump startles that’ll catch a first viewing off-guard.  All I really knew about the film was Jason and Camp Crystal Lake and that generally teens get killed for having sex.  As many critics report, this kind of horror tends to have a “conservative” outlook—“sin” is brutally punished and the girl who refrains tends to be the last survivor.  That much you know just from doing your homework.  So as Jason hunts down the teens and dispatches them, along with a police officer and a crazy guy, you almost get bored.  There was one scene, however, that had unrecognized biblical roots.  Interestingly, I haven’t found anyone pointing that out.  When Jeff and Sandra go upstairs for sex, Jason takes a spear and thrusts them through, right in the act.

Analysts trace this scene to the movie Bay of Blood (which I’ve not seen), but in fact the inspiration comes from the Good Book.  In a genocidal mood in Numbers 25, Yahweh tells the Israelites to kill the Midianites among them.  Zimri is seen taking Cozbi into his tent, and Phinehas the priest grabs a javelin, rushes into Zimri’s tent and skewers the two of them in the act.  That scene stuck with my young mind as I read through the Bible, which is probably why it immediately came to mind while watching Part II.  Others may well have noticed this connection, but with the vaccine-induced lethargy I didn’t have the energy to go thumbing through my library to find it.  Besides, when I read things about movies I haven’t seen, they don’t often stay with me (which is one reason I give thorough descriptions of movies when I analyze them in my books).  This particular horror over, I know I don’t have to worry about the flu this year.