Just a few quick notes for you on this Tuesday. Animal Sacrifice, Factory Farming, and Palo Mayombe: Religion Dispatches has an excellent essay up by Meera Subramanian, senior editor of Killing the Buddha, on the recent case of William Camacho, a practitioner of Palo Mayombe whose barber shop was shut down after sacrificial chickens were found in the basement. Subramanian compares the actions of religions that engage in animal sacrifice to the factory farming industry, and suspects that public discomfort with one and not the other is all down to issues of visibility. “Last year alone, about eight billion chickens were slaughtered in the U.S., according to the USDA. So why does the idea of animal sacrifice so easily fall into the realm of heebie jeebies?
Just a few quick quick news notes to start off your Wednesday. Absent Christian Soldiers: Remember that story a couple weeks ago about a Christian group in Dorset, England who were going to hold vigils outside a pub in order to “combat” a Pagan moot (social gathering)? Well, it turns out they didn’t show up. “A Pagan moot in Bridport last week went ahead without any trouble after a planned Christian demonstration never materialised. […] Despite the Christian group announcing to the press they expected “a high turn out” no one showed up at the venue on the night.”
Top Story: The Awl investigates allegations that millions of dollars in United States government funding to Christian NGOs, specifically Samaritan’s Purse, is being used to directly fund aggressive and shameful missions to “evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.” “…our research into the hush-hush tag team efforts of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse found millions of USAID dollars going to Samaritan’s Purse aid stations in Haiti. Their mission: a coordinated effort by BGEA chaplains to evangelize to and convert the trapped, weak and suffering.” Reporter Abe Sauer notes that Franklin Graham (president of Samaritan’s Purse), son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, is especially fixated and obsessed with eliminating Vodou in Haiti. “…in the case of Samaritan’s Purse, whose Haiti work is being heavily funded by the taxpayer-funded USAID, it could be to “take back their country from voodoo, despair, and sin,” one of the charity’s stated goals for the “Festival of Hope.”
Reminder: We are in the midst of our second annual Winter Pledge Drive! If you value this blog, its mission, and its content, please consider making a donation to keep The Wild Hunt open, ad-free, and updated daily. Spread the word, and thanks to all who have donated so far! The Washington Post has feature up about the growing body of academic literature on the counter-cultural art and performance gathering known as Burning Man. “[Wendy] Clupper [is] among a growing list of sociologists, business professors, theologists and other scholars who view the event’s mix of hipsters, artisans, zany theme camps and outdoor art gallery as more than a party.
Greetings Wildhunt readers and thank you, Jason, for sharing this forum with me for a day. I’ve just published a book called Theater in a Crowded Fire that sets out to examine what people say, do, and think around questions of religion, ritual, and spirituality at the Burning Man festival. I could pepper readers here with dozens of lively stories about ecstatic bonfires, dusty temples, and wild propane hunts (and some of these tales are told in the book). (If by chance you’re not familiar with Burning Man, this is as a good place as any to start.) But instead, I hope you’ll bear with me while I put on my professor’s hat for a spell and wax academic about the links between Burning Man and Paganism, and in turn what I think this teaches us about the nature of religion and culture. No one I’ve ever spoken to (and I’ve been attending and researching this event since 1996) has ever come right out and called Burning Man a religion–Pagan or otherwise–and the event’s organizers have repeatedly stated as much for years.