Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

What It’s Like to Be A Christian Artist

I told myself I’d write about Waste Land, the incredible documentary my partner and I saw last night. However, I’ll hold off on that blog post, as it needs more reflection than I’m capable of now.

What does interest me is the band Danielson. Mostly because I just read Rick Moody’s thoughtful tribute/wrangling/personal symbiosis with the Christian band.

Here’s a sampling of the group’s eerie, completely entrancing music:

Here’s how Rick describes an extended “truly magnificent instrumental coda” from a song by Danielson called, (dubiously, at first glance), “Can We Camp at Your Feet”:

there is a beautiful overdubbed exhalation, by the vocal chorus, and this exhalation, the breath of God, I guess, recurs through the chord progression…and the song threatens to end three times, always with these exhalations, the breath of God, the thing worshipped brought near, away from the history of a religion, away from the religious controversies of the moment, away from the history of a religion, away from the religious controversies of the moment…

Now I’m not a faithful man. But I do view those with true faith with a kind of awe. Awe at their faith, but also in their security with doubt.

Daniel Danielson, lead singer and songwriter, performing in a tree costume.

Seems like Rick and the Danielson band live with both. It’s also clear that Rick’s affinity for the Danielson Famile (the band consists not only of songwriter and leader Daniel Danielson, but also siblings Rachel, Megan, David and Andrew on everything from vocals and percussion to flute, organ, and drums) lies not only in the hypnotic, Yo La Tengo-esque soundscape, but in the group’s unwavering devotion to a generous God, a difficult, larger-than-body spirituality. Rick was one of my mentors in grad school, and in this essay he again reminded me of his mastery, subtly structuring/moving the essay from a straightforward magazine feature to something that works as a subtle meditation on his own faith.

And the Danielson music he’s writing about is damn good.

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Filed under: literature, music, religion, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jonas Brothers Join Rev. Rick Warren

Reverend Rick Warren was joined by bubble-gum band The Jonas Brothers this past Easter Sunday at Angels Stadium.

Warren, of course, is well known as the founder and pastor of The Saddleback Church in southern California, a Southern Baptist mega-church, whose weekly attendance is more than 15,000. Services like those on Easter are held in outdoor stadiums to accomodate the thousands of congregants.

According to Max Blumenthal in The Daily Beast, Reverend Warren’s discriminatory views range “from his vocal support for Prop 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California, to his comparison of homosexuality to pedophilia, incest and bestiality.”

I’m not a Jonas Brothers fan. Yet I do recognize their huge fan base, particularly among tweens (I love the perfect deontation in that slang term).

This vote of confidence for Rev. Warren should give pause to conscientious Jonas Brothers fans. What do these young musicians stand for? Do they share the same prejudiced views as Reverend Warren? Is the blurring of faith and pop culture acknowledged by these churchgoers?

And does catchy, head-bopping music excuse bad politics?

Filed under: music, politics, religion, , , , , , , ,

Archbishop Tutu Says No to Hate

“Hate has no place in the house of God,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in today’s Washington Post.

“No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.”

A rising hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Africans has led to increased violence in communities across Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal (to name only a few). Tutu, the legendary peacemaker from South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Prize, affirms the humanity of all people:

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family.

And what does Tutu say to those who live by dogma, who deny homosexuality because it goes against God’s will?

Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

Such a loving and necessary statement from a man of great faith.

Filed under: global justice, religion, , , , , , , ,

At Least Bill O’Reilly Can Be Reasonable

…in comparison to that loony Glenn Beck.

In this brief interview O’Reilly conducted with Father Jonathan Morris, the conservative host chides the priest for his wrong-headed views on a case involving the expulsion of two children from a Catholic school because the parents are lesbians. The kids were enrolled as a preschooler and kindergartener.

It’s fascinating to watch as Father Morris tries–somewhat feebly and didactically–to defend the church’s decision. But as O’Reilly points out, why punish the children?

Bill O’Reilly is most definitely not an advocate of lesbian rights, but at least his intelligence does not override his fundamentalism (like Glenn Beck or, worst of all, Rush Limbaugh). Even O’Reilly doesn’t understand the Archbishop of Denver’s decision to turn away the schoolchildren. He questions all of the other parents living in sin: those who are divorced, committed adultery, married to people of non-Catholic faiths. Will their children be expelled too?

Dignity USA released a statement opposing the Catholic church’s decision:

“Until every student’s parents are tested on Catholic teaching, this action by Catholic officials cannot be understood as anything other than discrimination on the back of a child. At a tender age, this child has learned that Catholic officials are willing to inflict pain on children and families.”

Double standards, anyone?

Unhappiness with the Catholic church’s unwelcoming stand against GLBT families is not limited to the usual suspects. Even conservatives and Catholic organizations see the issue as unjust.

Filed under: education, gay life, religion, , , , , , ,

Ex-Scientology Members Given a Voice

Unhappy with your beliefs? Seeking an alternative to nirvana?

The New York Times published a fascinating report on several defectors from the Church of Scientology, the exclusive, secretive religion favored by Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Though it’s missing the more salacious things we’ve heard about aliens and L. Ron Hubbard’s frozen body, it does investigate charges of physical abuse of staff members, declining membership, and the system of confessional-type “auditing” sessions.

[Members] may spend hundreds of hours in one-on-one “auditing” sessions, holding the slim silver-colored handles of an e-meter while an auditor asks them questions and takes notes on what they say and on the e-meter’s readings.

What’s most fascinating is the odd cosmology of military paraphernalia (wearing Naval uniforms for religious ceremonies), New Age rituals (spending five hours a day in a sauna, cleansing your body of toxins), business lingo (confession-as-auditing-session), and Hubbard’s own doctrines that read more like science fiction than religion. According to NYT journalist Laurie Goodstein, “Scientologists believe that human beings are impeded by negative memories from past lives, and that by applying Mr. Hubbard’s “technology,” they can reach a state known as clear.”

What’s troubling to learn about Scientology is its culture of secrecy and its severe punishment for those who wish to leave the religion. In a tradition known as “disconnecting,” members who wish to leave the church must sever, or “disconnect,” all ties to any Scientology family members or friends. This threat of separating not only from one’s beliefs, but parents, brothers, sisters, and the like, is enough to instill fear in any member who wishes for freedom.

Mike Rinder, who for more than 20 years was the church’s spokesman, said the disconnect policy originated as Mr. Hubbard’s prescription for how to deal with an abusive spouse or boss.

Now, “disconnection has become a way of controlling people,” said Mr. Rinder, who says his mother, sister, brother, daughter and son disconnected from him after he left the church. “It is very, very prevalent.”

It’s difficult to understand how this type of worship differs from the authoritarian qualities of a cult. Ex-Scientologist Marc Headley writes that his wife suffered from a common church practice: coercing members to receive abortions.

All of this subjugation to the church makes me wonder: Must individual liberties be sacrificed for the good of an institution? How does a culture of fear and secrecy correlate with a stated emphasis on humanity and an end to suffering and pain?

Filed under: religion, , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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