7. Theater of Terror

Disclaimer: This is a journal for my class on Religious Violence. It is generally written as if it is addressing my teacher, Chuck, and is written in relation to the book Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

I have to admit, when Juergensmeyer opened the second half of his book with the question, “Do these stories of piety and mayhem have anything in common?”, my response may have been along the lines of, “[Insert snort] Ah, religion and violence?”

Basically, to me, this served as an introduction of sorts. The most important thing I think that he says in the opening chapter is, when he’s listing a bunch of acts of religious violence, “[A]ll of these are not just incidents of violence. They are acts of deliberately exaggerated violence.”


Recently, I had the opportunity to meet James Loewen, who is the author of the book Lies My Teacher Told Me (also Lies Across America and Sundown Towns, which are both fascinating, but for now the first is the most pertinent). The book, whether you agree with it or not and despite any feelings you may have James Loewen himself, has a valid point and that is that history is told by the winners. In an effort to discourage any future displays of such violence, religiously violent acts are exaggerated OR in order to prove a point more forcefully, an act of religious violence is done carefully to ensure that it is horrendous and that it sticks with people. It’s like the basis for fairy tales–the bigger and badder (forgive me that word, please) the story, the more likely the moral will sink in thick enough that the kid will get it.

How then, do we deal with such theatrical forms of violence (speaking of, I feel like I should do a religious background search on the Joker)? Juergensmeyer uses a stage metaphor, but I think it might be more appropriate to use a fiction metaphor. We must consider the scene–the location of the violence. Scene is incredibly important. Why that location? What is there to make it important? Who is there to make it important? Then we must consider the characters–who are they? What are their motives? Do they have any stakes invested? From there on, you continue. What is the plot–what is the reasoning? When is the climax? When does the violence come to a head? Is there a resolution?


~ by spim on October 23, 2008.

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