New Religious Movements

From the Introduction to A Master Level Thesis: 

For the impatient, the world is a frustrating place. We see, with the clarity of youth, what is needed in a given situation and we express this need many times over, sometimes with eloquence and sometimes with great petulance. Our advice seems to fall on closed ears–like the gentle suicide of a snowflake descending to the hearth floor. Yet we continue to bang our heads against the wall, demanding an immediate answer to our questions. We are self-righteous and narcissistic, but we believe, don’t we?
How can we ever start to do theology if we don’t start by saying what we believe? I believe in dialogue as the only viable method of developing and implementing changes that will practically affect the way people live their lives—how they eat, coexist, worship, love and survive. Dialogue trumps war and economics as the primary means of shaping an international community, for dialogue subsumes economy and war. Dialogue controls these things. We have to talk, and when we talk we have to know what the other person means when she says x or y, even if we think we already know what she means. If we do not, the parts won’t fit and the machine we are building will fall to pieces. Dialogue is essential.
In modern discourse the real ‘loving’ dialogue that we need has been destroyed by several factors. I use the term destroyed with deliberate hyperbole, for I believe that there is essentially no process of real conversation currently occurring between the global parties that are in most conflict. A party is any organization that represents the interests of a power entity—an entity that owns land, money, stock, resources, military arms, and or the legitimate representation of a group of people or peoples. Individuals may identify as members of (as being represented by) more than one power entity. Power entities may not necessarily be universally acknowledged as legitimate. Real power, rather than imagined or legislative power, determines whether or not a player is part of the game. The United States Government is a power entity, which intersects with and constitutes several other power entities, such as NATO, The American Steel Industry, various church coalitions within American society and many others. Al Queda is a power entity considered illegitimate by most of the world, but which has a voice simply because it has some degree of power—it can inflict violence, control resources, etc. I illustrate the fluid nature of these entities to show that while defining exactly who is speaking in a given conversation is of utmost importance, a precise delineation of all participants is impossible. Interlocutors and the affiliations they claim are fluid. But within the organism of a developing discourse, more clearly defined positions tend to naturally develop based less on the professed identity of the speakers than on the effect that what they are saying has on how others perceive them. In other words, a dialectic space has its own rules and can transform its participants in ways that they may not wish or anticipate. The written constitution or manifesto of an organization might not be accurately expressed by the role that organization finds itself playing within a given drama. Dialogue is so powerful precisely because it creates its own rules and boundaries. Unfortunately this fluidity is also why certain parties can seize a dialogue, manipulated it and twist it. This discussion acknowledges the wildly unpredictable nature of dialectic roles and divisions, but makes no claim to solve these problems. I will attempt to describe the dialogue rather than its participants and define the form of the discussion rather than resort to making thin, generalized claims about groupings of interests far too complicated to define in a single text. Bearing in mind this shifting framework of references is essential when attempting to understand, critique or develop my methodology.
We must focus on a peculiar dialectic force within the United States. For the purposes of this discussion I identify this voice as being primarily Christian in nature, although in doing so I make a generalization, which I will deconstruct in the following sections. More specifically, and to make another generalization, this voice is evangelical. This evangelical voice uses media to create and repress dialectic forms within American national consciousness. It is peculiar because it is a voice of dialogue, which exists almost paradoxically to eliminate the dialogue in which it participates. It is an anti-voice—a virus. This voice is characterized by having an apocalyptic imagination. In the next section I will explain precisely what I mean by apocalyptic and imagination.
My aim is to address as precisely as possible the barriers that this particular form of media discourse presents to inter-religious dialogue in the American consciousness. I hope to describe how one particular drone is drowning out every other symphony. I aim to show how this breakdown in dialogue is a major contributor to religious violence, both metaphorical and literal.
My discussion will be multi-disciplinary, and although I will reveal my many biases I can assure you that I am not partisan to any institution. In grotesquely simplistic terms, I am to the left in the arena of politics. I write polemically. I attempt scholarly distance from my subject, but refuse to pretend that I am an objective speaker. I mention this because it is so crucial to my methodology, which is dialectical in nature. My bias is dialectic. My bias is hermeneutical. This thesis is as much about process as it is about fact.
Another bias, which is probably more than apparent, is that I believe we desperately need rules of dialogue. More importantly we need to recognize dialogue as the only effective method of developing policies sure to bring harmony to the world. Nobody is listening. People are dying. Nobody is listening. But they’re talking. They’re talking a hell of a lot, on television stations, over radio waves, on pages and pages of books, magazines, and newspapers. These pages make a few men and women very rich. But they are your pages. They have your cultural stamp on them, whether you think so or not. You and I and every other person on this planet occupies a very crucial space in the dialogue of global political discourse. But their media makes your voice. Your voice is lost there, or manipulated there. It is tacked onto some or other institutional banner, because although you have spoken—by voting, expressing, or however—you are currently, at this precise moment, silent. You needed to continue to speak. The dialogue is everywhere at all times. The dialectical transfer of understood meanings across cultures and political lines does more to affect the actions of the modern human than anything else. Your reason for picking up that gun? You might have thought it through. But which of the thoughts you analyzed came from you in the first place? They speak before you act, even if you don’t realize it.

Review & Commentary