June 21, 2016

French Media Explores Christian Extremism in Mississippi

France24When I was a teenager who had recently started to have doubts about gods, I remember that one of the few things that made being forced to attend church somewhat tolerable was trying to adopt the mindset of an anthropologist. I lacked a sophisticated understanding of what an anthropologist was at the time, but I tried to mentally step back and view the Christians surrounding me with curiosity rather than condemnation. I imagined that I was an explorer discovering a primitive people who still believed in ancient superstitions. I was not always successful, as I could not help noticing the hypocrisy. Still, it did make sitting in church a bit easier than it would have otherwise been. I've since suggested such an approach to others who must attend church against their will.

As strange a place as Mississippi can be for those of us living here, I sometimes wonder what the state and our Christian extremist inspired policies must look like to those living outside the U.S., especially those for whom secularism is the norm. I now have an answer in the form of a 16 minute video from France 24. It is fascinating to see this perspective.

Here is their description of the video from the France 24 website:
Some southern US lawmakers have launched a legislative offensive to protect the "religious freedom" they believe is under threat. In Mississippi, homosexuals can now be denied medical care and health insurance. And in South Carolina, transsexuals must use public toilets that correspond to their gender at birth. Our reporters went to meet these Americans who are on an ideological crusade against what they call the "atheism" of Washington.
They talk to Christian extremists in Mississippi, as well as people who support LGBT rights. And yes, they mention Donald Trump, suggesting that at least some of his popularity may reflect something of a backlash to what some Christian extremists likely perceive as too many changes happening too quickly.

It seems to me that Mississippi, as the most religious state in an embarrassingly religious nation, provides fertile ground for documentary filmmakers from the U.K., Western Europe, and even the more secular regions of the U.S. When it comes to the pervasive influence of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, I suspect that visiting Mississippi today would lead many to think that they had time traveled back to the 1950s. Now if only Mississippi's leaders could figure out how to turn that experience into some of the tourism dollars we so desperately need!
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