Thursday, May 7, 2009

Understanding Carrie Prejean

I'm trying to understand the world in which Carrie Prejean lives.

I think she's a victim of the pageant mill and conservative Christianity - both strinkingly about power and beauty, success and victory. 

We now know that she had breast implants weeks before the competition and paid for by the Miss USA California organization:

“It was something that we all spoke about together,” Shanna said referring to herself, Carrie and Keith Lewis, Shanna's co-executive director. “It was an option and she wanted it. And we supported that decision.”

Shanna, a former Miss USA herself, defended the organization's decision to pay for the elective surgery.
“Breast implants in pageants is not a rarity. It’s definitely not taboo. It’s very common. Breast implants today among young women today is very common. I don’t personally have them, but you know — they are,” she added.

According to L. Steven Seiden, Ms. Prejean grew up in an evangelical Christian home in Vista, California and is currently a senior at San Diego Christian College, a small, evangelical liberal arts college in El Cajon, California.  She attends The Rock Church, where she volunteers with their outreach ministries.

According to her interview at the The Rock Church, April 26, her first pageant was at the age of 17.

In looking at the church's website, the Rock Church (San Diego) represents a form of American Christianity that isn't my cup of tea. Yes, many a life has been transformed by these churches, and they've made a lasting contribution to the American scene. But even a clock that doesn't work is right twice a day.

The megachurches of the late 90s rely upon huge attendance numbers, high energy preaching, intricately staged music and drama, suffused with a deep sense of being absolutely right, and, of course, their numbers and success prove it.

Scripture study tends to be content-driven rather than context-aware - so Bible verses are cited and memorized, mostly at random, building a case for or against various things.

Much of the thrust is "successful living," led by leaders who are likely to have had little formal training in Scripture and theology, who are gifted and skilled in communicating basic ideas, with a lot of self-congratulations in all of it (this heightened confidence is part of the ethos - we're right, and that's that!).

Christianity loves to have causes to fight for and against, and when in other ages, it might have been keeping the races separate, decrying the evils of dancing and booze, and keeping women in the home, it's now a battle around the definition of marriage, family and the GLBT community.

In the interview/message given by Miles McPherson reference is also made to "hate speech" - that the current Hate Crimes legislation would make certain biblical truths hate crimes. And goes on to say, "the world is an evil place" and Christians are under attack. The Devil is everywhere (listen to McPherson's commentary toward the end of the interview/message).

Everything McPherson says I would say, too, but in a different context. I'd say it for those who stand up for justice and fairness, who devote themselves to workers' rights and marriage equality - the world doesn't throw open its arms to such things, because maintaining the status quo is vital to the powers that be. McPherson has made his stand on Prop 8 (listen to this part of the interview/message); I've made my stand on defeating it.

Both of us do this for Jesus.

Anyway,  listening to the interview/message, and the applause it generates, it's apparent how the system works - she is one of them, and they stand with her.

So here's 's a young woman caught up in the pageant mill, wanting to be a model, having posed discretely in a topless photo shoot, now with a brand new boob job, opposed to marriage for the GLBT community, all dressed up in Jesus language.

In the message given by the pastor in this interview, using the Book of Esther, it's all about standing up for the truth. Point made well. 

One of the key points in the message, Esther became queen because she won a beauty pageant (and she did; read the book).

This form of Christianity is very much about beauty, power and success.

We ought to pay careful attention to how this kind of Christianity works, or how it always worked - power and beauty - check out the Middle Ages (anointing kings - power; and its beautiful cathedrals and elaborately dressed clergy) and the Inquisition. Given a chance, this form of Christianity would quickly restrict civil liberties and deny the basic freedoms of American Democracy.

Thankfully, the sun is setting on this form of megalomania. History moves on and things change, and we have a chance, God be praised, to broaden the civil liberties and basic freedoms of millions of Americans.

As for Ms. Prejean, I suspect she'll grow out of this at some point in time - one can always hope!

Or, perhaps, like Anita Bryant, she'll crash and burn, rejected by the world for her prejudice and rejected by her own Christian community (that once used her) because she's no longer beautiful, no longer powerful and no longer successful.

1 comment:

  1. Did you see the article in HuffPost from Rabbi Eger? I thought it was interesting.

    Carrie is more of a Anita Bryant than a Queen Esther. Esther was standing up for the downtrodden.

    Also, they need to stop the tripe about the Matthew Shepherd Act infringing on religious freedom. You can say whatever you want about gays, just don't beat the snot out of them and tie them to a bob wire fence. Don't burn them at the stake and all will be good. Jeeze ... and why are they so fixated on homosexuality anyway?

    You are right about not studying the context of the Bible as well. I'm going to quote some of your earlier entries in an upcoming blog.