Posted by: Harold Knight | 02/03/2011

The minacious National Prayer Breakfast, Jon Voight, and less damaged humans

Are they praying for David Kato?

Are they praying for David Kato?

I am as mean, nasty, and hypocritical as anyone I accuse of being mean, nasty, and hypocritical. But my hope is that all of my writing, all of my postings, all of my personal verbiage about my personal journey—journey to what? to where?—will eventually, taken as a whole, add up to positivity, not negativity. There have been and will be more not-so-nice stops along the way. 

Jon Voight starred with Dustin Hoffman in the only X-rated movie ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture (see my posting for 10/5/2010). It’s about a (gay) male prostitute (Midnight Cowboy, 1969). Voight and Hoffman were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Three years later Voight played Ed in Deliverance, one of the most disturbingly homoerotic (male rape, murder) films ever made. He was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for that role. 

Forty years later, here’s what I know about Jon Voight: he and his daughter Angelina Jolie are estranged because she rejected him for having an affair while married to her mother; he wrote a nasty, unconscionably mean-spirited “open letter” to President Obama which has travelled widely on the internet as one of those despicable “forwards;”  he travels around the world (specifically to Israel) helping the presidential campaign hopes of Mike Huckabee (1).  I, for one, will never watch another Jon Voight film. 

There, that’s how petty I can be.  Hypocrisy is a comfortable disease (apologies to e.e. cummings).

pity this busy monster, manunkind, 
not.  Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)
plays with the bigness of his littleness (2) 

Hypocrisy often catches others in its net—I doubt I have enough influence over anyone to catch others in my net (I hope you are smart enough to see through my hypocrisy). 

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
    Others to sin, and made my sin their door. . . .
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
  My last thread, I shall perish on the shore (3). 

I often play with the bigness of my littleness. Don’t you? 

Let us pray.
Let us pray.

But here’s the real issue of my hypocrisy. It stems from my anger at all things unjust, unprincipled, uninspired, and unkind (from my point of view—from the bigness of my littleness). I’m never sure if my anger at base characteristics of “those people’s” thought results from my superior thinking, if it’s the result of my fear that “those people” are right—or my dread that “those people” will gain enough power somehow to force their unhumane (yes, it’s a word) ideas on the rest of us.

This morning is the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by “The Fellowship.” It is the epitome of at all things unjust, unprincipled, uninspired, and unkind, and—yes—those people have gained “enough power somehow to force their unhumane ideas on the rest of us.” All Presidents, Secretaries of State, and lesser lights in government are obliged to attend or risk losing the support of these powerful people. 

I wonder if Jon Voight and Mike Huckabee will attend. (Voight’s connection with the National Prayer Breakfast is tangential. I saw his picture with Huckabee on the same internet news page I first saw a story about this year’s breakfast. That’s all. Or is it?) 

So religion as disciplined respectful practice is essential. But if I am left to myself to discover this, if my fear is not compounded by your explanations of how you can get me out of [my fear], I can understand and overcome my fears. But you compound it for me by talking about heaven and hell, and I’m going to get stuck and become dependent on you both for the interpretation of reality, and to be my savior. Once I’m stuck, I suffer and you make the money. . . . I think that’s dehumanizing. . . (4) 

I make no pretense of understanding Yogi Raghu Ananthanarayanan. I’m not blaming Mike Huckabee or Jon Voight or the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast for my being stuck in fear. We are all, I think, dependent on others “for the interpretation of reality,” and most of us allow someone else to think for us, to be our savior. My fear stems at least partly from the power of those would-be saviors. 

For some time I have been pondering—not pondering but trying to find in a way I have only recently grown mature enough to pursue—how one finds one’s own “interpretation of reality.” That’s more or less all I’ve written about lately. 

My reality and Jon Voight’s reality—and certainly that of the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast—will never look much alike. Our diverse understanding of bodies—yes, your body and mine—seems to me to be one of the main obstacles to a common view of reality. 

I suspect we are a long way from really embodying our hopes for a sane world. This isn’t simply about our social, economic and political problems. . . but about the very way in which we think about ourselves and our bodies. . .  the ‘‘problem of the body’’ revolves around perception, object, spatiality, and inevitable multiple perspectives on it. . . we need a new embodied conception of history. . . that puts the mind and body back together again. . . Some cultures. . . were probably never as split as the Cartesian West has been, and it may be that. . .the neglect of the voice of less damaged humans will one day find greater [understanding]. . . Perhaps by some trans-somatic means, in some silent and prelapsarian corners of our minds and in the pre-Babellian wisdom of our bodies, we may one day recognize our unity. (5) 

The (virulent?) anti-gay pronouncements of “The Fellowship” and Mike Huckabee’s mendacious statements about homosexuality are—and I have no evidence except my hunch—symptomatic of an “interpretation of reality” by American Christians that has disembodied both our concept of history and our ability to live in the world together. 

"The Fellowship" and Friend

"The Fellowship" and Friend

Voight once gave the world a picture of a “less damaged human.” Ratso and Joe Buck, despite their brokenness, were not damaged humans. They understood love. I’m curious to know what John Voight—Joe Buck—thinks of Midnight Cowboy these days, thinks of the person—the body—he portrayed in 1969, a portrayal that (shall I be corny?) blessed so many gay men.
(1) Bailey, Holly. “Israeli PM meets with Mike Huckabee… and Jon Voight.” The Ticket. Yahoo!news. Mon Jan 31, 2011. Web. 3 Feb. 2011.
(2) cummings, e.e. “pity this busy monster, manunkind not” American Poems. . . Your Poetry Site. Feb 20 2003. Web. 3 Feb. 2011.
(3) Donne, John. “A Hymn to God the Father.” The Works of John Donne. Web. January 2, 2000. Web. 3 Feb. 2010.
(4) “On Spirituality and Organized Religion: Conversations with Yogi Raghu Ananthanarayanan.” Transcribed by Jessica Locke. Religion and the Arts 12 (2008), 77–101.
(5) Feltham, Colin. “Here comes everybody: Multicultural perspectives on the body in counselling, psychotherapy and mysticism.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly 21.2 (June 2008): 133–142.


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