Disturbing fictionalization of a real-life tragedy (cached). Based on a book by Jon Krakauer. Andrew Garfield is simply excellent as a devout Mormon, dogged detective, and patriarch (“priesthood holder”) of his family.
Features some quick lessons in the History of the LDS which was not very flattering to the Church. Characters say “I’ve had a revelation” a lot before proceeding to perform all manner of shitty deeds. It’s a meditation over common-sense and rationality, spiritual doubt and loss, and the unbridled power that most religions impress into the hands of men by upholding and sanctifying patriarchy.
It’s all bleak, awful stuff. Moreso when even the heroic Pyre engages in it, which is exactly the point. Under the Banner of Heaven illustrates how no one who grows up in this kind of environment can escape its influences — no matter how kind, progressive, or loving they think they are. That’s why it’s so jarring when Pyre transforms — from the man who says, “I love you,” during every phone call with his wife, Rebecca (Adelaide Clemens); tucks his daughters into bed each night; and gently invites his dementia-addled mother, Josie (Sandra Seacat), on daily walks — into a domineering “priesthood holder.” The decisions he makes as the family’s religious authority are ostensibly to protect his family from the doctrine he’s beginning to interrogate, but he still uses its male-exalting infrastructure to get what he wants.
This beautiful piece was sculpted in Japan around the 13th century and is about three feet tall. The subject is a Zen Buddhist monk Shinchi Kakushin, who lived till the ripe old age of 95. After his death, he was given the title “perfectly awakened national teacher of the Dharma lamp” which is what “Hotto Enmyo Kokushi” means.
“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.
Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.
They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.
Chauhan: One day the Guru summoned a meeting of his closest male devotees. There were about 400 to 500 people. He said “We are going to remove your virility. After that, your mind isn’t going to wander. You’ll come closer to God.”
Narrator: Chauhan says he didn’t understand that the Guru was talking about castration.
[. . .]
Chauhan: Guru had put a lot of property under the names of castrated devotees. He knew that we would never get married or have children. When we died, we would leave the property here and he would put his name on our Power of Attorney.
The charlatan is responsible for the most horrifying song I’ve ever seen: