Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi went undercover at a US evangelical Christian “boot camp” for new converts. This is an extract from his book about it.
An Atheist Goes Undercover
Some of it is hugely hilarious, as the camp leaders exorcise the demons of astrology, anal fissures, philosophy, intellect and “disconnect” from their flock, or tell stories about banishing the demon of Harry Potter from their lives. But overall, it sounds frightening, a solid weekend of scientology-like brainwashing in which people expose their most private secrets and undergo group therapy techniques designed to break their psychological resistance.
Taibbi came away from his experience with worrying conclusions:
Afterward, a frightening thought shot through my head. It occurred to me that over the past decades, any number of our prominent political leaders (from Jimmy Carter to Chuck Colson to W himself) had boasted publicly of their born-again experiences, broadcasting to Middle America an understanding of their personal relationships with God. But whereas once these conversions were humble things — Billy Graham whispering and putting his hand on W’s shoulder in Kennebunkport, or even (in the case of Tom DeLay) a flash of recognition while watching a televangelist program — the modern version might very easily be this completely batshit holy-vomitus/demon-exorcism deal. The thought that any politician could claim this kind of experience and not be immediately disqualified from public service seemed utterly terrifying.