On thinking about Purgatorio and how much Dante wants to create a counterculture or encourage others to create a different, more godly environment for themselves, I thought of the documentary Jesus Camp. I saw Jesus Camp recently, and it was a very scary example of a religious counterculture. People send their children to a Pentecostal camp, and these children have religious experiences everyday, but they go to the point of shaking and falling to the floor and speaking in tongues. They also tell them how they should feel about political issues and President Bush, having them all pray for him and his success in electing the man they wanted to the Supreme Court via Bush’s cardboard cutout. The adults around these children create an environment such that it essentially brainwashes children into an extreme Christian faith. And as we discussed in class, what affects the mind affects the body. The fanaticism that gets poured into these children affects the state of their bodies, and when they believe the Holy Spirit is descending to them to speak in tongues, it makes me think that it’s just the influence of the adults on their minds, exhorting them to extreme outpourings of emotion. When I was watching this, I couldn’t help but think of how Dante would react to this sort of religious culture, and I believe that this is an extreme of which Dante would disapprove.
I refer back to Ciardi’s notes on page 346, where he says “Dante’s Aristotelian mind could not cherish any excess: the Good is the Golden Mean, to wander from the mean in either direction is equally culpable.” This really intrigued me, because this said to me that Dante wants people to have a healthy balance of both religion and other responsibilities in their lives, and not too much of one or the other. So it seemed to me that he was also saying too much religion is a bad thing. I don’t think he means too much God, but too much religion, meaning too much human institution and interference in faith does not create a true or natural faith. However, I could be way off base and inserting too many of my own biases.
How do you think Dante would feel about extreme Christianity, one that involves teaching Creationism instead of Evolution, encouraging children to evangelize to the masses, and be soldiers for God in our nation? Do you think he would think it too far away from a Golden Mean, or do you think he would embrace it as the counter culture that he desires opposing the degradation of the dominant culture? Or does this not even apply to Dante, since he was never faced with these issues in medieval times?