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No one explores the borderlands of belief and skepticism quite like Jeff Sharlet. He is ingenious, farsighted, and able to excavate the worlds of others, even the flakiest and most fanatical, with uncanny sympathy. Here, he reports back from the far reaches of belief, whether in the clear mountain air of "Sweet Fuck All, Colorado" or in a midnight congregation of urban anaNo one explores the borderlands of belief and skepticism quite like Jeff Sharlet. He is ingenious, farsighted, and able to excavate the worlds of others, even the flakiest and most fanatical, with uncanny sympathy. Here, he reports back from the far reaches of belief, whether in the clear mountain air of "Sweet Fuck All, Colorado" or in a midnight congregation of urban anarchists celebrating a victory over police.From Dr. Cornel West to legendary banjo player Dock Boggs, from the youth evangelist Ron Luce to America's largest "Mind, Body, Spirit Expo," Sharlet profiles religious radicals, realists, and escapists. Including extended journeys published here for the first time, Sweet Heaven When I Die offers a portrait of our spiritual landscape that calls to mind Joan Didion's classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem....

Title : Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393079630
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between Reviews

  • Cynthia
    2019-05-15 04:24

    Outstanding cultural critic on religion and faith in America. Sharlet is a truly beautiful, clear writer and allows readers to decide for themselves what they think about his subjects. This made me want to read his other books.

  • Ed
    2019-05-21 04:21

    Good stuff in here about alienation, and anarchists...and Cornel West. Jeff Sharlet is one of my very favorite people.

  • Patrick
    2019-05-13 09:12

    Being a collection of essays, there are some misses and some hits so I give this book a 2.5. The 0.5 is for the stories I particularly liked which consists of the Brad the anarchist who rebelled as a way of life until he found a cause that he could attach to which ironically led to his death. I also liked Sharlet's showing how evangelical fervor can lead to fundamentalist hardening, and finally how Clear Channel monolithic empire of music distribution can destroy independent artists and their business model is to increase sales to advertisers not necessarily to distribute music. Jeff Sharlet describes his former girlfriend who became a lawyer and a Christian later in life whose liberalism was transformed into Christianity in helping the poor and dispossessed against powerful interest groups. Molly ran as a pro-gun Republican DA and was attracted to the darker old testament prophets thus being pro-law and order fit her. Even though we idealize the wild west, there is really nothing there more than people who settle their because of their destroyed dreams. I wonder why there is a connection b/w the boonies, religious fanaticism, and crazy loners. Molly won by embodying the Western myths of law enforcer. Jeff says that he shares with Molly the idea of original sin that we are glad to be sinners in that we hold on to what we believe is ours until we can't any longer, then we let go. Molly now thinks God is a mixture of goodness with a little badness mixed in terms of his looking for justice. Jeff equates all guerrilla wars to be the same sort of evil from Vietnam, to Iraq, to Afghanistan. Cornell West is Christocentric and insists that moral values must be at the heart of any movement worth dying for. He says that in order to see if American democratic process is strong, one only has to look @ whether America's minorities are treated with equality. He believes America's original sin was not slavery but "the subordination, the dispossession, the elimination of indigenous people.He believes that Christ crucifixion is his whole-hearted spiritual abandonment by the God the Father. He believes in prophesy of calling out concrete evils and identifying that save ourselves from it. He thinks prophets are people who can see beyond what is present into a better future. For him, communism without God is unethical and Christianity without an economic component is incomplete. The world is mean to an educated black man like West just because of his skin color. His rage came from treated as a second class citizen. He then became a trouble maker when he learned that his family was lynched by southern whites. By a stroke of luck he had his IQ checked and scored in genius level, so he got to go to a special public school for geniuses. He fashions himself into the knight of faith which against reality he takes a leap of faith in order to take on the unknown enemy but wanting to in order to gain his reward. West first love was reading and would read 3 hrs/day but also had numerous lovers. He thinks that deep sense of lack and loss are part of the structure of desire. He thinks that American naivete that makes ambition possible is a great American trait. American's drive toward innovation and invention of new things also blinds us to the context of its uses (such as genetic engineering human being and what that means for the engineered thing that we have created). He is pragmatic in his philosophy in order to apply them to the here and now. He is a libertarian who believes that masters and slaves have to pull each other out of the "matrix" in order to ensure freedom for all involved. For him, justice is what love looks like in public and democracy is what justice looks like in practice. He likes calling into question certain assumptions and presuppositions.In music, West gravitates towards the blues because it reflects the suffering in the human condition and jazz b/c of its democratic tone. It is in jazz improvisation that he sees the negation of the status quo and thus the affirmation of the possible. The blues for him engages the listener with its inherent pain.Ann is a daughter of a self-made wealthy Mennonite womanizer who became tomboy, collect male lovers and hippie to rebel from her father's tyrannical behavior. With his impending death, she chooses to go back to her father bedside despite trying to escape her father all her life. When Ann's mother left Ann's father left the Mennonite church but religion still plays a prominent role in his life as it stops him from committing suicide.Jeff talks about his childhood split b/w 2 religions both a Christian mother and a Jewish father who were divorced and the confusion that caused in his life. As being both just meant more presents during the winter holidays. He suffered from an identity crisis since he did not have a clear historical background. According to Jeff, the reason why Jewish comes from a matrilineal lineage is because Christian's started raping Jews so the only proof that one had that one was truly Jewish is if the mother was Jewish.Brad thought protest was a way of life that needed to be encouraged a permanent agitator. He decided to film the Mexican Oaxaca revolution against the corrupt election of Felipe Calderon. The Wills were different from the surrounding wealthy place the lived in. Whereas his father pondered on how others might work, Brad wanted to build them. He was friends with everyone.Whereas his siblings went to the best schools, Brad preferred to smoke up and become an autodidact. So he decided to be a political performance artist who provoked the status quo. He became a provocateur of any rules. He thrived on the disruption of order. Although he was an anarchist, he did keep in close contact with his Republican family though his family was never aware of his terrorist inclinations. He did not want to start a family of his own b/c he wanted to experience a revolution. In South America, he found the protest movement had a cause where real power and politics were at stake. He wanted to show American activist via video how to conduct a grass roots revolt.With the death of Brad, the ruling party tried to shift blame to the enemy instead of themselves and thus obscure the real reason for his death. The mom realizes Brad was correct in fighting a corrupt Mexican government because she got the first hand taste of it by them obscuring the truth. From the death of Brad, the mother learns Brads ideal of what the world could be instead of what is.Jeff writes about Jewish author named Chava Rosenfarb who writes about the Holocaust and feels so deeply for her characters that she cannot write when she is upset. The book she writes The Tree of Life is a book describes completely life in a concentration camp. Chava destroys one of her characters, Rachel's belief in a new literature. Whereas Henry grew in despair during the concentration camp experience, Chava the writer thrived as Jews seem to thrive under dire adversity. Henry became a doctor only to kill life a perverse expression of what was done to the Jewish people in an attempt to distance himself from his past that his wife Chava wrote in. Chava begun to wonder what made one thrive under duress while other wilt. The Rabbi thought everyone could use the wisdom in the Torah but no one knew Hebrew just Yiddish which was a creole version of the Ashkanazi Jewish population. So Chava became his main translator in exchange for knowledge of the Torah. The Beauty of her translation of the psalms not God sustained her.Hermann, a sympathetic German, helped Chava by giving her a pencil so she could keep her hope alive by beginning to writing The Tree of Life. Chava, one of the last Yiddish writers, subject is always destruction of her cultural heritage. The lesson she wrote in one of the book is that one good deed does not erase one's past evil. I think the reason this occurs is b/c the one good deed did not come with a sense of salvation that transforms the persons life as what happens in conversion to Christianity and it's forgiveness of sins. So in essence, the good deed was just that a good deed lacking in transformative quality needed for permanent change.The remnants of Jews from concentration camps look to their past so that it would not happen again moving forward in the world. So despite their success in today's world, they carry their past as a badge of honor of what they have survived. Abraham Vereide makes Fundamentalism sound sane to his mainstream audience consisting of congressmen and businessmen. Fundamentalist like to look into the future to what destruction looks like while supporting their visions with the past.Does Vera's finding American evangelism always lead to German fundamentalism in which the Christian faith replaces race as the mark of purity and the other faiths are to be condemned? Ron Luce Christian code requires a "wartime mentality," a "survival orientation", and a readiness to face "real enemies" which includes queers and communists, feminists and Muslims, and the cabal the purveyors of pop culture. He includes the wealthy, smart conspiracy of advertising executives, clothing designers, film directors, musicians; even schoolteachers. He wants an attacking church obsessive for God. He wants to radicalize kids so that they are the foot soldiers of God in the war for cultural war. He is committed to preach spiritual purity---chastity, sobriety, and a commitment to laissez-faire capitalism. He has 6000 in his Honor Academy who become media, political operatives who funnel frsh kids into his Battle Cry ministry. He considers cultural Christians worse than secularism. Luce is as crazy as Islamist. Luce talk his anger and mirrors the Christian God after his anger the crazy thing is that there are impressionable kids out their who believe this. Luce co-ops death mental punk culture in his shows of conversion. A product of a broken family, he connects to other kids who feel similarly alienated from their family. Luce points to the Enemy in broad terms that it could be anyone who does not adhere to Luce's purity test. Luce echos Stalinism in his portrayal of a purist Christian army and has violent images that can be seen as a warning sign to the unbeliever. A totalitarian army of God that rivals that of any jihadist in that when they are accepted into the Academy they can never criticize it nor can they allow the Honor Academy to be portrayed in a negative light. Luce's dream is to "infiltrate" mainstream media and government to turn it to the Lord.Valerie was a girl who was overcome with lust until she found the Honor Academy and she was found. Her girlfriends envied the depths of her depravity b/c she is now fully found having experienced sin first hand. Unfortunately being teenagers, Valerie and her friends think about sex all the time. So they went into a haunted house filled with real "horrors" of the modern world with accompanying demons to signify that it was them who leads us astray. His followers want a faith to end all questions. John Fire's faith is complete without knowing anything except the total belief and immersion in JC.Jeff talks about an anarchist group who performed in St. Mark's Square with no rhyme or reason but the undefined thought of the here and now.Jeff interviews Sondra a woman who looks for enlightenment in New Agey forums. She heals for a price "of course". Jeff states that "money is the means by which Sondra and other New Age healers show themselves to be a religious movement that's within the economy of belief." She thinks that NYC is a New Age Spiritual Center b/c it's unabashed in fusing the world of spirituality and money. New Age shed its anticapitalist past and now aligns itself with the dogmas of the globalizing market. It is infused by the power of the individual and thus is the perfect medium for capitalism. Sondra makes money as a spiritual healer. Perhaps, Sondra works by providing a space for people to resolve emotional issues on their own. She heals by making sure that your story is understood and matters to someone. Jesus as Sandra declares Jeff's calling as a doubter and that is perfectly okay. American corporations spend $4 billion a year on New Age practitioners. The right thinks New Age as demonic and its best shallow while the left thinks New Age is shallow consumer capitalism. Jeff says that this analysis is correct b/c faith is relative and subjective on the things that are unseen. Whenever there is a hole in our lives, we search for faith for the truth. New Age sells "spiritual health" is the right of the sovereign consumer to acquire it." It is an orthodoxy of a thousand choices, an infinitely marketable economy of belief.Clear Channel owns a lot of the radio channels thus getting to pick which artist to feature discounting artist that they do not like or do not think will sell thereby decreasing consumer choice. CEO of Clear Channel made it clear his goal is to have the largest advertising opportunity in the country not for the music. Randy Michaels want to dominate the live music scene b/c "[They] are experiencing something with tremendous emotion thus; they are vulnerable."Clear Channel's strategy is to buy local talent scouts who are ambivalent about their link to Clear Channel and get them to scout for local talent that they can take to the national scene. Jeff compares live music venues to religion b/c people get vulnerable and have some sort of shared experience in a revelation of some sort. Clear Channel wants one to identify with a brand so that you do not consider it as a brand but part of who you are. Their business platform is to dominate the distribution of music so that they get to decide what gets played on the radio and what doesn't. Clear Channel's power is so unobtrusive and pervasive that no one will object to its use. Clear Channel loops the music that they play so you are bound to like it.The FCC concedes that the air waves are a public domain is now a fiction and it in reality is owned by some company. Perhaps, this is the reason net neutrality is such a big issue b/c it is the last bastion of communication that is truly a public domain. With the telecommunications act of 1996, consolidations increased thereby giving consumers less choice and letting the distributor control content.Dilworth states that he uses Clear Channel to pay the bills so he could do what he loves which is scout new talent.Jeff talks about despair and hope being two sides to the same coin and that should he quit writing b/c his book might not get publish just as his friend should not have a baby b/c it might die before it can grow into a child? Boggs sings the blues about his life. Violence in Boggs blues are intertwined with his character as it is with his music. Boggs sings that love itself is fickle. Boggs is the story of trying to become human never quite getting there but always trying nonetheless.

  • Kurt
    2019-05-11 05:27

    It's a mistake to approach this book as a series of disconnected essays, even though that is how it is presented. Rather, the first and last of the 13 entries bookend (introduce and conclude) the collection's three segments. Chapters 2-6 are about tragicomedies and the triumphs of lost causes; 7-9 are about fundamentalist Christianity; and 10-12 are about performative or ritualistic behavior. Sharlet's prose reads like fiction. He's on the record as disliking the phrase "literary journalism," but that phrasing is probably better than "ethnography," which is equally true of his work. He also doesn't believe in "objectivity," and has fashioned as his response to that "transparency." He makes moral judgments and does not shy away from them, but he is not snarky and he is very respectful. You know where he stands without feeling like he is mocking or looking down on his subjects, even when he clearly disagrees with them. This is a great read, but better than in one sitting, read one essay and go have a conversation with an interesting friend about it afterwards. Then on to the next essay. It's not that they don't fit together; they do, but the number of ideas is rather large. Well-suited to collection of writings, not so much to a book club. At the very most, consider the chunks together. Full reviewhere .

  • Kate Woods Walker
    2019-05-10 07:03

    An extremely talented writer offers up a series of essays and magazine pieces loosely tied together by the theme of faith. By far the strongest piece is the one about Holocaust survivor Chava Rosenfarb and her dedication to Yiddish language literature.I've long wanted to read Jeff Sharlet's The Family, but started instead with this collection, thinking it might be more accessible and less maddening. (Still not looking forward to the slow burn once I learn more about Tom Coburn and his sanctimonious K-Street roomies.)So this was a pleasant read, although I admit I wearied of the theme toward book's end. I was appropriately horrified by the Christian Youth ministry that abuses kids and calls it religion, and ready to be done with true believers, at least for awhile.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-04-29 05:01

    This is a series of essay spun off from Sharlet's forthcoming work on American religion--his visit to a hippie ex-girlfriend now a gun-toting DA for a Colorado county, talking to Cornel West over cognac about the Matrix, his suits and his brief connection to Ethiopian royalty, a redneck funeral/drunken potato throwing brawl in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, his anarchist friend Brad's ultimately successful baiting of the Oaxacan police to kill him, the life of Yiddish novelist Chava Rosenfarb, a fundamentalist evangelical service in Berlin, Real-Estate cleansing specialists at the the New Age Expo in New York and the inside workings of Clear Channel's radio and music venue monopoly.

  • Shay Gabriel
    2019-05-06 04:04

    Wonderful, well written essays about American belief in all its forms. Sharlet is a master of literary nonfiction, and his deep ability to understand and empathize with people, regardless of ideology, shines through. Read it for the essays about murdered American anarchist Brad Wills, evangelical youth concerts, hell houses, public intellectual Cornel West's death consciousness, and a new-age priestess who - what else? - helps New York real estate sell. This book inspires a wonderful amazement at American (mostly) humanity and religious conviction.

  • Peter Certo
    2019-04-28 05:24

    suffers from overwriting on occasion, but the subjects are well chosen and the author is wonderful, even brilliant, when he digs into the background of a subject, carefully observes the people he interviews, and allows himself to fade into the background. some of the more personal entries come across vague and stretched too thin, but the sojourns into cornel west, modern anarchist movements, militant Christian youth movements, and even clear channel make it well worth the read.

  • Jim Blessing
    2019-04-23 06:18

    I only got through the fourth chapter on this book, as I quickly lost interest. The first chapter about a lady DA in Colorado was mildly amusing, but got boring as it went on. This author also wrote "The Family" and I may try reading that.

  • Steph
    2019-04-24 05:24

    I had to read this book for the assigned summer reading at my school. I personally did not enjoy Jeff Sharlet's style, or his overly open analyses. I was 18 when I read this, and would not be surprised if people who are closer to middle-age would find this book for enjoyable/meaningful.

  • Steve Wiggins
    2019-05-19 06:28

    Heartfelt and thoughtful, this spiritual ramble is worth pondering. Some further thoughts may be found here: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

  • Naomi
    2019-05-03 05:04

    Interesting, but not my cup of tea.

  • Edward Sullivan
    2019-05-05 04:01

    An insightful collection of essays portraying people on spiritual journeys of all kinds--some amusing, some inspiring, and some truly frightening.

  • Heather
    2019-05-24 04:03

    Not at all what I was expecting, but very interesting and well written.

  • Ashley
    2019-05-23 02:12

    (Shhhhh--) Currently reading advanced publisher's copy to prep for an interview with author, Jeff Sharlet! Happily enjoying thus far - love the style - not saying anything more!

  • Mike Luoma
    2019-05-12 02:10

    Very good read, excellent essays... a look at those who still somehow believe in some kind of "magic"...

  • Leila Cohan-Miccio
    2019-05-15 04:03

    Lovely (if slightly dry) essays about faith.

  • Laura Kasinof
    2019-05-15 10:16

    I am a big fan of Sharlet, but like some other readers, this book was not what I thought it would be.

  • Jason Fagone
    2019-05-15 07:11

    Sharlet writes beautiful sentences; worth it for the Cornel West profile alone.

  • S Brent
    2019-05-03 07:28

    Great book. My longer review is here: