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A Break from Basterds to talk about Faith and Ginger

Ian David Philpot

Stephen Swanson takes a break from his discussion of Tarantino’s new film and its commentary as performance on art as a performance of creation and destruction to talk a bit about some destruction that current performances of spirituality and faith that have struck him. No, I’m not talking about Gilligan’s Island, although that should go on my topic list.

I’m writing about the rhizome, but some background proves necessary.  Recently, a friend who had been following my Inglourious Basterds series asked me why I am writing this for an audience of people who write literature from or with spiritual perspectives.  I wrote about the connections that I see between faith and faith in the creative act, but I honestly don’t know what it means to be spiritual anymore.  I’m casting about to find something larger than my family, friends, and community to latch onto in the contemporary moment that speaks to a belief in belief.  I think that the limits of language present the greater challenge.

In the past couple weeks, I’ve encountered widespread references to faith, spirituality, and religion in Conservapedia’s attempt to rewrite the Bible to eliminate an pro-liberal bias, anti-abortion people on the sidewalk asking for people to honk at them if they agree, a Fresh Air interview with Karen Armstrong, a Diane Rehm interview with Harvey Cox, and my Brit Lit I class’s delving into the Reformation for the first time. All of these present highly variegated views of what it means to look at or be “religious” or “spiritual”. What does that mean for the daily life?

Perhaps language is the cause of the struggle itself. The idea that these contemporary and historical moments of faith all fall under the same, single syllable (faith) is absurd. My “Postmodern Textualities” class during grad school always made fun of the quantities of “rhizomatic” references in discourses on art, life, and literature, but the comparison between “faith” and some weird root structure seems apt. Connections exist. One might trace from one lobe to another, through the delicate joints and branching, and in that respect it is one. On the other hand, the literal, intellectual, emotional, and moral difference present such vast distances that they might function more as separate entities.

Because of this distance, I feel a real and almost physical need to seek out that distance, to pioneer the edges of the rhizomatic “faith” and look at where it intersects with unlikely ideas in unlikely places. Thank you for your patience, and now for something completely different…


Stephen Swanson teaches as an assistant professor of English at McLennan Community College. Aside from guiding students through the pitfalls of college writing and literature, he spends most of his time trying to remain reasonably aware of popular culture, cooking, and enjoying time with his wife and son. He holds degrees in Communications, Film, and Media and American Culture Studies from Calvin College, Central Michigan University, and Bowling Green State University, respectively. In addition to editing a collection, Battleground States: Scholarship in Contemporary America, he has forthcoming projects on Johnny Cash and depiction of ethics in contemporary film noir.