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From Tirol to Hawaii: The Omnipresence of Faith and Religion

I have lived in L.A. more than ten years and still things amaze me which others who were raised in the U.S. take for granted. The way religion, politics, public life, and pop culture meld is one such area. I was recently reminded of this when I came upon pictures of Jeremy Scott's Enjoy God fashion line in the LA Times Magazine and again as I was browsing some photos I had taken in Hawaii in April.

"Amen". License plates in a burger restaurant... 
...and van with banners (both in Lahaina, Hawaii) 
Where I come from, in Austria, faith and religion are omnipresent too - but in a different way. In my home state, Tirol, Catholic shrines and crucifixes line country lanes; chapels stand at crossroads out in the fields; and many a church is tucked away in a hamlet up on a mountain. These structures are part of the alpine landscape and they have been for hundreds of years - though their meaning is lost to many. (The days when children were taught to make the sign of the cross whenever they passed a blessed site are gone. If kids forgot they needed to go to confession lest they end up in hell.)

Confession or hell? Church of Kronburg, Tirol,...
...with high altar to its patron saint, Mary


debi said…

The contrast between European and US religious advertising is striking in these pictures; Tirol is so beautiful but here, uh, well… the pictures speak for themselves; it's almost comedic.

I understand your point, though, about the melding of "religion, politics, public life, and pop culture", and your pictures illustrate it perfectly.

I often wonder if we haven't convinced ourselves as a society that any set of ideals or beliefs should not be personally embraced unless and until the almighty public opinion has put its stamp of approval on it.

Where has our individualism gone? Great post.

Thanks, Debi. Always good to see you on Across the Pond.

What happened to individualism? I think it is still there, just maybe harder to find, more hidden. Our world of social media and general connectedness, of show and tell in blogs (here!) and on Facebook, encourages mainstreaming, at least on a superficial level.

In an era where everything is public (and where, in turn, anything we produce can be used against us), people can be reluctant to set themselves apart, be it from the norm or from "officially" sanctioned beliefs. And so we wear masks, slip into roles, showing our individualism in small safe zones and to a select few only.

I don't think this happens consciously and that is where the danger lies: after a while it can become easy to take our own camouflage for the real thing, the false identity for the true self.

A profile of the internet pioneer Jaron Lanier in the most recent issue of the "New Yorker" relates to this ("The Visionary", July 11 & 18). Lanier compares our "fakey-fakey social life" on the internet to the life of citizens in Communist countries "where people had a fake social life that the Stasi could see, and then this underground life".

Personally, I believe that authenticity and integrity cannot be valued high enough. Become who you are! The pursuit of this goal should be a constitutional right - and an obligation too.

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