Jerusalem Syndrome

April 4, 2006

Well instead of illuminating this place on the deliciousness of Robert Sapolsky's hour-long lecture on the Biology of Individuality during which I wrote four or five pages of notes I'll instead write about the most crowd pleasing and astonishing example he discussed – Jerusalem Syndrome. Apparently, four of five times a year a staunch fundamentalist Southern Baptist takes it upon themselves to venture into the deep religious holy land of Israel only to have their expectations and dreams shaddered with the sight of the industrialization or "McDonaldization" of the singular most holy place on the planet: Jerusalem. How frightening is that? Stereotypes notwithstanding, if you're a Southern Baptist living in one of, if not the, most technologically advanced, highest industrialized and McDonaldized nation on the freaking planet, the US, then just imagine how painful it is to one's idealistic dreams of holiness to arrive in the most sacred place on Earth only to realize that you never even left.

The shock of the industrialization and decay of reality to a fundamentalist's abstract view of the "Holy Land" is only one part of the phenomenon. Apparently, these Southern Baptists, in an act of desperation, return to there Motel 6, tear apart their Egyptian cotton bedsheets in order to transform themselves into the toga wearing chaotic mess that is Jim Belushi in Animal House only so they can run into the streets to hop on a soap-box and preach for a return to "simpler" times. The Jerusalem Syndrome happens to only a few people every year, to people without any record of psychological problems (unless you consider religiocity or spirituality or just plain Southern Baptistism a psychological deficiency), and it only lasts about a week. After that, they are back on their plane back to the complex chaos that is American society.

I sure hope I'm not the first person to ask them when they come back "How was it?"

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