The Tailenders

PBS Premiere: July 25, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

Scott from Michigan asks: I read the interview on the POV website where you state that you are not an evangelical Christian now. When were you an evangelical Christian? What happened that led you away from being an evangelical Christian, and where are you now in your faith?

Adele Horne: My parents are evangelical Christians, so I was raised in that faith as a child. In my late teens I began to feel that the teachings of the evangelical church did not account for the complexity and mystery of the world around me. Religions are human attempts to articulate and acknowledge the sacred force that imbues life. Part of what must be acknowledged is how provisional and inadequate our own conceptions are to describe the wonder of life. I find that Buddhist teachings particularly resonate with me because of their emphasis on tolerance and because the sacred is not sequestered in those teachings: it is in all things.

Mary from Wisconsin asks: Do you think the evangelical Christians who make the recordings and go on the missions can also be changed by contact with other cultures?

Adele Horne: Yes. I think it is very much a two-way encounter, despite the imbalance of access to technology and resources. I noticed that the missionaries I met often felt they had been changed for the better by their years traveling and living in cultures other than their own. They felt estranged from the consumer culture in the U.S. and Australia, for instance. They valued the slower pace of life and the way people take time to talk to each other in cultures where the ethics of business and material consumption are not so entrenched as they are in highly industrialized countries.

RJ from Pennsylvania asks: What is your own opinion on the destruction to global cultural diversity being engineered by the massively funded evangelization / jehadization efforts being carried out by organized Abrahamic religions (Both Christianity and Islam) ?

Adele Horne: There are beautiful aspects to all three of the Abrahamic religions, and we should understand that adherents to these religions are responding, in part, to the real spiritual wisdom of these faiths. Unfortunately, fundamentalist sects that preach intolerance for religious and cultural difference have also gained power in these religions. We live in a time of startlingly rapid destruction of the environment, cultures and languages. Religious intolerance accounts for some of this destruction. Even more destructive is the ethos in which short-term economic profit is valued above the well-being of people, creatures, and the natural environment. We need to embrace the common thread of values that unites the world's religions: kindness, compassion and tolerance.

John from New York asks: As a former evangelical myself, I always feel a profound ambivalence when interacting with people who remain within evangelicalism. Did you have the same feeling when interacting with GRN?

Adele Horne: I'm not sure that ambivalence is exactly the word I would use, but I felt something akin to what you describe. I have often felt that the general public in the United States has an over-simplified perception of evangelical Christians. Often this comes in the form of a judgment along the lines of "they're crazy." Having grown up among them and knowing many wise and kind people who have authentic spiritual practices within the religion, I find this kind of flippant dismissal to be wrong-headed. I think we're all a bit crazy, each in our own way. At the same time, I chose to leave the religion because I found it too narrow-minded and too motivated by fear.

It was a daunting but exhilarating experience to purposefully immerse myself in an evangelical environment to make the film, after so many years away from it. I felt the contradictions and complexities of what I saw: here are people who sacrifice many material comforts to single-mindedly pursue their beliefs. I admired that. I felt kinship with the fact that they valued other things above material gain. But the very single-mindedness that motivated them also troubled me: how much does that single-minded focus obscure one's view of the world's complexity? How could constant interactions with other cultures and ways of living very different from their own not make them question the idea that there is only one correct belief system?

Jess from California asks: I was very intrigued by the part of the film where it talked about how those from indigenous villages who had become evangelicals also became more prosperous. What are some reasons why becoming evangelical Christian might cause people to become more prosperous?

Adele Horne: This part of the film refers to evangelical Christians in Baja California who have migrated from Oaxaca and have the perception that joining the evangelical church will lead them to a more prosperous life. It's not clear that becoming evangelical Christian actually does make them more prosperous, but there's a perceived association between the two. I interviewed linguist Rosemary Beam de Azcona, who had this to say about the connection between conversion to evangelicalism and upward mobility, based on her experiences in small villages in Oaxaca, Mexico:

"In my experience, those people who do convert tend to be people who are more upwardly mobile, people who identify more with outsiders, who want to make a big name for themselves, who want to acquire wealth, who maybe even want to travel outside of their town and are trying to make connections with people who have the power to get them into the "in-crowd" in the world, so to speak. So, those people will wear more Western-style clothing, and they will travel outside of their communities more. They may be people who were already sort of disenfranchised or just dissatisfied with their home community and the home community's culture, before the missionaries ever arrived. They may already sort of want a way out, just like the small-town kid wants to make it: the name big in lights in Hollywood, or whatever. These are people who already want to become part of this wealthier dominant world, who don't want to be the kid who gets picked on any more, but want to become part of something like the "in-crowd" in high school..."

Sociologist Laura Velasco emphasized that women are often eager to convert to evangelicalism because it preaches against consuming alcohol. If a woman's husband is spending the family's money on drinking, and perhaps also treating her and the children badly as a result, she will have a great incentive for the family to convert, and the family economy may benefit as a result.

Also, there is a movement of conservative evangelicals preaching the "gospel of prosperity" in Latin America and other parts of the world. The teachings promise that living a Christian life will bring personal financial gain to the individual. These are not the teachings of Global Recordings Network, but it may be part of what people associate with evangelicalism, nonetheless.

Brian from Ohio asks: Can you talk a little bit more about the metal plate in the film that displayed sound (the Chladni plate)?

Adele Horne:The Chladni plate is named after Ernst Chladni, who experimented in 1787 with creating visible standing wave patterns. He did this by rubbing a violin bow along the edge of a metal plate sprinkled with sand. In the device shown in the film, a frequency generator sends a sound wave to the middle of a square metal plate. The sound wave travels to the outer edge of the plate and then is reflected back toward the center. When the sound wave reaches particular frequencies, the crest and trough of the original wave and the reflected wave match up, which amplifies them (makes the vibration stronger). The black areas in the Chladni pattern are places where a strong vibration has caused all the particles to move to other areas. The places where the white particles appear on the Chladni plate are places where little or no vibration is occurring. If you find Chladni patterns intriguing, you might want to learn more about the fascinating and deep topic of the physics of sound. This website is a good place to start.