Viewport width =
October 8, 2018 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Beyoncé; Secularism and Freedom Here in Aotearoa

This week marks the spookiest (and best) month of the year. Despite the insistence of my friends that Halloween “is not a real holiday”, it remains undoubtedly my favourite annual festivity. Maybe it’s because I’ve indulged in one too many Tim Burton films. Maybe it’s due to its synonymity with “Basic Bitch” culture — a reclaimed slur I will die defending. Or maybe it’s because I’ve sunk more money than I care to admit into a lingerie collection that only Armageddon and Halloween afford me the opportunity to wear out in public. Whatever it is, as soon as that calendar flips to October you can guarantee my manicure will be black, my lattes will be pumpkin-spiced, and my makeup will be significantly vampier.
In a suitably timed manner, accusations recently started circulating that Queen Bey may be a witchcraft practitioner. These allegations come from Beyoncé’s former drummer, Kimberley Thompson, who filed a restraining order against the singer on the grounds of “extreme witchcraft”.

While a hundred or so years ago this may have been cause for a moral panic, this news was widely greeted with either dismissal or amusement. This could be in part due to the rebranding — or perhaps reclamation — of a number of Halloween motifs. Memes were able to turn snakes into adorable “sneks” and “dangernoodles”. Cute photos of spiders surfaced to show us that perhaps they were just fluffy, big-eyed, misunderstood friends. And witches became the unofficial patron saints of feminism, queer culture, and the empowerment of sex-work. It doesn’t feel that long ago that my Catholic primary school held a PTA meeting warning parents not to expose their kids to the sacrilege that was Harry Potter. But witches have had a lot of good press since then. The nineties and naughties saw Hocus Pocus, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Willow Rosenburg, and the Broadway musical Wicked. There was no shortage of endearing and loveable witchy wāhine to popularise cauldrons, broomsticks, and autonomy for women.

The allegations against Beyoncé may not have spurred a Salem-esque response as they would have historically — but globally there is no shortage of relics that stink of puritan fundamentalism.
Over in Australia, in a trend that looks like an extended game of musical chairs, they recently welcomed in a new Prime Minister: Scott Morrison. It was soon revealed Morrison belongs to an institution far more spine-chilling than American Horror Story’s latest season — a megachurch. I know my aversion to organisations such as these could be easily misinterpreted as dogmatic atheism. But religion isn’t the ingredient of this concoction that screams “potent” to me. Rather it’s the sheer magnitude of wealth and power that comes with a congregation of thirty-something thousand.
A survey of news headlines confirmed I wasn’t the only one reading this as somewhat of an omen. Australians are also eager to see how Morrison’s particular brew of scripture, power, and influence will fare. Australia, like New Zealand, is accustomed to fairly agnostic political figures. The most fear and apprehension comes from minority groups — and one month in, it would appear, rightly so. Morrison’s lack of support for same-sex marriage and notable involvement with Australia’s harsh border control policies suggest his bible-studies might be heavy on the “thou shall not lay with another man” passage, and light on the “Good Samaritan” type tales. This would be far less concerning of course, if he wasn’t the figurehead of a de facto congregation of 24 million.

Meanwhile, the United States shows no sign of movement towards secularism and rather continue to debate more feverishly over what a Christian government looks like. Trump’s 2016 Election Campaign reminded us that to many Americans, a Christian governments looks “white”. As the ghoulish but all too familiar face of prejudice-disguised-as-faith once again rears its head, further internal conflicts arise. Religious institutions, from small village parishes to the aforementioned mega-churches, are enlisted into contributing to the “culture war” that rages between traditional and revisionist attitudes. When it comes to choosing a direction for American morality, the overwhelmingly-Christian nation are plenty busy collectively asking themselves: What Would Jesus Do?
As I stare at the never ending array of tabs open on my desktop with the words “evangelical politics”, “culture war”, and “fundamentalism” splattered about, it dawns on me: perhaps the real reason the accusations against Mrs. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter didn’t garner much of a response is merely because the crowd is preoccupied. The last few years of global politics could be summed up fairly well as a collection of moral panics overlapping with just regular panics, as we all try to put our heads down, focus on our meme-based coping mechanisms, and remember that history is one giant compilation of contentious times such as these. Kimberley Thompson’s talk of “spells” seem like light reading comparative to the overwhelming and oversaturated realm of global events.
Maybe we would care if Beyoncé lived in a town as small as Salem. Maybe we would care if witchcraft was still considered the most pressing threat to conservative values. Or, maybe if this was the seemingly carefree times of 2015, there would be time for witch-hunting. But right now, sage and tarot cards feel like the least of our problems.


About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required