What Would Jesus Do?
Being raised by a strictly Christian mother, and growing up and staying thirteen years in the same Catholic school has undeniably taken a toll on the development of my morality. The very country I live in, the Philippines, is greatly influenced by the Christian faith in almost every sociopolitical aspect of the society. However, the mere fact that the Bible has become the uncontested rule book of our country does not necessarily prevent crime from happening. High levels of crime rate and drug trade/use has continued over the years (we’ll save the topic of the new president’s efforts in executing every existing drug lord for another time).
More than the presence of the religion itself, what is important are the values that have been instilled into people’s minds through religious teachings. I do not wish to generalize the entire religious community, thus I will be discussing with respect to my personal experiences and the experiences of others which I have witnessed.
Finding place for religion in light of Michel’s Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment might be quite unorthodox, but religion enters implicitly when discussing the presence of social pressures in the concept of the Panopticon. The thought that someone or something is constantly watching your every move is nothing new to religion. However, instead of cameras, tracking devices, and technology in general, religion has God. I have been taught over and over again in my Christian Life Education class (a.k.a CLE) that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Which means that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present; who knows every fragment of knowledge to exist from past, present, and future. For those who cannot empathize, God is like a super computer that can tap into anyone’s brains rather than their phones. Although that comparison may seem a little bit too undermining. In Foucault terms, God is the ultimate Panopticon, therefore there is no possible way we can get away with anything we do.
The existence of a God (as described) in my life has led to a development of self-discipline. At the most basic level, my sense of self-discipline is rooted from the thinking of wether God would approve of my action or not, hence the famous phrase: “what would Jesus do?” This question forces one to think of the most moral action in the face of a decision. Further applying religion in Foucault’s Discipline and Punishment one may ask where the punishment aspect comes in. Well it’s simple, there is no prime example of punishment that can par the eternal pain and suffering promised in the fiery pits of hell. The simple thought of perpetually burning in fire while being lashed by devils makes the guillotine look like child’s play.
Religion not only advocates morality, it creates a state of mind. Although not many would agree to the existence of God, heaven, and hell, one of the unspoken truths about religious mindsets is that at some point in time, the decisions we make becomes reactionary and instinctive. We no longer pause and reflect wether our decisions will lead to a mortal sin or not, but rather our actions become intuitive. This does not suggests that we no longer have regard for God, but simply implies that self-discipline has become second-nature.
Wow I am so far behind in commenting!
I think your discussion of the Christian religion in connection to Foucault makes a lot of sense–it does seem to fit his view really well! I like how at the end you point to the way self-discipline just becomes automatic. That is how he thinks of other ways we discipline ourselves too–we don’t even realize we are thinking and acting in certain ways because we have been molded to do so and punished (when we were younger) if we didn’t.
This makes me wonder why Foucault didn’t talk about religion at all, since it seems to fit his view so well. It’s possible he wasn’t religious at all (I don’t recall him writing about it in any way), but still, one could discuss it from a historical/sociological perspective. Now I wonder why he didn’t!