Narratives of an idyllic past: correctives for an uncertain future
Paper short abstract:
I will examine the idyllic narratives followers of a Hungarian visionary tell of the group’s early days. Faced with problems of recruiting and retaining members these idyllic presentations reinforce the members’ religious faith and at the same overwrite the group’s potentially endangered future.
Paper long abstract:
This paper will analyze the idyllic picture the community of faithful surrounding a Hungarian visionary paint of the early days of the group. The visionary relives the suffering of Christ every first Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent. She has been doing this for the past twenty-one years. A strong community has come into being around her, however, the group faces considerable problems of continuity as the original faithful are getting old, some have died and others are no longer able to attend due to ill health. Thus recruiting and retaining members is among the most important priorities of the group. The paper will take stock of the various methods the community uses to hold onto established members and make itself attractive to newcomers through recourse to narratives of its own idyllic past. The most important of these are: the monthly retelling of the origin story of the group. Retelling the same by Jesus Christ (through the visionary 'under vision') over several hours and in much more detail on the occasion of the so called Anniversary of the visionary, recalling the history of the group from the beginnings to the present. Personal reminiscing both as 'witnessing' and as casual conversation between congregants. I will analyze these materials with a view to seeing how the idyllic presentation of the group's history reinforces the group's religious faith and at the same time is used to overwrite its potentially not so rosy future.
Almost heaven: vernacular utopias and the culture of belief