“One of the most astonishing religious stories on the web at the moment comes from Mexico, where a particularly brutal and feared drug gang, La Familia Michoacana, has been buying up the works of a Colorado evangelical, John Eldredge, and making new recruits read them as part of their induction process.
According to Religion News Service, “Family values and religion are emphasized during the recruitment process, [to La Familia] which includes daily group prayer sessions and mandatory readings.”
Then they get taught to chop people’s heads off; that is the signature of the gang. All the Mexican drug gangs are notoriously violent, but La Familia is the only one to use decapitation so much that the local Catholic clergy have had to get guidelines for burying bodies without their heads attached. There have been twenty in one town alone this year.
La Familia’s leader, known as El Más Loco (the craziest one) started off as a small-time assassin, but dealing cocaine in the USA in the 90s was very impressed by the evangelical preachers he heard. Since then the gang has grown until it now supplies about half the the $20bn methamphetamine market in the USA.
El Más Loco wrote his own little book of Thoughts (vanity published, but no doubt he got very good terms from the publishers) but he is also greatly impressed by John Eldredge‘s book Wild at Heart.
“Eldredge’s theology is based on a ‘muscular’ view of Christianity, one that emphasizes an ‘authentic masculinity’ that has been lost” according to Religion News Service.”
Of course, this toxic combination is not really that different from the Taliban and other fundamentalist movements (and weren’t the Taliban also involved in heroin trafficking?). Movements such as gangs and religious revolutionary movements have to find ways of disciplining the young men they recruit (and these are almost always young men, of course, emphasis on strong religion and violence are translated into masculine rituals) but also ways of systematically unleashing violence in ritualized and spectacular (as in generating a visual spectacle) ways.
And pardon me for taking exception to the author’s contention that functionalists would love this. For one, if that were so, then functionalism is definitely no longer a useful theory but a bankrupt ideological construct. Also, the author fails to note that both religious fundamentalist movements and gangs often direct q great deal of their violence against women (Ciudad Juarez, anyone? And need I say anything about the Taliban and gendered violence?).
Also, both groups are likely to flourish in failed and/or hollow states.