The Netflix series on the Rajneeshee group that took over a small town in the high Oregon desert is fascinating on many levels. One of those is whether contemporary Oregonians would be as opposed today to a fringe religious group lead my a man of color as they were in the 1980s.
To Sojourners‘ credit, you can count on them to side with the underdog:
Encoded in the U.S. Bill of Rights is the belief that while governments must be secular, communities are free to practice any faith they wish to uphold. But in Antelope, freedom of religion came on a condition of familiarity — people only accepted what they knew, while everything and everyone else was seen as a threat.
And I wonder, would bigotry have ever played the lead if Osho’s teachings were Christian in nature? Would any of this have played out the way it did if Rajneeshees weren’t viewed as being “the other?”
Strangely the site of Rajneeshpuram is now a Christian Young Life camp where kids arrive each summer to learn about Jesus Christ.
“After the Rajneeshees left … a billionaire developer from Montana … bought the ranch and ended up gifting the thing to Young Life. They call them camps. It’s more like a resort to me … it’s kind of like a cult, too,” John Silvertooth, the then mayor of Antelope, says.
“They’re not perfect. But they’re much better neighbors than the Rajneeshees.”
But Ma Anand Sheela remains unapologetic to this day.
“I would like to say, ‘People of Oregon… think yourselves lucky that this opera came your way,’” she says.
Imagine saving some of that empathy for Liberty University and not viewing Jerry Falwell, Jr. as a threat.