Joplin’s Jane Doe And The Fight Against Fundamentalism

Let me tie together four recent news stories related to religious fundamentalism and the nasty nonsense associated with it. But before I do so, I should say something about my view of religion and religious belief.

I don’t have any knowledge as to whether there is or isn’t a God. I used to think there was and I used to think I knew his name(s). Now I don’t know if there is and even if I thought there was, I wouldn’t know what to call such a being. But here’s one thing I am fairly confident about: you, whoever you are and whatever you believe, don’t know whether there is or isn’t a God either. Okay? That’s where I’m coming from. Now to the stories.

First up is Franklin Graham, son of Billy, the famous evangelist. Graham has recently been making his way around the country in a bus. I’ve seen him on television more than once being interviewed about his mission, which is summarized on Facebook this way:

“America is at a crossroads, and I believe we should take every opportunity to stand up for the things of God and His Word.” –Franklin Graham

Franklin Gbilly graham bus tripraham is traveling to all 50 states in 2016 to hold prayer rallies, to preach the Gospel, and to challenge believers to take a stand and take action. He’ll be urging Christians to vote, to live out their faith in every part of their lives, and to pray for our nation just as Nehemiah cried out to God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore hope to His people.

Graham has said during interviews that his efforts are not partisan. He says he has no faith in either political party, that only God can save the country. Now, this is the same non-partisan guy who, after Obama was reelected in 2012, said the country was on a “path of destruction” and he explained why to Newsmax:

“In the last four years, we have begun to turn our backs on God,” Graham reiterated. “We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum.

“What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.”

And, “maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse” to do that, Graham said. “Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.”

Yes, according to one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the entire country, Barack Obama is responsible for every ungodly act, every offense against God that may force Him to bring us to our collective knees, communicating His divine displeasure to us by unleashing horrific suffering via an “economic collapse.” Funny thing, as I’ve pointed out before, non-partisan Graham had no bad words for Republican George W. Bush, who, as an evangelical himself, actually presided over a real economic collapse, as opposed to the one imagined by Graham four years ago. And it is funny, too, to think that since Graham made those comments, the economy has enjoyed some rather ungodly improvements. Apparently God either decided not to bring us to our knees or he decided to send Donald Trump to do the job instead.

In any case, let’s move on from a partisan conservative evangelist to a partisan conservative judge in Wisconsin, Rebecca Bradley. She was recently elevated to her state’s Supreme Court by evangelical governor and presidential dropout Scott Walker, who was filling a vacancy. Now she is facing voters for what would be a full 10-year term. But she has sort of a problem. It has been revealed that while in college at Catholic Marquette, Bradley authored some God-inspired opinions as a columnist for the student paper, opinions like the one she offered about president-elect Bill Clinton in 1992:

We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ’60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.

And she gave some wise advice to those thinking about getting sick during the then-upcoming Clinton administration:

One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically-correct disease will be getting all the funding. How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Clearly, these and some of this young woman’s other nasty, bigoted opinions could only have been produced by a mind under the influence of some form of fundamentalist religion, some sort of poisonous dogmatism, which, like in the case of Franklin Graham, makes one think and act in such obviously thoughtless and callous ways. And this same kind of dogmatism can and does affect our public policy debates, which leads me to the next story.

Here in Missouri, the State Senate, after Republicans broke a 37-hour Democratic filibuster, advanced a proposed amendment to our state’s constitution that if passed by voters would, essentially, allow Christian cake bakers and wedding planners to only bake and plan for King James Version-approved nuptials. In other words, even though Bible-believing bakers and piety-promoting planners here in Missouri operate their businesses using public roads and services partly paid for by gay people, they don’t want to serve those taxpaying gay people because Jesus and God and Franklin Graham hate gay people, or, to be kinder, they hate the things gay people do, like, uh, being gay.

Obviously, all of this nonsense is related. From the bigot-protecting activity in the Missouri State Senate to the young Marquette kid who hated gays and Bill Clinton in the 1990s to the phony bus tour of a very partisan and dishonest evangelical leader, it’s all a product of zealot-producing cultural hardware and software: fundamentalism. Evangelical and fundamentalist churches and their affiliates are the hardware, and a literally-interpreted, allegedly God-inspired Bible is the software. But we non-fundamentalists are not without weapons. There are some things we can do to, if not stop it, at least slow it down, which leads me to my final story.

This is a local story about courage. In May of 2015, here in Joplin, a group of students at North Middle School were bussed over, during school hours, to a place called Victory Ministries and Sports Complex. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of place this is. On its “What is Victory” webpage, we find that its purposes are, among other things, to “Exalt victory field tripJesus” and “Expand the Kingdom of God.” Expanding the Kingdom of God in this case means, of course, indoctrinating children with fundamentalist views. And what better way to reach impressionable, unchurched kids than a Middle School field trip to a Christian gym with a “Jesus is worthy of it all!” banner proudly hanging on the wall?

It turns out that a courageous mom of one of the students in the class in question alerted the American Humanist Association, whose legal director tried to stop the field trip before it happened. The AHA “forewarned” the Superintendent of Joplin Schools in an email exchange, saying the trip was a violation of the Establishment Clause and threatening litigation if the trip wasn’t called off. It wasn’t. So, there is now an ongoing lawsuit.

The mom in this case is courageous because this kind of thing isn’t easy. Even though she is using the name Jane Doe in order to remain anonymous, she has good reason to. Joplin is a small town, and she and her children would likely be singled out for harassment, if the general public knew who they were. But by putting herself out there to stop fundamentalists from indoctrinating not just her kids, but other kids, Joplin’s Jane Doamerican humanist associatione is a champion of secularism. And she is a fighter against the kind of religious dogma that makes people irrationally hate other people and call down the wrath of God on innocents.

Fundamentalism is nasty and socially destructive. And whether it is practiced mostly without violence under the American flag—although we must not forget those abortion-related crimes—or whether it is expressed with unspeakable violence somewhere under the black flag of ISIS, it needs to be confronted.

Kudos to Joplin’s Jane Doe for doing her part. And if you want to do your part, maybe you could contribute to or become a member of the American Humanist Association. An introductory membership is only $35.

The Armor Of God: The Republican Party

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

—Ephesians 6:11

Once again, those ungodly, evolution-drunk scientists have got it all wrong. From Scientific American:

Earth is the planet of the plants—and it all can be traced back to one green cell. The world’s lush profusion of photosynthesizers—from towering redwoods to ubiquitous diatoms—owe their existence to a tiny alga eons ago that swallowed a cyanobacteria and turned it into an internal solar power plant.

But that can’t be. Because, as most conservatives would have us believe, evolution is not a fact and the true story of how plants came to be was written long ago:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so…

And the evening and the morning were the third day.

One problem with the Genesis account, which resourceful defenders of creationism can explain away, is that for plants to exist at all they must, as molecular bioscientists say (but what do they know?), be able to synthesize sunlight. And the sun wasn’t in business until the next day:

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also…

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Now, lest you think my sarcasm is wasted on a dead issue, I present some headlines from stories posted on the National Center for Science Education website over the last two months:

Conservative Christians, using the GOP as their theological weapon, will not stop pushing their religious agenda, just as they will not stop attacking reproductive rights and gay rights. They will lose fight after fight and then get up and start swinging again, faithfully believing that incrementally and eventually they can bend the country’s will towards righteousness.

You won’t find a better description of what has happened to the Republican Party, as we watch its integrity die on the vine of fundamentalism, than this one presented by Steve Benen:

The Republican hostility for science, scientists, the scientific method, scientific inquiry, and empirical research in general has already been solidified as part and parcel of the party’s identity. The GOP mainstream rejects scientific evidence on everything from global warming to stem-cell research to evolutionary biology to sex-ed — in part because they find reality inconvenient, and in part because, as David Brooks put it, many Republicans simply “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”

The reason they don’t accept their legitimacy is because they believe there is an even higher and older authority, One who conveniently blesses their politics and is conveniently beyond the scrutiny of man, especially scholars and intellectuals and scientists.

And it is their version of the Almighty—only one version among many in the world—to which they hold fast, and molecular bioscientists, who discover “tiny alga eons ago that swallowed a cyanobacteria,” be damned.

Another Gay-Hating Fundamentalist Goes Down

You know you’re living in weird times when a news story in a major newspaper begins:

Though he admitted to having his hands in his pants…

Yet, that’s how a story in the Times-Picayune in New Orleans began, and this was the rest of the opening:

…embattled Christian fundamentalist Grants Storms denied Tuesday that he was masturbating in a Metairie park before being arrested.

According to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Storms had admitted to masturbating in his van, which was parked near a playground in Lafreniere Park.  Unfortunately for Reverend Storms, he answered a reporter’s question this way:

“I had my hands in my pants,” he said. When asked by a reporter what he was doing with his hands, Storms answered, “I don’t want to get into all that right now. That will come out in court.”

Let’s hope not. The van in the park was bad enough.

In any case, the fundamentalist “pastor”—who at present has no church—is infamous in New Orleans for leading protests in the French Quarter against the “gay Mardi Gras,” officially known as the Southern Decadence festival. 

In 2002, Storms made a video of public sex acts at the gay Mardi Gras, which led a Louisiana House member to introduce a bill that would ban sex in public, even for fundamentalist pastors who hate homosexuals.

At this point, I will let Mr. Storms have his day in court, but I won’t be there to see how it comes out.

Does Antonin Scalia Have Alzheimer’s?

Whatever Glenn Beck has been smoking the past few years, he must have passed the pipe to Antonin Scalia.

Or maybe it’s just an early sign of Alzheimer’s.  In both cases.

Whatever it is, Scalia has managed to make himself look like a Tea Party nut, which really isn’t that hard for a Republican to do these days.

When asked whether “we’ve gone off in error” by applying the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to both sex discrimination and sexual orientation, the judicial fundamentalist said:

Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that…

I’m not going to bother quoting the rest of his statement, but I will bother to quote the relevant language in the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You may wonder how anyone can misunderstand the words “nor deny any person…the equal protection of the laws.” You may wonder, but not a man who fashions himself an “originalist,” which is just another way of saying he is the Jerry Falwell (Devil rest his soul) of constitutional interpretation.

You see, the Bible says God created the world in six days, science be damned. And the Constitution says women and gays (and by logical extension, Latinos, Jews and female Blacks) don’t have equal protection because those who wrote and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t particularly have women or gays or Latinos or Jews or female Blacks in mind when they did so.

So, under Scalia’s Falwellian judicial philosophy, if women, and others not originally and explicitly envisioned as deserving equal protection of the law, want that equal protection, they will have to get the legislature to guarantee it. “Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law,” Scalia says.

Never mind that conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger—and all of his colleagues—ruled in 1971 that women were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. And never mind that here in 21st century America it is just plain silly to construe the Constitution in such a way that eliminates equal protection of the law for more than half of the population.

And never mind that Scalia’s originalist interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment turned to goo when it was politically convenient. As Adam Cohen pointed out:

Justice Scalia doesn’t even have consistency on his side. After all, he has been happy to interpret the equal-protection clause broadly when it fits his purposes. In Bush v. Gore, he joined the majority that stopped the vote recount in Florida in 2000 — because they said equal protection required it. Is there really any reason to believe that the drafters — who, after all, were trying to help black people achieve equality — intended to protect President Bush’s right to have the same procedures for a vote recount in Broward County as he had in Miami-Dade? (If Justice Scalia had been an equal-protection originalist in that case, he would have focused on the many black Floridians whose votes were not counted — not on the white President who wanted to stop counting votes.)

I think this is an appropriate time to remind everyone that Antonin Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986.  He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a remarkably close vote: 98 to 0.

Can anyone today imagine a judicial nominee who is as far to the left as Scalia is to the right getting a seat on the court with a 98-0 vote?  Heck, such a nominee wouldn’t even get all the Democratic votes.

In any case, Scalia was chosen by Reagan for two reasons: he was very young and he didn’t have too many of those tell-tale opinions floating around that would clue us in to his Falwellian fundamentalism.

It’s sort of like if the Falwellian Jerry Falwell wanted to infiltrate the Unitarian Universalist Church, he would have to do so before they discovered he was a uber-Baptist who believed that Unitarians were headed straight for hell.

But for all his talents (his opinions are fun to read), we can now regard Antonin Scalia as, in the best case but still sadly, Glenn Beck with a law degree.  Is Goldline a sponsor of today’s conservatie Supreme Court?

Or, in the worst case, we are observing the first ravages of dementia, as Alzheimer’s sinks its teeth into the brain of a man whose faulty fealty to literalism seemingly knows no bounds.

I say “seemingly” because maybe we are merely observing the behavior of a man who is nothing but a hack for the Republican Party. Here is Adam Cohen again on the Citizens United decision, in which Scalia and is conservative colleagues anthropomorphized corporations:

It is a strange view of the Constitution to say that when it says every “person” must have “equal protection,” it does not protect women, but that freedom of “speech” — something only humans were capable of in 1787 and today — guarantees corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

A strange view, indeed.  But not if you are a Republican.

Elizabeth Edwards, R I P

As word comes that the Westboro Baptist Taliban plans to picket the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards tomorrow in Raleigh, I couldn’t help but wonder just what it is that inspires religious fanatics to do the things they do.

And I’m not just talking about obviously reprehensible things like conducting protests at funerals, but seemingly less reprehensible things like criticizing Mrs. Edwards for not mentioning God in her widely reported farewell post on Facebook.  Here is the opening of her last message:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces—my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.

Some conservative bloggers and online commenters have criticized Mrs. Edwards for not partaking in the death-bed convention of acknowledging the goodness of God, his tender mercies, and his wonderful gift of grace. 

Here is Donald Douglas, a conservative blogger who calls himself a “pro-victory Associate Professor of Political Science,” whatever the hell that means:

Being anti-religion is cool, so Edwards’ non-theological theology gets props from the neo-communists. Still, at her death bed and giving what most folks are calling a final goodbye, Elizabeth Edwards couldn’t find it somewhere down deep to ask for His blessings as she prepares for the hereafter? I guess that nihilism I’ve been discussing reaches up higher into the hard-left precincts than I thought.

Personally, I don’t see that much daylight between Mr. Douglas and the Westboro Taliban.  Mr. Douglas simply chooses to do his protesting online, safely away from the counter-protestors who will certainly be in force tomorrow, as the life of Elizabeth Edwards is celebrated.

I don’t know what Mrs. Edwards’ theology was, and I don’t know what kind of God, if any, she believed in.  I do know that in announcing her death, Christianity Today, a defender of evangelical theological conundrums and other silliness, inexplicably posted some remarks she apparently made in 2007 that naturally offended conservative and Talibanic Christians everywhere:

I have, I think, somewhat of an odd version of God. I do not have an intervening God. I don’t think I can pray to him — or her — to cure me of cancer. I appreciate other people’s prayers for that [a cure for her cancer], but I believe that we are given a set of guidelines, and that we are obligated to live our lives with a view to those guidelines.

And I don’t believe that we should live our lives that way for some promise of eternal life, but because that’s what’s right. We should do those things because that’s what’s right.

Given her battle with cancer, given the fact that her husband betrayed her in front of the world, given the fact that her 16-year-old son was killed after his Jeep was blown off the road by a gust of wind—wind being a prominent metaphor for the Holy Spirit in the Bible—who in their rational mind could blame Mrs. Edwards for not offering any thanks to God for the tragedies in her life or begging him for mercy in any possible world beyond?

Her son, Wade, was driving to the family beach house in North Carolina in 1996, when a strong wind forced his Jeep off the road and caused it to turn over.  Another boy sitting next to him walked away from the accident. How does one account for that within an evangelical theology that sees God as the Great Intervener, the God of Love who hears and answers prayer?

Here’s how Mrs. Edwards explained to Larry King what happened upon finding out about Wade:

…the first thing I did was sort of fall to the floor and just
screaming, “No!” That is actually how I felt. You know, it can’t be true.

And as I moved through the next weeks, first days being you’re just in shock. But as I moved through the next weeks and months, I had this idea that God was going to find some way to turn back time and he was going to be alive.

I would see somebody mowing their lawn and say, no, no, no. Or don’t build a porch or don’t — if everything stays the same, God can do what I always hoped he would, and that was to save the innocents. And I realized, of course, in time that that wasn’t so.

To save the innocents.”  That’s really the highest mission we should associate with God, isn’t it? 

To save the innocents.”  It’s the one thing we should expect from a God of Love, right? 

To save the innocents.”  We tell our children goodbye in the morning, and if we expect anything from God, we expect him to see to it that they return to us unharmed.  Is that too much to ask?

But the newspapers are full of stories that disappoint us, even if that disappointment comes at the expense of other people’s children and not our own. 

Most of us read about the death of Wade Edwards and we understand the overwhelming grief of his mother because we understand that what his death means in the end is that there may not be a God to save the innocents.  We may be telling our children goodbye for the last time each morning and there is No One to assure us otherwise.

Naturally, Mrs. Edwards turned inward to try to make sense of her life.  Larry King read a passage from her book:

As I have felt further less-devastating blows in the years after Wade’s death, I cannot understand how I merited these blows. What did I do? Even though I think I know better, I still continued to ask and continued to wonder.

King then asked her if she had any guilt:

Actually, guilt is one of the things you might go through in grieving. I don’t really feel guilt. There’s a lot of times when I’ve certainly wondered, what did I do wrong to cause Wade’s death?

…With the cancer, you know, did I drink the wrong things or eat the wrong things?

…And certainly with the latest indiscretion [her husband’s affair], you know, what did I do to cause this to happen?

… And I have to recognize with each of these things, they just happen. You didn’t have to do something wrong to justify them. You still sort of wonder, is there some grand plan where you’ve done something someplace else?

She told King that after all the tragedies, the God she “believed in before is not the same God.”

And who could expect otherwise?  Who, but a fanatical, fearmongering, faithaholic would criticize anyone for altering their understanding of God in the face of such heartbreaking experiences as befell Elizabeth Edwards?

By my lights, Mrs. Edwards’ life in this respect is a testimony to reason, a testimony of one who refused to shape the facts of experience to fit an Iron Age theology. Instead, she found strength in her humanity, as she expressed at the end:

The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.

Child Abuse?

I’m spending the week in California attending a union convention.  Hoping for a couple of hours of pure enjoyment, I went to Angel Stadium in Anaheim to watch the hapless Kansas City Royals lose yet another game.

At the entrance to the stadium, were several folks holding signs like this: 

While I don’t understand why the Angels allow these people to stand in front of their business and visually assault their customers, I do understand something about the people who are willing to spend their time in front of a big league ballpark and imply that without Jesus we are all going straight to hell.

Such people are poisoned with fundamentalism and frequently it is an intellectually fatal condition.

But my biggest problem with such folks is what they do to their children. 

As my friend and I walked toward the entrance, we saw a little girl, probably about ten years old:

That’s child abuse,” my friend said. “It’s one thing for an adult to stand out here and do this, but to force your kid to do it is a form of abuse.”

Well, is it?

As Richard Dawkins wrote:

The threat of eternal hell is an extreme example of mental abuse, just as violent sodomy is an extreme example of physical abuse.

While the comparison between violent sodomy and teaching children that they or their friends or their loved ones may one day be tormented forever and ever is at first a little startling, there is merit in Dawkins’ position.

He quoted part of a letter he received from a Catholic woman who claimed she had been victimized by her priest and her Church in more ways than one:

Being fondled by the priest simply left the impression (from the mind of a 7 year old) as ‘yuchy’ while the memory of my friend going to hell was one of cold, immeasurable fear. I never lost sleep because of the priest, but I spent many a night being terrified that the people I loved would go to Hell. It gave me nightmares.

And in the case of the little girl in front of Angel Stadium, she, no doubt, has been taught that people who don’t believe “Jesus Saves” will spend eternity suffering in hell. 

And whether she was “forced” to stand there holding that sign, or whether she does so out of a genuine fear that if she doesn’t do something, a lot of people will suffer eternally, there is no other description I can think of that fits: mental abuse.

How Old Is The Earth? And Other Tests Of Republican Rationality

I am weary of homeschoolers, most of whom are homeschooling because they want to indoctrinate their children into the ways of some form or other of fundamentalist Christianity.

While I support religious freedom, I’m not sure our country can afford to support the freedom to isolate children from the intellectual lifeblood of the nation, so their parents can condition them to believe that the Bible, a book two to three thousand years old, is a greater source of scientific knowledge than modern science itself.

But that’s for another day.

Today, I want to point out how powerful the fundamentalist-evangelical voter is in the Republican Party and suggest a question the Joplin Globe could put to all local candidates for political office.

A Kentucky blogger, Barefoot and Progressive, posted a video of Rand Paul‘s appearance at a conference of Christian Homeschool Educators last Friday.  The Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate was asked a question by one of his Christian brothers as to how old the libertarian-conservative believed the earth was:

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Obviously, the questioner put Paul in a political dilemma—no matter what his views are.

If he believes the earth is only 6000-10,000 years old—the typical fundamentalist belief—then he certainly can’t say so and risk losing what little intellectual credibility he has left with the rational world.

If he doesn’t believe the earth is about the same age as Joan Rivers, but instead believes it is 13.7 billion years old, then he certainly can’t say so at a conference of homeschool educators, especially in Kentucky, where conservative Christian voters make up a large chunk of the electorate.

So, what does he do?

Paul:  I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Well, I’m not going to let him pass.  I’m going to assume, since he won’t defend Reason—remember, he is supposedly a rational libertarian?—that he is a boneheaded fundamentalist fool, who believes  Adam and Eve were real folks who lived about 6,000 years ago.

All of which leads me to suggest something to the Joplin Globe, currently running a weekly Sunday feature called the 100 words project, in which the paper solicits questions from local folks (so far, local conservatives) to ask the zillion candidates running to replace Roy Blunt, who are supposed to answer in 100 words or less.

Here’s my simple question suggestion, the same one which Rand Paul was asked:

How old is the earth?” 

Or, how about one I use as a test of rationality:

Were the biblical Adam and Eve real people who lived less than 10,000 years ago?

The answer to either one of those questions would tell me more about the candidates than a thousand questions like,What specific steps will you take, if you are elected, to make sure you are responsive to your constituents back home?

What say you, Joplin Globe?


Born-Again Christians Shouldn’t Drive

Globebloggers Johnny Kaje and Anson Burlingame have had a dispute over the issue of “faith is crap,” culminating in Anson blogging about it and Kaje writing a humorous piece about her trip to Springfield to the Skepticon II event.

All of which has made me think about one of the most bizarre beliefs in the fundamentalist world.  There are some weird and disturbing interpretations of the Bible, and then there is the doctrine of the Rapture.

For those of you out of tune with modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism, here is the Rapture in one sentence:  At some point in the future—usually in “our lifetime“—Jesus is going to return to the Earth to “gather” his born-again followers, who will be “taken up” into the air to be with him, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves in the dark days ahead, which Christians call the Tribulation.

Now, as bizarre as this seems, apparently more than 40% of all Americans believe in some version of it.  I don’t mean they believe in Jesus’ return in general (most Christians so believe), but in the specific idea of the Rapture, the one in which a car on I-44, full of people, could have its driver raptured into heavenly bliss while its other, less saintly passengers, would end up smashed against an oncoming big rig, the driver of which was also the recipient of a ticket to ride. 

So, what does this have to do with politics?  Well, I have suggested that some Republican candidates, like Mike Huckabee for instance, sometimes appear to be unable to make a distinction between American foreign policy and Israeli foreign policy, as when the Huckster visited Israel recently and criticized Obama’s position on Jewish settlements in occupied territory.

Since Huckabee is a born-again Christian who believes in the Bible as the Word of God, his biblical views obviously have some impact on his political views and thus on his political decisions, particularly involving the Middle East.  And so do the biblical views of millions upon millions of other Americans.

As Sam Harris put it:

It really is not an exaggeration to say that some significant percentage of the American electorate, which if they turned on their television today and saw that a mushroom cloud had replaced Jerusalem, they would see a silver lining in that cloud.  In so far as people like that elect our presidents and congressmen and in so far as they get elected as presidents and congressmen, that’s a terribly dangerous state of affairs.

Dangerous, indeed. 

Just to remind you of how dangerous, here is a clip of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson—just two days after 9/11—discussing their religious view of America—again, one with which many Americans concur:

Now, that is why these bizarre beliefs must be challenged and ridiculed. 

Faith in a “higher being” is one thing, but specific beliefs that lead to the kind of reasoning employed by wildly popular evangelists like the late Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson is another.


Fox 31 TV in Denver posted a story on yet another right-wing Christian, this time a car dealer just outside of Denver, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, who posted this billboard:  

A reporter for Fox 31 interviewed the car dealer:

“Since Fort Hood, I’ve had it,” owner Phil West* told FOX 31 News Friday. “You can’t suggest things. You can’t profile. You gotta call a spade a spade.”

“Everything I have read about Mr. Obama points right to the fact that he is a Muslim. And that is the agenda of what Muslim is all about. It’s about anti-American, it’s about anti-Christianity,” West said.

As I said, there are political implications of bizarre religious beliefs.  In fact, I’m surprised John Putnam, local birther, born-again Christian, and Captain of the Jasper County Morality Police, hasn’t erected such a sign on I-44.

*I believe the gentleman’s name is Phil Wolf.
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