Why “Drain the Swamp” displays Donald Trump’s ultimate ignorance

Swamp.jpgSure, the phrase “Drain the Swamp” is a common metaphor. But those words actually expose long-held beliefs about the environment that have proven to be disastrous for many Americans.

First, some history. During the settlement of the North American continent, agriculture and development struggled to overcome an environment that often seemed overwhelming. From prairie soils that refused to be broken by the blades of wooden plows to wetlands that defied attempts to rid the land of water, it was a tough go on many fronts.

And that is how the term “drain the swamp” came about. Failing all other attempts to tame such environments, many swamps were “drained” using underground tiles or drainage ditches to shunt water elsewhere.This was done because swamps were considered of little use for the purposes of growing crops or cultivating any sort of civilized purpose.

Admittedly, though it was little known at the time, swamps also held breeds of mosquitoes that brought fever germs to the populace in many forms, including malaria. So the deep-seated dread of swamps one of mystery and fear.

The genuine swamp

Much of those fears depended on a poor understanding of why and how swamps actually operate, and also why they exist. Swamps are defined as largely still waters rife with thick trees and impenetrable vegetation. In the last 400 years, ecologists have grown to understand that swamps play a critical role in many aspects of the natural world.

From a human perspective, swamps are critical holding areas for floodwaters. They serve as retention ponds when water overflows the banks of rivers or lakes. These holding ponds also serve to filter out muddied or silt-heavy water before it discharges back into streams, lakes and even oceans. Swamps also provide vital habitat for many commercially valuable species of ducks, geese and other species of waterfowl, birds, reptiles, mammals and insects.

American swamps

Swamps along the Mississippi River and other major rivers perform all these functions and more. Before water ever flows over the banks of such rivers, it fills the backwater swamps and often that prevents major flooding elsewhere.

Yet the metaphor to “drain the swamp” persists in defiance of the critical role that swamps play in American ecology. It insinuates that all such environments are bad places undeserving of our attention or even existence on the face of the earth.

The term “drain the swamp” also advances an anachronistic view of the environment as a whole. It implies there is still inherent evil in creatures such as snakes or even turtles that live in swamps. This draws on ancient notions about demon spirits living within such creatures as depicted in the serpent who was Satan’s disguise when tempting Eve.

Evil notions

Even people associated with swamps and marshes have been punished throughout history. When Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein objected to political resistance from Kurds living in that nation’s southern marshes, he set about to have the marshes drained under the guise of “agricultural improvement.” This crime against humanity was also a crime against nature. The two tend to go together. And it is people who cannot separate the benefits of nature from the impositions of human nature that commit such crimes.

Thus use of terms such as “Drain the Swamp” actually represent a confused, angry and fearful belief system. Typically, this emanates from people too self-absorbed, insecure and incurious to find out the value and function of places such as swamps or marshes. Thus these places serve as the ironic totems of ignorance for all those who deplore them.

Real-life threats

So it makes sense that if Donald Trump’s worldview depends on such metaphors for his popularity, he will draw a less sophisticated brand of voter, someone who cares not to look past the slap-happy approach of communication.

It is thus predictable that men such as Donald Trump cannot get their heads around real-life threats from the environment such as global climate change. Someone who still thinks of swamps as dangerous, demon-filled places cannot grasp that it is environments such as swamps and forests and grasslands that actually provide a positive balance to the equation of how much carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere versus how much is being poured in by human activity.

One of the most important environments to this purpose is the Amazon in South America. But the carbon sinks of old-growth woodlands in the Pacific Northwest and to some degree, forests in the American Northeast all play vital roles in counteracting anthropogenic (manmade) climate change.

Naive terms

But Donald Trump doesn’t believe in that. He clearly views the world in desperately naive terms, and is all too happy to leverage that ignorance into popularity with those who view the world in the same way. This is exacerbated by those who interpret and promote a poor understanding of religious metaphor as well. That is how essentially worthless claims that creationism is a “science” persist. For creationism contends, among other things, that serpents could once speak with fork-tongues that two of every kind of animal on earth were once stuffed into a boat to preserve thousands upon thousands of species of animals from perishing in a worldwide flood. This would have required that some species such as blind salamanders from the North American continent would have crawled across thousands of miles of land and cross oceans as well to reach the safety of a tiny ark in a largely desert environment of the Middle East. That single notion itself is absurd,

That single notion itself is absurd, yet it is creationists who contend that nature is too complex to have come about on its own. Never mind that impossible stories with no explanation other than divine intervention somehow are supposed to constitute “science.” For fundamentalists of religious and/or political nature, it is absurdity that is more acceptable than complexity.  Naive terms are the most dangerous of all, it seems.

Simpletons and hillbillies

And so we arrive at a point in history when the world is about to be run by a band of absurd simpletons whose clipped ideologies rely on forcing naive terms and notions on the rest of us. This is the shallow worldview that Donald Trump and his argumentatively conservative cabinet are about to foist upon the world to replace, as Trump likes to think of it, a swamp consisting of nuclear physicists once assigned to manage the Department of Energy and our nuclear program.

Trump instead has hired a Texas hillbilly named Rick Perry to take over that position. A man with no experience who once proposed eliminating the very department he is now assigned to manage. And so it goes across the board in Trump’s candidate. He has replaced competence with ignorance, and experience with ideology.

What Donald Trump fails to understand about swamps he fails to understand about the world in general. That is, complexity does not in itself represent evil, for it often holds answers that can be revealed over time. But simplicity, when it exhibits a poor understanding of the world, can often turn into a dangerous assumptions and worse, a sinking morass where there once seemed to be solid ground.

Why the Bible isn’t a brick to be thrown

The Christian Bible is a tremendous source of insight on the human spirit. It transcends humdrum human understanding as well. As such, it is a book that is foundational to much of what we call the human condition.

But while the Bible is considered by Christians to be foundational to understanding the role of God in our lives, it is critical to know how the book is intended to be used.

Let us consider, for example, the contention that the Holy Bible is the only source of trustworthy knowledge for the human race. Recently a Tweet by Seth MacFarlane was shared on Facebook. It read like this and received no less than 15,180 Retweets.

seth-mcfarlane

The people who also shared this to their Facebook page no doubt got resistance to those Christians that have not updated their personal beliefs to accommodate the idea of evolution. One supposed retort pasted in response contained the following counter-meme:

roosevelt

Roosevelt was a noted conservationist, but it may indeed surprise ardent creationists that his understanding of the origins of the human race included the processes of evolution. Here are Roosevelt’s own words as contained in a 1916 article published in National Geographic. The article was titled “How Old Is Man?” (Source: scienceblogs.com)

“The mammals, which for ages had existed as small, warm-blooded beasts of low type, now had the field much to themselves. They developed along many different lines, including that of the primates, from which came the monkeys, the anthropoid apes, and finally the half- human predecessors of man himself.”

Clearly these are not the words of a man who believes that a thorough knowledge of the Bible transposes what one can learn about science in college. What Roosevelt was implying in his quote is that spiritual knowledge provides on temperance that one may not gain simply through a college education. This temperance and ability to weigh the relative merits of human behavior is indeed valuable. In modern parlance,  we might call it emotional intelligence.

But to imply that one should toss one’s college education out with the bathwater and trust only the Bible for information about how the world works is clearly not the intent of what Teddy Roosevelt had to say on the matter of human evolution.

Yet it also turns out that Roosevelt was captive to some dangerous beliefs that were the product of less-than-advanced thinking in his time. Some flirt with a form of religious judgment, while others cast aspersions pre-historical human beings as being inferior. This should be the thing that is most upsetting to Christians, because it implies that people like Adam and Eve or Moses and Abraham were likely knuckle-dragging dolts without intellect, much less divinity coursing through their minds:

“The earliest monuments beside the lower Nile and lower Euphrates, like the earliest monuments on the high plateaus or in the dense tropical forests of the new world, are purely modern — are things of yesterday — when measured by the hoary antiquity into which we grope when we attempt to retrace the prehistory of man, the history of his development from an apelike creature struggling with his fellow-brutes, to the being with at least longings and hopes that are half divine.”

 

A Fight.jpg

Painting of UFC fighter by Christopher Cudworth

This idea that the earliest humans on record were brutelike and unrefined runs directly in conflict to the Christian narrative that men such as Moses were so full of insight we can scarcely imagine their brainpower. But you see, too many Christians want to own the narrative for themselves, and as such, struggle to possess both science and religion for themselves. They seek to deny the path of evolution that led to human awareness.

 

The idea that human awareness came from strictly material origins is anathema, insisting instead that human awareness must have burst upon the scene in the singular case with Adam and Eve. Never mind that these figures could just as easily symbolize the point in time when comprehension of God came into being. This was Creation as released through advancement in human culture. It precisely parallels the New Testament narrative in which Christ comes to earth fully formed, and a part of God, to lead human beings to even greater awareness. What’s so hard to understand about that? Well, even the disciples had a bit of trouble grasping the fluid narrative of Christ’s message. So today’s Christians possibly can be forgiven for being stubborn about their fixed beliefs.

Throwing bricks

The world was essentially born anew into awareness at that moment, and a comprehensive explanation of how the earth was formed through material means was unnecessary to the  just as the New World is predicted to come at a future date

The real brutes are those who deny that religion and science can co-exist, and that one can inform the other without implication of falseness. That is where real human progress awaits, at the intersection in history where religion is not used to dumb down the population. The intent of the Bible is to elevate the notion that the human race in all its material force can still be capable of higher thinking. That is where spirituality awaits as a source of wisdom to guide our actions, inform our stewardship and fuel our love of the earth as an expression of God’s creative power and love.

But when Christians only extract the Bible like a brick from the foundations of scripture, and throw those bricks around in defense of a small and narrow-minded view of the great walls of wisdom, it only hurts the faith.

 

A lesson about dithering squirrels

squirrel-deadOn the way home from the art studio this Sunday morning, I slowed the car to allow a squirrel in the street to make a decision about which way to go. You know the story. The squirrel turned one way, then the other. Suddenly it scampered to the curve.

But you can’t always see the results of those frantic decisions until you’re another forty feet down the street. We all tend to glance back hoping the squirrel did not get crushed under a car tire. That’s when guilt grips us if we have a conscience. A life wasted, it seems, by random activities in the universe.

Except random activities are the rule of the day. They happen every second for all of eternity. As far as your mind can travel, there are squirrels of one kind or another making choices all the way from the subatomic level up the expanding travels of a galaxy through time itself.

That is evolution in progress. Squirrels are either getting run over or living to face yet another day. The squirrels left dead on the street often get run over again and again. Their bodies are either eaten by scavengers, consumed by worms and bacteria or simply crushed into the asphalt as a grease spot that no one notices.

Predestination

Now there used to be a theory or two in theology that said God controlled every one of these activities. Everything in the universe was made to order. God worked like a fast order chef or a control freak head waiter at a busy restaurant. That was predestination.

squirrel-on-the-roadBut that makes God out to be a pretty bad character, the dispenser of evil as well as goodness. Which makes for thorny questions when it comes to the personal fate of members of the human race, who are so preoccupied with their own destinies they can hardly comprehend their real place in the universe.

That’s also what makes it so difficult for some people to imagine that the human race emerged from the same soup as the rest of life on earth. Never mind that the soup runs through our veins is blood that mimics ocean water in its salinity, or that we share 3/4 of our genetic makeup with just about every other living thing on earth.

Never mind. That’s too much alignment for squirrels that prefer to dither over less relevant facts. Like whether Mary was a Virgin, or that John the Baptist was lefthanded. And so on.

Dither yonder

When it comes to certain types of decision-making, human beings are as dumb as squirrels and make just as many bad choices. Hundreds of thousands of people die each day due to the simple arithmetic involved in bad decisions at the wrong time. Add in the selective pressures of war and famine and natural disasters, all of which are largely avoidable with a little cooperation, and human beings don’t look so smart even in the context of predestination.

But when you look through all this dithering through the cool eye of evolution, it’s all entirely predictable. 99% of all living things that have ever existed in the earth’s history are now extinct. The age of dinosaurs lasted millions of years but ultimately most of them died off through unforgiving circumstances. God didn’t stop that from happening. Not at all. The birds that evolved from dinosaurs or actually are dinosaurs made out okay. But many of them are at risk these days as well, sucked into the Black Hole of the Anthropogenic Age where the gravity of human activity sucks things into non-existence never to be seen or heard again.

Endangered species 

These days, hundreds of species of animals, plants, insects and other life forms are threatened by a new wave of extinctions. This is indeed the Anthropogenic age, when extinctions and climate change and other earthly devastations once-credited to God are now exacted with the same casual precision as a squirrel burying a nut in the wasted Garden of Eden.

Just in the last 100 years, species of birds such as the Passenger Pigeon that once numbered in the billions have been erased from history. Extinct. No more exist. All dead. Nuts buried by squirrels too busy market hunting to care about the eventual outcome. No one stopped to tell them they were nut for shooting so many birds.

The same thing almost happened to the American bison, which now exists mostly in carefully tended herds that number a fraction of populations that once roamed the Great Plains. Just as painful are the losses of flora and fauna we can’t see.

The once great tallgrass prairie is reduced to 1/10th of one percent of its former range.

These were all actions caused by human beings. Thus they represent an engagement in the process of evolution. People who deny this fact typically rely on their own Origin of Species based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. The only explanation they can offer about the extinction of species is a reputed Great Flood that covered the entire earth. Ostensibly the fellow named Noah gathered enough living and breeding sets of life forms on the Ark to repopulation the entire world.

tx-blind-salamander-picture-1To accomplish this feat would have required, of course, a blind salamander from the caves of Texas to crawl across the entire western European continent, swim thousands of miles across a saltwater ocean, climb onto the dry land of the Eastern Seaboard and swim all the way to what is now the State of Texas, crawl across hundreds of miles of parched landscape to where a small population of said blind salamanders still lives and breeds to this day.

The absurdity is not assuaged by the claim that “all things are possible with God.” The examples of impossible migrations are so vast and so daunting that the tale of Noah’s Ark quickly falls into the category of metaphor.

The part of the story that does apply is that human beings do apparently bear some responsibility for the welfare and stewardship of animals, plants and other species on this earth. The entire earth is an ark, if you will. And human beings are doing a really crappy job of playing Noah, wiping out hundreds of species of life forms every year.

The Flood story strongly suggests that God is not afraid of extinction. That fact is borne out by what we know about patterns of extinction through the sciences of paleontology, biology and the theory of evolution.

To explain God’s relationship to these harsh events, one merely has to acknowledge the presence of free will in the universe. The squirrel on the road makes a choice when a car approaches. It runs back and forth and either gets nailed by a tire or escapes. There is nothing sentimental about this process. It is free will at work.

IMG_0492Human beings thus are subject to choices made by free will as well. These choices fuel or place in the process of evolution. We make good choices, we live. When we make bad choices, sometimes we die. This is true on both an individual and collective basis. Evolution takes place largely in incremental fashion, but it can also roll out in wholesale destruction if human beings fearfully agree to respond to life’s circumstances like a herd of squirrels.

We don’t see squirrel migrations every day, but it happens now and then when population or environmental pressures drive squirrels to migratory madness. Let us consider a documented tale from the early 19th century: “Here is how, In 1811, Charles Joseph Labrobe wrote in The Rambler in North America of a vast squirrel migration that autumn in Ohio: “A countless multitude of squirrels, obeying some great and universal impulse, which none can know but the Spirit that gave them being, left their reckless and gambolling life, and their ancient places of retreat in the north, and were seen pressing forward by tens of thousands in a deep and sober phalanx to the South …”

At times human beings are subject to the same sort of social madness. Then the human race behaves like a huge pack of squirrels or lemmings rushing off a cliff. Normally, squirrels in their home environment are typically cautious and predictable. They use the same paths to get from tree to tree.

But when forced out in the open, or faced with confusing situations such as an oncoming car, squirrels equivocate, turning back and forth in desperate reaction to a world outside their evolutionary understanding.

When faced with the unknown, human beings act no differently than squirrels on a high way. This is true among individuals and group populations. Human culture is squirrelly, and fear can turn otherwise rational people into fearful sheep.

And while squirrels are supposedly a much lower species than apes, there are people who consider the idea that human beings descended from earlier forms of primates a real insult. But when it comes to the sometimes squirrelly thinking and behavior of entire nations, to be considered on par with an ape would be a good thing.

squirrel-on-road.jpgThe human race is experiencing a “squirrel on the highway” moment when it comes to dealing with climate change. The back and forth between those who accept the evidence and those who deny its verity is causing the human race to dither and change direction on the subject. Meanwhile, the Big Wheels are Turning and heading our way. If the human race does not figure out how to slow down the rate of climate change, we really will get run over. Coastlines will flood. Hurricanes will increase their destruction. The human race will be forced to evolve in a hurry to deal with climactic extremes that will produce highly unpredictable weather.

Some people consider that bunk. They cover their heads with their squirrel tales or insist that the Great Squirrel in the Sky is the only Keeper of Climate Change. But that only amounts to ignoring the roar of the engine around the curve and the threat of the fat tires about to crush the collectives spines of a million squirrels dithering back and forth on the highway.

And some squirrels don’t even care. Safely ensconced in their Wealthy Squirrel Hideaways with plenty of nuts to gnaw, they could not give a rat’s ass if a few millions other squirrels get turned into Global Road Kill. It’s none of their concern. There are the I’ve Got Mine Squirrels that actually take pride in the act of driving the trucks that run over other squirrels. And for some, that is considered a great sport.

But it’s true. When global warming kicks in an temperatures rise across great expanses of continents such as Africa and South America and North America, mass migrations of people will take place in regions where intense heat and desertification takes over.

And still there will be dithering by the rich and powerful, and fearful meandering by those trapped in the horrific cycle of heat and drought and flooding. The Bible fails

Even The Holy Bible fails misterably in providing hope or solutions to this apparent dilemma of a worldwide threat to human existence. After all, God ostensibly enabled the Great Flood that called Noah into action. If we can believe the text, then it was true that all the people of the earth, other than a select few, were wiped out.

God also brought Hail and Brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah in rash treatment for the excesses of those cities and their inhospitality to strangers, especially angels.

angelsAnd let us not forget that God even allowed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. That scattered his ostensibly Chosen People like a band of squirrels, out into an inhospitable world where they got run over and enslaved in many cases. But a few eventually banded together and returned to their home turf, where they reside to this day in a form a bit evolved from the original. Because that’s how evolution works, you see.

The entire process of survival is always a bit squirrelly for all involved. Squirrels able to anticipate and adjust their behavior while crossing the Road of Existence most often survive. But among human beings, there is also a moral responsibility to share those instincts for survival, and even hold paws with those more likely to dither or get crushed. That’s the role of government and of scripture, to enact the decisive course of humanity.

Because whether you view it through the eyes of scripture or the cold lens of an evolutionary viewpoint, it never pays to be a dithering squirrel.

 

 

Why the liberal doomsday never comes true

IMG_6707One of the strident complaints leveled by conservatives against liberals and progressives is that they constantly decry doomsday scenarios that never come true.

But there’s a good reason why the bad things about which liberals hew and cry never come about. Liberals actually do something about them to prevent doomsday from coming about.

Environmental doomsday averted

For example, in the 1970s the environmental movement began to make real traction in the public eye. Environmentalists warned about the dangers of industrial and chemical pollution. Liberals warned that air pollutions was not good for public health. So-called tree huggers and Save-the-Whalers and birdwatchers gathered forces and made their voices heard.

And even Republican President Richard Nixon got involved by signing the Environmental Protection Agency into being.

The nation’s liberals recognized that devastating levels of damage were being exacted on the world’s waters, land and air. Many species of wildlife were being treated with extinction. Only 60 years had passed since a species of bird known as the Passenger Pigeon had been literally hunted into extinction by mass harvesting. The American Bison was on the verge of blinking out of existence. Whooping cranes were down to the last 60 or so birds on the planet. Peregrine falcons were virtually an unknown species in the lower 48 states. The national symbol of the United States, the Bald Eagle, and its sister species the osprey were having successive years of nest failure due to the cracking of their eggshells from the trickle up effect of a pesticide known as DDT in the environment.

Yet rather than give in and let the doomsday scenario of mass extinctions take place, liberals dug in and fought for the banning of certain types of dangerous pesticides. In league with government agencies such as the EPA and backed by rulings such as the endangered species act, the harshest chemicals affecting our environment were regulating. Massive polluters were cited by law and punished. Billions of dollars were set aside in Superfund accounts to pay for the costs of environmental cleanup.

Rivers so polluted they once caught fire were able to recover from the effects of industrial dumping into streams and lakes. The blight on forests and lakes caused by acid rain from coal plants was arrested and cleaner forms of energy were investigated. The stunning fear caused by an event at Three Mile Island led to analysis of the role and safety of nuclear power in America.

Nuclear option

All the while, liberal protestors echoed by singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne and Neil Young took aim at the ignorance and greed causing the near doomsday realities of nuclear meltdown and chemical pollution so thick and pervasive it caused the residents of entire towns to live under the threat of cancer and birth defects, sickness and death.

These were real doomsday events in the making. And had liberals not shown the temerity and wisdom to fight back against toxic pollution, habitat degradation and loss and wildlife extinction, the healthier environment we now have in America would certainly not exist.

All these efforts protected the health and safety of millions of people in America. Because as goes the environment, so goes the human race.

Civil rights doomsdays

Liberals saw the social justice in all that effort. Liberals and progressive have continued to push the nation deliver civil rights for all citizens. The “environment” of the nation is thus a healthier place for all its citizens to exist.

Without benefit of these civil rights efforts, black people and minorities would continue to live under segregation and persecution on many fronts. The many deaths of black people from lynching and torture are undeniable evidence of the fact that the conservative wing of America was incapable of controlling its most extreme wing. And without that control, prejudice loomed like a doomsday for centuries in America.

But that doomsday, while not entirely averted, has not fully arrived either. Through liberal political enterprise and the leadership of men such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the walls of segregation and prejudice have been razed.

However, we are still sorting through the rubble. And some Americans typically of a harshly conservative, often ignorant bent, would prefer to build the walls of prejudice back up. These racial zealots whine about legitimate civil rights as if they were the exception in a democratic republic, not the rule. They simultaneously claim their own civil rights are being infringed and that they are being restricted in their freedom of speech by so-called “political correctness” that seeks to prevent hate from being spewed through politics or social media.

Religious doomsday

Sadly, the name God is often evoked to justify the hateful actions and rhetoric of those whose ability to imagine a better world has been choked off by their own vision of doomsday. How ironic it is that the very same people who on religious grounds claim America is in moral decay and headed for doomsday are the very people who seek to deny civil rights to women, blacks, minorities, and gays. Their priorities have more to do with access to power and appeasing their notions of unswerving authority than anything akin to creating the Kingdom of God here on earth, which is what the Bible actually encourages.

Instead, the true doomsayers embrace an End Times theology that spatters like blood across the face of conservative theology. These are the real doomsday preachers. And their most common mode of offense (and defense) is to accuse liberals of their own worst flaw, which is not believing in the future.

This brand of self-doubt spills into politics, where conservatives claim to hate the very government they represent. This self-hatred is the self-fulfilling prophecy of doomsday conservatism, where everything is supposedly going downhill and always will, until the end of time. Yet there are many conservatives who claim to be the happiest people on earth. But as the Bible clearly points out in the tale of the Good Samaritan, when supposedly holy men walk past another soul in need and ignore that need, they are the very people God will choose to ignore on that day of judgment, if it ever comes.

A perversely fashioned zygote

ZygoteYet conservatives continue to claim the high ground. It’s as if they’re never read the many passages in the bible where Jesus chastises the chief priests for their moralizing, legalistic ways. Or the parts where Jesus points out that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Instead, we’re left with a perversely fashioned zygote made of political, social, fiscal and religious conservative cells. This unholy creature proclaims doomsday at every turn. Political conservatives have shut down the government. Social conservatives say that granting gays the right to marriage will be the end of America. Fiscal conservatives have already crashed the economy a couple times in American history and predict another crash while telling people to “buy gold” as if that would stave off an economic doomsday of their own making.

And finally, religious conservatives lay claim to the Doomsday of All Doomsday predictions. That would be the End Times, the Rapture, Armageddon and the Apocalypse. The End of the World is a favorite topic of the Christian Right. The subject crops up with even though the events predicted in Revelation already happened long, long ago. The Doomsday appeal of owning the bookends of Creation and Apocalypse are literally too good a story to relinquish.

No credit where credit is due

But it sounds pretty good to accuse liberals of being the naysayers and doomsday predictors in this world. That way anything bad that happens out of your own negativity, selfishness, neglect, prejudice, legalism and persecution can be blamed on people simply trying to make the world a little better place. And succeeding, for the large part.

Because many types of doomsdays have been averted through the heart, soul and humanism of liberalism. But you would never know it from listening to conservatives.

Of course, extreme conservatives also claim that global climate change is just another false liberal doomsday scenario. Perhaps it helps that so many Christian conservatives (between 30- 50% of the American population, some studies say) do not believe in evolution or even the basic science of geology. With that level of scientific ignorance at work, there is no wonder the world considers America such a pack of selfish dolts.

Maybe conservatives are right. Maybe there is a doomsday right around the corner. If so, it will be one of their own making through denial and unwillingness to work through practical means to make the world a better place.

And if they do cause the world to end, they will deny it until the day they day. 

Why Christianity needs healing

BruisesThere is so much pain in the world. Christians seeking to heal that pain rightfully turn to their faith as a means to promote forgiveness that can relieve personal and spiritual pain. That leads to healing.

The challenge to this process is in learning how to use the Bible to communicate the forgiveness that leads to healing. The Christian church with all its variegations and interpretations of the Bible is not much help.

The prime example of how to understand scripture rests with Jesus Christ, who taught using parables anchored in organic symbolism to convey spiritual principles such as love, mercy and justice. Christ’s parables made the kingdom of God accessible to all.

Authoritarians

This example was lost on those whose zealotry for godly authority drove them to turn scripture into law. Jesus, therefore, experienced conflicts with religious authorities who refused his often symbolic warnings and prophecies. When Jesus threatened to knock down the temple and rebuild it in three days, people mocked and laughed at him because the stone temple had taken years to build.

But that’s the point of scripture: it uses hyperbole to express the spiritual wonders of God.

People who take the Bible literally often miss these crucial examples. The Book of Genesis is one such book that has been raked and damaged by those mining it for literal interpretations of the Creation story. As a result, Christianity itself has been ripped up the middle by this divisive interpretation of Genesis. Jesus himself would be aghast at what has become of the Creation story in the hands of these so-called Christian perpetrators, religious fundamentalists without imagination, hope or trust that God’s Word can do more than talk like an ignorant child.

Recovery

So Christianity needs healing. It needs to be recovered from the wounding hands of those who try to use it as a weapon against modernity and science. It needs to be rescued from the medieval notion that Christianity necessarily needs to be a Crusade for religious anachronism and the threat of sending all to hell who do not abide by zealous literalism.

Conservative policies are often not what they seem

A viper waits below the surface.

Again, Jesus called that brand of believer “hypocrites” for casting blame against all those who broke the rules they created. He further characterized them as a “brood of vipers.” Take note of Christ’s use of naturalism to explain that powerful concept familiar to all. You don’t want to enter the den of venomous snakes, do you? Well, then we’re supposed to know that it’s best to avoid those who turn literalism into legalism.

None other than Pope Francis of the Catholic Church is promoting a departure from legalism, literalism and faith build on ramparts of dogma and divisiveness. Of course he’s getting tons of resistance from religious conservatives stuck in the past and happy to use the divisiveness of legalism to win political and religious converts to their own benefit, power and authority.

It will take quite an effort to recover the faith from the hands of these murderous intents.

Modernity

So the healing of Christianity needs to come from these clear warnings from Christ. There is no need to castigate science or evolution as oppositional to God. There is no call to avoid modernity at all, for the Word of God is eternal, not intransigent.

What follows is a passage of healing for all Christians to consider. It is written with all loving intent, for it is designed to heal the rent between old brands of faith and a new, truly born-again approach to faith in God and Christ.

This communicates the basics of a sustainable brand of faith that does not cower before science or force people to rent the gut of Christian faith in order to demonstrate their fealty to God. Consider it a creed of sorts, for Sustainable Faith in the modern age.

Healing Christianity

Evolution explains our material origins. The Bible explains our spiritual origins. Genesis represents humankind’s spiritual awakening to God, our birth, as it were, into that relationship. The entire Foundation of scripture depends upon deeply organic imagery to describe creation and how that is an expression of God’s love for the world. Jesus taught using parables anchored in naturalism as well. He did so to make spiritual concepts accessible to all those who would listen. When his disciples either refused these methods or did not get it, he called them “dull” for missing the vitality and purpose of these metaphorical stories. Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. Jesus would have no trouble with Darwin, evolution or science.

Jesus taught using parables anchored in naturalism as well. He did so to make spiritual concepts accessible to all those who would listen. When his disciples either refused these methods or did not get it, he called them “dull” for missing the vitality and purpose of these metaphorical stories. Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. We repeat: Jesus would have no trouble with Darwin, evolution or science.

Christ’s example is how we need to look at the entire Bible in order to grasp its connections between material and spiritual truth. In fact, he celebrated nature as expressive of God’s fidelity, but also free will and change. Evolution and free will go together, you see. Our lives are not predestined, and God makes no guarantees of happiness, wealth or favor. But our relationship with God and Christ overcomes all such circumstances with faith and grace.

In the end, it is our spirit that defines us. The body withers and fades away. This is true for all living things from amoeba to insect to bird to ape to human beings. Dust to dust. But explaining our evolutionary and proven material relationship with nature is no crime of thought. Through genetics, we understand that human beings share 98% of our genes with apes, and more than 60% of all our genetic material with every living creature on earth. We are connected, in other words, to all of creation.  

This worldview mimics that of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and we should grasp that worldview in the same way. There is only conflict between the world and God if you make it so. Yet that explains much of the state of religion and politics today. 

Christianity needs healing. It must begin with this understanding that Jesus Christ was our leader in how to approach and understand the organic roots of scripture and our relationship with God.

An evolutionary look at race, religion and class warfare

Toward the end of a seven-mile run in a prairie park in Wisconsin, my companion and I passed a group of soccer players engaged in a pickup match on a small mowed field. They wore the jerseys of teams from Mexico, Central America and Europe. Soccer is the world’s game, you see.

Earlier on the run we’d seen a group of women and children walking the gravel path together. These were the wives and children of the soccer players, for they all gathered together under a shade tree when the match was done.

I’d turned to my companion and said to her, “Just think, their descendants came to this continent from the other side of Pacific.”

Routes-oF-Ancient-Americas-migrationsScience and genetics tell us the people who settled the North American and South American continent came over the land bridge to Alaska. Through human evolution and adaptation to environment these post-Asian peoples populated a highly diverse and unknown world. In many cases their skin evolved toward a brown or red color in response to hot, sunny climates. In that small way they were evolving back towards the dark-skinned origins of the African past from which we all came.

Civilization

These tales of massive emigration provide important foundations for discussion of the human race and the racism that drives much of its self-perception. We know that highly evolved civilisations in Egypt and Asia emerged from the original migration out of Africa. Their mathematics, arts and sciences represented a Renaissance of importance to all of civilization. Even through dark times in history and wars of slaughter over tribe, race and wealth, it was this belief in self and the theater of the mind that remained most important in sustaining human life and progress. In the wake of all this movement were structures representing the human desire to reach for the sky and deities. The pyramids of Egypt and the temples of the Aztecs evolved as the highest expression of human culture on earth.

Behind the Eight Ball

8-Ball Wallpaper 1024x768Back in Israel and the Middle East the concurrent battles over worldview were taking place a little later than the Asian and Central American pursuit of self-realization. Yet the events that took place there in the sands and hills around Jerusalem were telling in their net results.

The Romans had long tried to impose their values and their religion through force, but ultimately what emerged triumphant in that society was a faith supposedly architected for peace. The Eight Ball of fortune and force turned out to be wrong.

Christianity was embraced as the official religion of the state through Constantine, but its message of tolerance and brotherly was ultimately subverted for a focus on triumph of holy will. Because as Europe was settled, the warlike aspects of a largely white race of human beings found tremendous and convenient mobility in the history of the religion they embraced. Once the Jewish temples had been razed a few times over, faith become mobile. Canonized in a Bible, The Word superseded the traditional anchor of capitol and place.

Of course the Jewish Torah tried to accomplish the same thing, but that story took a different path. Blamed for the sacrifice of Christ, the Jews became targets for violence rather than partners in history. Just as they had experienced before in history, the Jewish people were left without a home. So they too used their wits, replacing capitol (city or state) with capital (money and negotiation) as a means to survive.

Where once the Judeo-Christian culture knew its place in the temples of Jerusalem, and capitol was where God could be found, the culture actually reversed course (or was forced yet again) to become a nomadic people all over again. Capitol was traded for pursuit of capital, and anyone that stood in the way of that pursuit became the enemy. But this adaptation became a parallel point of competition between Christians and Jews, who were in turn doubly ostracized and persecuted for being better capitalists than their Christian brethren. We hate in others what we find most lacking in ourselves.

Nomads

arkThe Jews had many times before been a nomadic people, migrating “out of Egypt” to assume lands that God ostensibly bequeathed to them. This history conveniently (yet ironically) supplied the motivation and belief that God was on the side of all those who supposedly followed His way. Essentially this providence was stolen by those with a willingness to ignore the obligation to faith and honor of God’s law that came with it.

The Ark of the Covenant originally represented by Judeo-Christian tradition as a symbol of God’s promise instead became a possession as much as a promise. People embraced this materialistic version of faith because it resolved the guilt over being both rich and favored by God.

Made in God’s image?

For powerful Christians, there was still the issue of painting over the notion that Christianity had diverse origins in terms of race and culture. White Christians painted pictures of Jesus in their own image, and built tremendous cathedrals as signposts of its journey to world domination. Pagan traditions were folded into the faith as recruitment tools and these became (as Christmas did) signs that devotion to the faith was complete.  This cultlike triumphalism burst across the European landscape backed by religious fervor and an increasingly inventive ability to kill in the name of God.

Gustave_dore_crusades_entry_of_the_crusaders_into_constantinopleThis restless, almost unhinged worldview was held at bay by civilizations to the East that could resist its restless and warlike tendencies. Surely the Crusades were an attempt to “take back” the so-called Holy Land, but it never really stuck. That is still the case today. Another religion that shares the Abrahamic storyline simply won’t give in to Western pressures. That would be Islam, whose principle zealots hate both Jews and Christians alike.

Truth be told, no one really knows who was made in God’s image, or what lands and nations were bequeathed to whom. So the fight continues to this day.

Commerce and conquest

Fortunately, as civilizations grew and trade evolved, necessary compromises emerged. But even those promise continue to be broke by those too greedy to realize that sustainability is a foundational value in God’s kingdom.

Instead, the world is still being ruled by a desperate need for extraction based on the early Genesis belief that God ceded all the earth to a chosen people. Of course these folks miss the fact that their ancestors repeatedly engaged in behavior that invoked God’s wrath. So remains that this faulty history is a legacy that makes it convenient to go out and kill in the name of God, then beg forgiveness as if the carnage never happened. After all, that was how it was done in the Bible.

slaveBut even warlike Christians can’t conquer all. Stifled by resistance from the East, the now largely white races of human beings embracing God as their witness looked to expand their Empire in other directions. Africa was close enough, and a known quantity, but somehow it did not capture the imagination of Christians whose search for gold and conquests across the ocean still beckoned.

So the white migration embarked on its trans-Atlantic conquests, murdering and enslaving people as they arrived on the islands of the Caribbean, all along the Gulf of Mexico and up into North America. Cortez and his ilk had no mercy. It was kill and extract resources in the name of Kings and Queens and God.

Second wave

Then warlike whites flowed over through North America and the real conquest of the New World was begun. Once it got rolling and Manifest Destiny was invoked to justify the killing, there was no reason to slow down and consider what was truly going on. It was genocide all over again, and in biblical proportions.

Love your enemies, to death

FlagWaiverWhen it came to world expansion and domination, the whole “love your enemies” aspect of Christian tradition became an inverse equation. “We love our enemies because we bring them the message of God,” was the essential justification for taking over entire nations. Religion became confused with patriotism. Missionaries ran in the company of killers. It was either convert or die. Such is most of human history.

So the true meaning of “love your enemies” was beaten with a religious stick and cast aside out of convenience. It has never gotten completely out of the ditch into which it was self-righteously thrown. But like the Good Samaritan of old, there are Christians now seeking to right these wrongs and bring back the notion of loving our enemies in its full meaning. Likewise, these believers abhor use of indefensible discrimination by race and culture as tools of political manipulation and domination.

Foxy thinkers

The capitalistic Christians are fighting back hard. They treasure their supposed triumphs and value the social and political position it has bestowed upon them. They give it names like American Exceptionalism to justify the seeming victory of capital over loving our neighbors

But God knows better and always has. God does not like the calculated erection of euphemisms any more than the construction of a Golden Calf. These all represent efforts to circumvent the covenant of love and trust that is supposed to ride at the heart of all faith.

Violent defense of racism

It is both fascinating and disturbing to witness the often violent defense of racism as if it were an expression of God’s will. Of course it isn’t, but it reflects a conveniently perverted narrative of faith that embraces racial warfare as a sign of providential progress. Such was the case when a certain class of moneyed Christians tried to justify the use of slavery to prop up the economy of the American South. They even advocated secession from the Union as a tool of protest against their racist, stringently capitalistic worldview. Ultimately this effort failed, and yet their are millions who still abide by its philosophy and fly a Confederate flag as a sign that they have not yet evolved in their thinking.

Media wars

When you throw a dose of class warfare into this mix and enough money to broadcast the message through modern media and even news outlets, it can be hard to hold the line against the emergent brand of capitalistic faith.

Yet God and Christ said the meek shall inherit the earth, so we have that on our side. But it’s hard to watch the social and political carnage that takes place as a result of evil at work in the world. It has always been that way. Psalms and Lamentations have been written about why God allows evil to triumph. Perhaps it’s all one big godly big joke, and the Second Coming is the cosmic punchline.

Lacking that eventuality, we must look to the present for signs that balance can and will return. Of course evolution has an answer. It always does. We know that 99% of all living things that ever existed on the earth are now extinct. And despite the Judeo-Christian belief that God will provide a New Earth, there is biblical justification for thinking God has less of a sense of humor than we like to believe. The metaphor of the Noachian flood alone parallels God’s willingness to wipe out every living thing on earth in order to make things right again.

Noah’s Real Ark

Jan Brueghel the Elder, 1613

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings that I have created––people together with the animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

Who were these people God regretted? Were they the people who according to his word loved their neighbors as themselves? Or were they full of capitalistic fervor and conquering, warlike ways? Were they racists as well, bickering over the color of skin and the nations of origin? These were the evils God abhorred in human beings, for they lead to violence against any or all that they encounter and judge to be inferior.

And what does Noah represent? He represents those that hold out against such capitalistic fervor and the rank behaviors (the love of money is the root of all evil…) that come with it. The real ark of Noah is this commitment to hold out against violence, racism, discrimination and exploitation of others through war, commerce and prejudice. The real Noah recognizes that preserving aspects of God’s creation is paramount to faith.

Evolution and salvation

How interesting that it turns out our capitalistic ways of extraction and unhindered appetites for resources are similarly violent toward the very earth upon which we depend for survival? Indeed, we depend upon the earth even for salvation, yet capitalistic Christians defy laws that protect the environment on grounds that human beings should have the right to exploit the earth’s resources any way they see fit. This is based on the idea that the Genesis-driven notion of a literal “dominion” over the earth excuses all behaviors.

Yet what more potent symbol is there for salvation than protecting the earth, God’s creation? It’s almost as if evolution and God were conspiring to produce the same result as foretold in the story of Noah.

“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence,” the Bible says. “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them with all the earth.”

Notice that God’s massive anger is not about sex, or gay marriage or Mexicans working jobs that other Americans won’t take. God is angry about violence, especially capitalistic (exploitative) violence based on the unhinged belief that God bequeaths all the earth to a single race of people.

Sickness of mind

Donald Trump's proposed golf courseIt’s a sickness of mind that ignores the lessons of both evolution and God. Yet here we are, with news outlets and political parties proving every day that the real lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah were never learned. Those violent men at the door of Lot were not there for sex, but for violent, aggressive purposes of dominance and exploitation. That is why God destroyed those cities as well. The aggression and assumptive behaviors of people who thought strangers were their property to abuse was the real tipping point for God.

Those same people stand at the doors of society today, threatening and cajoling innocent citizens with their demands for wealth and power. They beg for our votes and hate the very government to which they get elected. They are conflicted, angry and violent men (and women in some cases) willing to take a nation to war as a means to further exploit the world and its resources.

And are you really going to believe what these types of people have to say when God clearly hates the violence and greed of their ways? One should hope not.

The painful truth of why some Christians feel persecuted

SoftballThe game of softball is a wonderful American past time. Even more than baseball perhaps, softball is played by teams of men and women for camaraderie and fun. Yet many players take their softball quite seriously. Bars and other businesses sponsor teams, providing uniforms and league fees in return for recognition and community support.

Powerhouses

A powerhouse softball team can dominate a softball league for many years. The reputation of a dynastic softball team can go a long way toward defeating opponents before the games even begin. One such team led the softball league in our city for several years before our newspaper-sponsored band of former baseball players and other athletes signed up to play together. That first year we ran head on into the powerhouse team in the quarterfinals and got knocked out. We had not built our roster completely and the home run hitters on the powerhouse team overwhelmed our run production capability.

Humble efforts

But the next year we added a couple more former college baseball players and the results of that year’s schedule and championship were entirely different. Our team still looked like the rag tag liberals in the league. We wore sweatpants and old stained hats to play. Our team shirts were nothing special for sure. But we played the game of softball with the practical flair of hit and run offense and great gloves on defense. We lost but two games all season, one to the powerhouse team in the league. The other game we lost because we were shorthanded due to family obligations.

The powerhouse team was still sure they would wipe us out in the championship round. They came to the park as they always did, full of loud voices and swagger. Their crisp new uniforms shone in the sun. Every at-bat they cheered and yelled intimidations at us in the field.

Yet midway through the third inning we had racked up 8 runs to their single home run in the second inning. Suddenly they came to the realization that their brand of intimidation and domination had worn off on us. We were catching their potential home runs, for one thing, and making plays on their other hitters as well. When we came to bat, we moved runners around the bases with hits and speed. They began screaming at each other for missing line drives and grounders that always seemed just out of reach. Their voices changed from a tone of domination to desperation.

Turning tables

For the next eight seasons in a row, our lowly-looking team of fundamentally sound softball players beat that team of blowhards during the regular season and for the championship too. No amount of muscle they added to their lineup really changed things.

They did complain to the umpires a lot more. Apparently they felt persecuted by the fact that the rules of play were not tipped somehow in their favor. They had bigger players and more home run hitters than us. They flexed their arms in the sun and they looked like winners in their uniforms. Yet we beat them year after year.

Spiteful congratulations

Finally, after the eighth season of getting tromped in the finals, one of them turned to me after the awards ceremony and pointed at the baseball glove trophy we’d received and said, with a dripping tone of cynicism in his voice, “Congratulations. All that thing will ever do is gather dust on your dresser.”

And he was right. But he was also so wrong. Because we’d accomplished what his team of perceived dominance could not do. We played by our own conscience and methods, and we won.

You could perhaps have argued that the powerhouse team with its pretty uniforms was a better representation of the sport of softball. Admittedly our team received more than one insult about our pragmatic mode of dress and lack of complete uniforms. Our response was always the same: What matters is how well you play the game.

That apparently felt like an insult in some way to our better-dressed competitors. Yet they never seemed to focus on the practical reasons why they continued to lose. The more home run hitters they added, the fewer runs they produced because fewer men ever got on base. As a result, they seemed to feel persecuted in their annual pursuit of overcoming their own flaws.

Hard lessons and loud fans

In sports and life and in business, the most critical aspect of improvement is grasping your weaknesses and understanding your strengths. That is key to making competitive adjustments in this world. It almost doesn’t matter what scale or what cultural meme to which you apply these standards, you either figure out why you’re losing or you keep on losing. Just ask the Cubs, but don’t blame a goat or a black cat. And remember that the team with the loudest fans does not always win.

The loud protestations by conservatives that Christianity is being “persecuted” and “attacked” by liberals is an often-heard meme across the media spectrum. Yet it does more to expose the rightly fallen status of fundamental Christianity as the once dominant religion in America. The plain and simple fact is that it is weaknesses in conservative theology that have done the most to persecute conservative Christianity. Biblical scholarship that does not commence with broad assumptions about the order and process New Testament dogma has done more to undermine fundamentalism as a worldview than secular liberalism could ever do. Yet everyday Christians with a commitment to social justice also find themselves divorced from fundamental Christianity with its often prejudicial treatment of women, people of color, gays and a whole host of other social targets pulled into the mix by conservative Christianity’s alliance with fiscal conservatives as well.

Now there has arisen a new brand of Protestantism of a Progressive brand seeking to reconcile social justice and the Bible. This new progressivism happens to align perfectly with the fundamental tenets of the United States Constitution and its call for equal rights. by contrast conservative Christianity seems perpetually engaged in denying equal rights to anyone judged to stand outside its often literal interpretations of scripture.

Conservative Christianity has long had it troubles with key elements of the social revolution. Inclusiveness proved difficult for people convinced that Christianity was the divine province of relatively wealthy and white people. Then when hippies starting calling on the Lord by name through very liberal productions such as Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar, conservatives felt they had enough and decided sometime in the 1960s to take their softball and go home.

But they couldn’t stay away from the political sandlot for long. They came back bellowing through the lungs of Jerry Falwell and for a few years looked like they might just win a season or two of political softball. The Moral Majority wrapped itself in flags and claimed that conservative Christianity owned the roots of the Constitution itself.

Sticking to what works

Truth be told however, it was liberalism with all its ties to Constitutional justice, equal rights and freedom from religion that was sticking closer to the Constitution.

Conservative Christians backed by political allies accused liberals and Democrats of cheating the political system handing out favors in the form of Social Security and Medicare in exchange for voting approval on the so-called Liberal Agenda.

There was only one problem with this storyline. Those social programs happen to align very closely with the fundamental tenets of true Christianity. Caring for the poor and sick is exactly what the Bible (and Jesus) calls on us to do. Our government basically started an insurance program back in the 1930s to keep people from becoming destitute in their retirement years of when they are elderly, sick and need the most help. That’s not a handout. That’s responsible management that happens to reflect true Christian values.

The abortion debate

That was not the only cognitive dissonance from the Right. Because beyond having failed in making a connection with the American people on compassionate social programs, the Christian Right elected to take issue with other trends they considered social ills. The right to abortion was one of those issues.

The problem with abortion as an issue of Christian concern is that its simple and preventative solutions such as prescribing birth control and delivering sex education have both been branded as liberal, not moral, solutions to the prevalence of abortions. Even the Catholic church with its so-called rhythm method of birth control could not fool its own constituents. This theologically twisted (and often flawed) advice has been ignored en masse by Catholic families, 97% of whom use conventional methods of birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Wrong again and again on science

Conservative Christianity has executed similarly bold yet spectacularly wrongheaded campaigns against science and evolution as ell. The entire creationist ideology that depends on literal interpretation of the Bible is nothing more than a ‘science of denial.’ Not a single scientific discovery has ever been directed or proven through the lens of creationism. The same goes for the euphemistic Intelligent Design movement that chooses to openly ignore the fact modern medicine and all our sciences depend upon evolutionary theory as a foundational method for proposing and testing scientific facts. The ID movement predictably labels this brand of science a tautology, but again, not a single scientific fact or theory has, or ever can be, tested through ID. The reason is simple. No one can test for the presence or absence of God in a natural or organic process. Therefore it is not a science. It is a religion.

Loud losers

With all these profound losses of credibility and practicality on its ledger, it is no wonder conservative Christianity feels persecuted. If you’re going to stand in center field and yell about how your opposition sucks when the score is 20-1 against your team, that’s a choice some people seem happy and determined to make.

But to hedge its bets and counter these massive losses of credibility over the years, conservative Christianity is taking an entirely different approach to imposing its will on America. It has decided that rather than try to win the game fairly, it is better to simply buy up all the teams and even try to own the league itself.

That’s what the new conservative strategy is all about. If you outright own the league (or the Senate and House that govern it) it doesn’t much matter how good or right your opponent truly is about the Constitution or any other subject. This strategy is abetted by the convenient and persistent transfer of wealth from the middle class, which tends to vote for pragmatically liberal issues and social justice, to the wealthiest Americans in bed with equally conservative Christians.

This strategy is harrowlingly abetted by the convenient and persistent transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest Americans in bed with equally conservative Christians. This further removes power from proponents of pragmatical liberal issues and social justice. The Citizens United ruling rubber stamped by a conservative Supreme Court helped usher in a new age corporate ownership of the political process.

The tortured truth of Fox News

The Christian Right even owns its own broadcast team so that fans of the Home Team never hear any criticism of conservative Christianity and its political or business allies. Fox loves the use of strongarm tactics and bullying to get its way. It even cheered and supported ex-VP Dick Cheney when he spoke out in defense of torturing Iraqis. It is hard to believe that Jesus would support such a viewpoint. After all, it could not have been pleasant being scourged by his Roman captors and spat upon, or forced to carry a piece of heavy timber to the place where soldiers nailed his wrists to the wood and let him expire from stress and bleeding. But Fox News and its conservative alliance thought it was fine to torture and persecute often innocent citizens in search of information about a war that America started as a retaliation against a country that wasn’t involved in the 9/11 attacks.

How very Christian of us 

But Fox News with its team of mostly white male and female hack cheerleaders loudly proclaims that Christians are the ones being persecuted. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly love this approach to gaining complicity. It makes them tons of money beckoning to the jingoistic fervor of conservatives who seem to love to have an enemy at which to point their rage.

There is just one problem with this last grasp for victory. Jesus himself told us to love our enemies, not persecute them or claim to be persecuted by others. Turn the other cheek, remember? Or at the very least shake the dust from your sandals (or softball shoes) and move on to make your point in another town.

But even Jesus said to make sure you got the message right before you go shaking the dust off anything. Even his own disciples missed the metaphorical foundations of his teaching, asking him why he was so liberal with his organic symbolism rather than just “telling it straight.”

“Are you so dull?” he challenged his disciples. Or, “Are you also without understanding?’

See, the disciples of Jesus felt a bit persecuted by the fact that more people did not accept what Jesus was teaching. But Jesus had them stop and think about what they were actually saying. “If you can’t understand my message,” he admonished them (and I paraphrase) “then how can you be trusted to share it with others?”

Indeed the disciples never got the whole message until Jesus gave himself over to be killed. In that single act, designed to both liberate and liberalize the faith of the Jewish and the Gentiles alike, he was sending a message that you cannot be persecuted in his name unless you bring it upon yourself and make it so.

The Advent of Meta Christianity

IMG_8609META referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

Somewhere in the long arc of its transformation from a religious belief system to a political movement, Christianity lost a big chunk of its soul to a social phenomenon more concerned with owning the public dialogue over proving its theological merits in actual practice.

This was the advent of Meta Christianity, in which confessional language and dog-whistle politics contrive to take over society. 

Big Dogs

It’s not hard to point out the cast of characters that borrowed the authority of a well-respected religion as a means to self-empowerment. They are all famous names with whom we are all familiar. The process was slow at first, with social and religious conservatives frustrated by democratic rulings on issues such as abortion. But then the movement toward a more political form of Christianity formed around the likes of Jerry Falwell, a televangelist who formed the so-called Moral Majority in collusion with equally conservative politicians that found it quite convenient to borrow the authority of Christianity for their personal objectives of getting elected. Again. And again.

Voting blocs

Courting the so-called Christian voting blog translated into power for conservatives willing to say all the right things to convince conservative voters their morals were in the right place. The power conferred by the Christian voting bloc further converted the forrmely faith-based ideals of Christianity into a brand focused on social and political authority. The word Christian came to mean something entirely different than it once did, taking on a form that willingly confused God with Country. To achieve this aim the new form of old-time Christianity needed to ignore the very plain language in the United States Constitution Establishment Clause which says  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….”

And that was the advent of Meta Christianity. No longer was conservative Christianity going to bother abiding by its tradition of self-examinative remorse, repentance and reformation.Meta Christianity said the hell with that. The former introspective faith in the model of Christ would now be replaced by a self-referential new order focused on never admitting you’re wrong and asking people to join along because it’s the right thing to do. The Meta Christian takes a new vow: “We’re more interested in gaining power and getting our way than explaining ourselves to people who don’t get what we’re doing.”

Conventions

By these methods Meta Christians began by definition to refer to itself and its conventions as a genre outside the realm of normal social criticism. Using the age-old methods of requiring “proof texts” from the Bible to engage in any criticism of its objectives, Meta Christianity has endeavored to remove itself from any form of social criticism at all. It does the same with its politics, especially by claiming loudly and often that America was founded as a Christian nation. 

Manifestos

These tactics extend to the view of America both as a nation of destiny and as a tool for the End Times. Fundamental Christians love to claim the mantle of God’s Chosen people. The thin veil of the former worldview known as Manifest Destiny is thus torn away and worn all over again like a new garment. The Meta version of its racial overtones embrace age-old prejudicial values against people of color and origin, lambasting emigrants and Muslims and anyone that Meta Christians choose to see as an enemy. This is all based on the Meta-Christian’s perceived state of privilege by providence. 

End Times

Meanwhile some Meta Christians seem eager to hurry along the end of time any way they can. When George W. Bush first attacked Iraq in 2003, there was some hope in some deeply religious (but apparently not patriotic) quarters that a magical key was being turned in the Mideast that would bring on Armageddon and drag Christ back to earth for Judgment Day.

Even analysis from within the Christian faith has no effect on Meta Christians. Progressive Biblical scholars such as Marcus Borg, John Crossan and Rev.John Shelby Spong easily point out the contradictions inherent in Meta Fundamental Christianity by documenting the many ways in which the Bible is not infallibly composed. Bart D. Ehrman in his book Misquoting Jesus (Harper/San Francisco) documents how scribes who copied scripture sometimes changed it either intentionally or unintentionally. In so doing he points out the foibles of taking any section of scripture literally, and demonstrates the danger of those foibles at play in the modern context. Typically these include persecution of those who are made targets by literal interpretations of scripture. These include women, gays, Jews, blacks or anyone that gets casually or pointedly mentioned in the Bible as a transgressor of some sort. There is no distinctive virtue in these methods except that it provides a convenient way to define “the other” and thus give Meta Christianity the enemies it needs to rally troops to membership and shared power. 

Science of denial

But Meta Christianity turns a purposely deaf ear on such erudite analysis of its beliefs. It also lovingly ignores the findings of science, flirting happily instead with the science of denial constituted by contrived theories such as creationism and intelligent design. As a result, some 30% of Meta Christians in America claim not to trust science, especially the theory of evolution. That’s one out of two people under the influence of Meta Christianity, which uses its reputation as protectors of the truth to fuel doubts and fears of intellectual pursuits in its constituents.

Rightward ho!

Thus the advent of self-referential and self-evidencing religion of power over biblical substance continues to evolve. When challenged over this assumed position of authority in society, Meta Christianity has simply moved farther to the Right as a means to insulate itself from any brand of secular analysis. Of course Meta Christian politicians love that kind of voter. It saves them lots of work trying to convince people they are indeed “voting their values.”

Dead Ends

There’s just one problem with all this Meta Christianity. It’s a literal and physical dead end when it comes to addressing the problems of the present and future. The Meta Christian relationship with End Times theology is problem enough when considering what to do about foreign relations and plans for dealing with global climate change. Meta Christians are prone to the disturbing claim that the end is coming soon and there’s nothing we can do about it anyway. No wonder Meta Christians fall in line with the radical political right on the idea that government is the problem, not a solution to human problems or needs. If the most radical brands of Meta Christians had their way, America would simply dump its entire governmental system and trust God to solve all problems in the home of the brave and the land of the free.

F the Establishment Clause

That’s definitely not what the Founding Fathers set out to do in forming a more perfect union or writing the United States Constitution. The Establishment Clause exists for a reason. It protects the freedoms of all citizens, not just those who claim to curry favor with God. Meta Christianity sees that as an obstacle, not the law of the land. We will be wise to keep an eye on protecting the Constitution from those who would redefine its purpose in a self-referential way.

Misquoting Jesus: http://www.amazon.com/Misquoting-Jesus-Story-Behind-Changed/dp/0060859512, Bart D. Ehrman, Harper San Francisco,

Republican Presidential candidate Scott Walker would love to punt us all

IN a recent interview in London, Scott Walker illustrates how and why Republican conservatives refuse to accept science as a foundation for dialogue about politics

Scott WalkerOne of the leading Republican candidates for the presidential nomination in 2016 is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. A well-known advocate of conservative principles such as busting unions and defunding public education, Walker is exploring his Republican darling status by setting up a campaign office in the state of Iowa, where all presidential aspirations begin.

In the meantime, Walker is still playing Governor for the State of Wisconsin. In that role he drifted overseas to London, England to talk trade. During an introductory interview with his London contacts and the press, Walker was asked a simple question by his English hosts. “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it?”

Walker’s reply was textbook Republican political deflection. “For me, I’m gonna punt on that one,” he said. “That’s a question a politician should not be involved in one way or another.”

Shallow depths

Really? That’s all the deeper the thinking goes with Scott Walker? That when asked about his understanding of the primary descriptive theory used by science to define the origins of life, he chooses to “punt?”

It’s no wonder the audience laughed at Scott Walker’s reply. They were not laughing with him. They were laughing at him.

Scott Walker evidences a very shallow grasp of the impact of worldview on one’s politics and by proxy, on the politics of the world. By denying evolution one essentially denies one of the principle foundations of modern science, the realm of human thought that drives all technology, medicine, agriculture and environmental science.

Not fit for office

A politician that does not grasp or accept the concepts that drive our understanding of the world is clearly not qualified to serve in public office. It’s time that this qualifier be brought to the very front of the political equation.

This is especially true here in America, where one in four people claim not to accept the theory of evolution. Most base these beliefs on religious grounds and a literalistic interpretation of the Bible that says evolution could not have occurred because everything on earth was created instantaneously and fully developed by God.

Never mind the clear evidence in the morphological processes that take a human zygote from cellular to human form in a mere nine months. There can’t be any trace of our genetic and development history in that short process, can there?

Cognitive dissonance on science

When someone raises the question as to whether evolution is true or not, it comes packed with an even more important question. How can you accept the benefits of science without believing in it? Isn’t that the very same thought process as taking the very grace of God for granted?

And yes, we did just equate science to God in that sentence. Because God has no problem with science. Neither did his son Jesus, who taught important spiritual lessons using highly naturalistic yet metaphorical symbols from earthly life to teach about the kingdom of God. All throughout the Bible these wonderful examples of organic fundamentalism exist. We find expressions of God in all of nature, but that does not make nature into God.

The Bible tells me so

The Bible is fully reconcilable to science if a rigid template of literalism is not clamped over its interpretation. Jesus was a naturalist in its most broad definition. He saw the earth as a wellspring of meaning, something about which we should be both curious and proud.

Despite these incredible truths we find that the ardent anti-scientific crowd is not content with metaphorical truths. So they construct their own brand of hardened truths around constructs such as creationism, which is not a science at all, other than a science of denial. There is also so-called “intelligent design” which claims that the world is simply too complex to have evolved on its own.

That is the lobby to whom Scott Walker beckons and bows when he says he has to “punt” on the question of belief in evolution. We have 25% or more of the American population proud as hell that they’re ignorant of their own biblical tradition and its metaphorical foundations. They are aggressively content to ignore the example of their own spiritual naturalist Jesus Christ in favor of putting more import in the methodologies of the Pharisees, whose passion for putting law over love was repugnant to Jesus. He called them a “brood of vipers” (another organic image!) to their faces. They didn’t get it.

Pandering for power

Paired with an equally pandering political herd of political and economic conservatives, there exists an entire alliance of doctrinal freaks who like to deny that evolution even exists. As a result, America is stuck in a cycle of patent denial of such realities climate change, a theory of anthropocentric pollution that is causing the earth’s atmosphere to warm.  97% of of the worlds credible scientists worldwide agree that climate change and global warming is a human-driven problem.

But not conservatives like Scott Walker. We can ascertain from his answer about evolution what Scott Walker would say about climate change as well. “The science is not decided.” The reasons why he would give that answer have to do with who funds his political aspirations. The Koch brothers are highly invested in carbon-based industries that have made them both billionaires. Scott Walker is suckling at their trough along with a host of other politicians paid to do the bidding of the oil, gas and coal industries causing global climate change. It’s that simple. And that corrupt as a worldview.

But back to the main topic. We have some news for you Scotty. Things like evolutionary science are never “decided.” On anything. Science researches and tests and revises its understandings about the physical and biological world based on experimentation, analysis, discoveries and documentation. Then scientific peers try their best to tear it all down. If it survives––as has the theory of evolution in most of its forms–– then it becomes the canon by which we describe how things work.

Conservatives politicians love to claim this dynamic as a defiant reason for resisting science as a worldview. Yet conservatism has an absolutely horrid track record of being right about anything to do with the physical and material realities of this world.

Pope Francis shoots down the conservative worldview

Can we consider the position of the Catholic Church on the position of the earth at the center of the universe? And can we consider that same August body insisting for quite a long time that the earth was flat? The Catholic Church resisted the theory of evolution when it was first introduced as well. Yet even the Catholic Church acknowledges that evolution is true.

How interesting that even the new Catholic Pope Francis is now experiencing blowback from conservative American interests for calling very biblical principles to the fore of the church’s ministries. He calls for helping the poor. Holding the rich accountable for their conduct in business. Pope Francis is opening the arms of the church to gays and all who experience discrimination in the world. He lambasts the idea that the Bible should be interpreted literally at all. His main contention? That which does not lead believers to the love of Christ is obsolete.

The Pope’s entire ministry does not sit well with American conservatives who prefer their pet discrimination projects against gays and the poor. Now that the Pope is calling people to account for their backwards beliefs he has run afoul of the very supporters of men like Governor Scott Walker who frankly would rather “punt” on real solutions to social problems in favor of casting blame on all those they deem lazy, inferior or flawed. Frankly that’s a fascist worldview. It is neither Christlike or scientific in foundation. Instead it is selfish, plain and simple.

Patent ideology

And that’s why Scott Walker is unfit to hold public office. His worldview evidences a cognitive dissonance that embraces the love of money and a patent ideology of social control over all else. He’s a passive/aggressive personality, if not indeed a true sociopath. His interactions with public unions demonstrate a severe lack of empathy or even curiosity about the actual concerns of the very employees he was elected to serve.

So it’s no wonder he chooses to “punt” on a very legitimate question from a very legitimate source in the world. Scott Walker will punt us all if it would serve his selfish, psychopathic aims and the economic motives of those who fund his efforts. He’s already proven that at the state level. Let’s hope his sociopathic tendencies are exposed well before he reaches a national stage.

What “The Blaze” readers have to say about evolution is rather depressing

In order to keep abreast of conservative thinking in this country and beyond, I track a few conservative blogs, news feeds and websites to understand how the “thinking goes,” as they say. These include “The Blaze” which offers an ostensibly insightful news summary each day.

Recently The Blaze proudly linked to a video in which some stalwart creationist resisted a gift from commentator and former NBA star Bill Walton, who handed over a copy of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

This video pissed off the readers of The Blaze to no end. The Blaze added some interview commentary to the posting of the video. Here is how they summarized the actual exchange.

“Here we’ve got ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin,” Walton said, handing Pasch the book. “We want to make sure that you believe in evolution.”

Pasch was quick to respond, “I don’t, but I’ll set this over here,” telling Walton that he has a book that counters the arguments presented in “The Origin of Species” and that he would be happy to bring it along with him to the next basketball game.

After some additional banter, Pasch added that perhaps the two could discuss “irreducible complexity” so that he could “straighten [Walton] out.” Irreducible complexity is a controversial theory espoused by some creationists that argues that “some biological systems are so complex and so dependent upon multiple complex parts, that they could not have evolved by chance,”

Actually the concept of “irreducible complexity” is basically a science of denial, not discovery. The idea that some aspects of the world are too complex to have evolved on their own is by nature a philosophical argument, not a scientific verity. It proves nothing but the irreducible stubbornness of some to relinquish antiquated religious and/or scientific beliefs that all we can ever know about the world has already been discovered.

Irreducible complexity cannot be used to engender any pursuit of predictive logic as can the relatively well-known fields of genetics, which regularly depends upon the science of evolution in cells to engineer health and life support strategies driving fields of modern medicine.

Even the foundations of the material world are regularly being explored by scientists in pursuit of mathematically predicted realities such as the Higgs-Boson.

Physics, biology and science as a rule do not depend on God to help describe how the universe functions. That is the issue. There is no specific agenda among scientists to disprove the theory of God. They simply don’t need God to do their work. Some prefer to call this logical approach to science a form of atheism.

Take, for example, the claims by The Blaze reader RabidPatriot who made these comments in response to the article about the anti-science world in which they believe:

RabidPatriot

Jan. 16, 2015 at 12:06pm

The entire field of evolutionary biology is nothing more than an Atheistic secular progressive cult. Atheist biologists get into the field for the sole purpose of disproving the existence of God. You can’t advance in the field if you have a differing view because of “peer review.” If you publish something that is not inline with Atheistic evolution, the other cult members will give you a negative peer review and then work really hard to discredit everything that you wrote. Even if all if their discrediting papers are nothing more than pseudoscience nonsense, the Atheist cabal will make sure they all get good peer reviews and then shun you from ever advancing in the field or ever getting grant money.
There is a reason why there is a missing link… it doesn’t exist. It’s a waste of time arguing with Atheist evolution cultists. I just let them chase their tail and I go do something worthwhile. They are the same as the man made global warming cultists. They have no proof, and even in the face of discrediting evidence, they still hold true to their cult beliefs.

Well. That’s a really interesting set of contentions isn’t it? But it’s rather a rather confusing worldview. RabidPatriot seems to think there is actually a religious motivation behind all fields of science to disprove the existence of God. Then he wraps that together with a claim that scientists who believe in global warming are part of some kind of “cult” as well. He characterizes “peer reviewed” science as a collegial club determined to come to one conclusion about a theory when in fact nothing is further from the truth. Scientists tear each other apart of their theories. Nothing is sacrosanct. Not even evolution as a principle.

So if there was any sort of credence to these ideas about irreducible complexity, and should they be replicable in any sort of scientific procedure, the scientific community would embrace them if they could be demonstrated to be true.

But they cannot, because again, the entire intelligent design community and its sister belief system creationism are nothing more than a science of denial.

As for the religious overtones of all this, creationism and intelligent design are quite honesty an insult to God. They demand that the Creator is a one-trick pony incapable of change or bringing about life in any way possible. That’s the really sad thing about all of this. RabidPatriot and all his zealous allies miss the point. Like the Catholic Church years ago who refused to believe the Earth was not the center of the universe, these people refuse to believe that human beings and their cloying beliefs are not the center of the universe either. And it’s killing us because as a result, we’re literally holding back the evolution of the human species.