Monday, December 21, 2009

An Inconvenient Religiosity

I just recently spent a week with my oldest daughter, my son-in-law and my four grandsons. It was wonderful to see the boys who are far too far away. While I was there my daughter related an incident from one of her recent speaking engagements that is my current subject.

The daughter in question is a notable in the movement toward sustainable uses of the environment, particularly in agriculture. She spoke at a conference in Georgia organized to bring evangelical Christians together with environmentalists over global climate change. From the environmentalist point of view it seemed as if an immanent threat to the creation of the evangelicals' big imaginary friend in the sky should create a natural alliance. After all, if you want to save the world it doesn't much matter whether you're saving it because you don't want to die or because it violates something you misinterpret from a work of poetry and historical fiction you call "The Bible".

Unfortunately, the fundamentalists who make up the bulk of evangelical Christians, as I have noted before have answers and need not ask questions. With the discussion turning to rising sea levels that could drown a number of populated islands and coasts one fundamentalist offered that there was nothing to worry about because his god had promised Noah that he would not again destroy the world with a flood.

Say what?

Well, it's right there in the King James Version, isn't it? God, speaking in his native Jacobean English, promises Noah that he will send no more floods to cover the earth. Ergo and ipso facto all this melting of ice caps is simply irrelevant. God said no more floods.

My daughter couldn't learn tact from me because I don't have any, but she did learn to think on her feet and answered this poor fool that god may have promised that he wouldn't flood the world again but he didn't say he would stop humanity from destroying the earth with a flood. This, she said, seemed to give this person pause. Whether it will penetrate the armor of ignorance this person has eagerly donned we shall see and can only hope. Personally, I don't think it will. Such a distinction requires too much of the thought from which fundamentalists flee headlong.

Thought and questioning are anathema to fundamentalism but what is absolutely essential to the fundamentalist mindset is victimhood. These folks absolutely must see themselves as a tiny, persecuted minority in a vast sea of humanity fully prepared to attack them at the slightest provocation. They are never the oppressors. In the evangelicals' delusion they hang the witch, assassinate the apostate, burn the book and hold themselves apart in a closed and closed minded circle of their congregations as a desperate defense against the attacks of others whom, in their clouded minds, they would never think of attacking.

Take the farrago of "the homosexual agenda" for example. For the evangelical fundamentalists they are a tiny island of true Christians amongst a vast sea of corrupt mainstream sects and homosexuals salivating over their children. The mainstream sects, in their view, have capitulated to the gays, lesbians and transgendered but weren't "true" Christians to begin with since only the fundamentalists descended, uncorrupted from the original Christian apostles. The homosexuals are out to victimize this tiny, beset minority. The gays are the lions to whom the mainstream religions, in the role of Nero's Roman legions, would feed the poor defenseless evangelicals. A simple demand for equal rights under law like the right to visit a sick partner, inherit the share of what had been joint property for many years and, of course, the right to marry are not cries for justice, they are subtle attacks on these "true" Christians.

The fact is that these evangelical fundamentalists, the Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson followers are not Christians at all. Their crabbed, selfish and blinkered religiosity is simply a fun house mirror version of Christianity, distorted beyond recognition and with barely a millimeter or two of depth. They know what their god said to the fictional Noah but not what is actually happening to their own world. Worse yet, their willful ignorance speeds the destruction of what they claim is their god's creation. Further, and worst of all, when they do acknowledge that destruction they find some excuse that fits with their willful ignorance much as those twin banes of genuine religion Falwell and Robertson did when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. And, of course, when tornadoes destroy churches in Kansas or Oklahoma their god had taken a lunch break or perhaps was away in the bathroom and just didn't notice. Those devastations are accidents, not visitations of their god's wrath. Perhaps they should be wary of the fact that no voice from the skies has instructed any of them to build an ark. Perhaps their god has simply decided that they are so blockheaded and stupid that explaining the measure of a cubit wouldn't be worth his while. Perhaps their yearning for victimhood will get it's final expression when their big, imaginary friend in the sky makes them the victims of climate change.