Sunday, October 18, 2009

Would you vote for Jesus?

I had a really good chat with someone yesterday regarding one of my favourite topics – Jesus in politics.  In fact the chat was so good I just had to explore the idea a little further.  I have no idea how things work where you live but here, everyone looooves Jesus come election time.  From the most hardcore right wing white supremacists to the socialists and communists on the other end of the spectrum all seem to think that Jesus is on their side and by extension, that if He was still hanging around, He would totally vote their way.  No, I take that back.  Listening to politicians invoke Jesus you get the idea that they don’t just think that He would have supported them, no He would have joined their party, high five'd everyone and signed up as their presidential candidate.  Yes, politicians are nothing if not a constant source of amusement to me*.

I think the idea of Jesus for President is hilarious because Jesus would be the most unpopular president of all time and no one would hate Him more than the very people who currently claim they would vote for Him.  Don’t get me wrong, its not that I necessarily think Jesus would be a bad president.  Some of His policies may make some of the people happy but on the whole it should take all of 5 minutes before they try to impeach and/or assassinate Him.

Disagree?  Think all would be joy and joyness under President Jesus?  Then tell me, have you really thought about what His policies would mean in practical terms?

President Jesus would most likely disband all the armed forces, close down the Department of Defense and institute a national policy of “Loving your enemy” and “Turning the other cheek”.  Under the “Do good to those that hate you” and “If your enemy is hungry, feed him” clauses of the “Loving your enemy” policy, foreign policy would look very different.  It would mean that if another state is hell bent on destroying you, the response would be increased aid packages.

Not quite sure what would happen to the Department of Justice under President Jesus.  On the one hand He is certainly pro-Law and pro-justice but you have to wonder how His “Turn the other cheek” policy would impact the prosecution of assault and battery.  I’m also unclear if robbery would still be a crime under the “give to all who demand of you” policy – kinda seems like the only people breaking the law would be those who try to defend their property!  Then there is the thorny matter of prostitution.  President Jesus’ policy seems to be that prostitution is wrong but prostitutes shouldn’t be punished.  That almost seems like a non-policy…

Education seems like a bit of a gray area since President Jesus never mentioned it much during His campaign.  If I had to hazard a guess based on His personal and cultural background, He would probably favour home based Bible education as well as trade schools.  No indication at this time if there will be special tax breaks for carpenters.

 Speaking of taxes I think the good news is that Jesus probably will not be raising taxes.  The bad news is that He probably won’t be lowering it either since He has a policy that all taxes must be paid in full regardless of whether they are fair or unfair.

The banking sector would be waiting with dread to find out whether President Jesus plans on applying His “lend without asking back” policy to them or if He is instead planning on falling back to the more traditional “interest free loans to citizens” policy.  Either way I’m sure they are as worried about that as the agriculture sector is regarding His proposed gleaning laws**.

Now if all of that sounds great to you then bully for you (you unwashed, hemp wearing, commune living, vegan hippy you), but even a person as insanely optimistic and idealistic as yourself must recognize that President Jesus would have very little support under the general population of any country.  And by “very little” I mean “virtually nothing”.

On second thought, now that I think about it I really would like to see Jesus as president - if only so I can watch the faces of everyone who ever bought a "Jesus for President" bumper sticker as they realise how few of the “Bible based” ideals they hold most dear are actually based on the Bible!  Worth it!

It’s almost as amusing as listening to guys like James Dobson claim that our democratic rights are from God/The Bible***.  Honestly the only way to claim that with a straight face is to never have read the Bible.  Go find the passage detailing our rights and privileges in the Bible, I dare you.  I double dare you!  If our rights were based on the Bible then for one thing we would still have slaves (and they wouldn’t have any rights worth mentioning) and for another women wouldn’t have any rights – they would be property.  There definitely would be no biblical base for freedom of religion.  Now no doubt that would be good news to some ears, but the people attached to those ears tend to believe that they and their group would be the advantaged ones.  No one ever seems to wonder if Matt 7:22-23 may apply to them for some reason…  Furthermore there would be no freedom of expression, not with death penalties for blasphemy, cursing your parents, etc.  Would we even have an art community if we put the “no graven images on pain of death” thing in the law books?  Let’s face it, you will have a far easier time calling a monarchy/dictatorship “Bible based” than democracy.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think Jesus set a bad example.  On the contrary, I think the world would be a far less scary place if more people acted more like Jesus.  If you call yourself a disciple of Jesus then you are supposed to follow His example and live by His teachings.  Now despite what we get told at election time, Jesus never told anyone who to vote for so concerning politics, if you follow Rabbi Jesus then consider what He stood for and vote for whoever you can with a clean conscience.  Other than that, please stop trying to squeeze him into your favourite political ideology, its never going to be a good fit.  No matter what you do, while you may get some bits of Him into the box, other bits are going to stick out.  So stop trying.  Jesus had plenty of opportunities to go into politics during His brief stay on Earth, don’t you think if He had any interest in being a political leader He would have gone that way instead?  Does the fact that He steered clear of politics mean nothing to you?  He didn’t want to be crowned king, I’m pretty sure He is not that keen on being elected president either.

*Laughter is my preferred option because it keeps me from a politically induced weeping depression.  
** Nicknamed the “Pacman Policy” because it lets everyone who pass by your property eat as much as they want from your crops.  For free.
*** The best part is when they say something along the lines of “but if your rights are from the state then the state can take it away!”  Seriously, are these people living on a different planet than the rest of us?  Governments take rights away all the time!  Think Apartheid, think internment camps, think Patriot Act – the list is gut wrenchingly long.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Deep Madness

Pop quiz:  You call yourself a Bible believing Christian.  You belong to a mainstream evangelical church and you have strong conservative values.  You are a family values kind of person who knows their right wing from their wrong.  You love nothing more than Jesus, Capitalism and Patriotism (though not necessarily in that order).  Just to reiterate, you are not in a fringe sect of some kind at all and furthermore you are very insistent that you base all your morals and values on a literal reading of the Bible.  Now, lets say you – the conservative, Bible based Christian – come across certain things in the Bible that doesn’t quite mesh with your ideas about society and politics.  Do you:

a) Change your political and societal ideas in order to be in line with Biblical teaching
b) Rewrite the Bible so that it better reflects your opinions

If you chose option a then you must be some kind of liberal, left-wing, baby killing, tree hugging, freedom hating, Nazi communist.  Well you are as far as the fine folks over at Conservapeadia are concerned at least, because these good Christian folks have decided to save us all from all that “liberal bias” the Bible seems to be full of.  Instead they are publishing a new improved Bible with all that liberal hippie nonsense removed.  Here are some of the problems with the Bible that desperately need fixing according to the Conservative Bible Project:

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.”

"Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the "social justice" movement among Christians.
For example, the conservative word "volunteer" is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word
"comrade" is used three times, "laborer(s)" is used 13 times, "labored" 15 times, and "fellow" (as in "fellow worker") is used 55 times."

Makes sense doesn’t it?  You can’t have all these loopy ideas about forgiveness and fairness and caring for the poor and destitute in the feakin Bible!  I mean surely waarglh baraaghe laaagne graaahgelaht…

OK, I’m sorry but try as I might I can’t really hope to ridicule this.  I like to think of satire as weaponized laughter and normally it is perfect for defeating bat guano insane wackaloons like these but this has gone way too far.  When they came up with The Conservative Bible Project they shattered the WTF-barrier and didn’t even slow down.  It is so ridiculous that I honestly don't think it can be ridiculed.  It’s officially beyond satire as there is nothing left to exaggerate or mock.

Poe's Law states:
“Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing.”

Methinks it would be fair to say that Poe’s Law has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt here.  This seems like the kind of thing you would read in The Onion but alas, this is really happening and it’s no joke.  Actual Christians have actually gone this far off the reservation.  I have been trying to come up with words to joke about it for weeks now but after a while it all just becomes gibberish as the absurdity of it all overwhelms me.  So since words fail me, I’ll have to resort to posting a picture of my WTF face:

 I think what gets to me is the fact that these people would most probably proudly state that Protestant Christianity is superior to Catholic Christianity due to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  These are probably the same people who denounce Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses for trumping the Bible with secondary writings.  The hypocrisy of it all astounds me!  How irony deficient do you need to be in order to call yourself “Bible believing” while you are altering the Bible?  How oblivious do you have to be to claim with a straight face that you base your opinions on Scripture while you are changing Scripture to fit your opinions?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Darwin, Racism & Things that Don't Matter

Finding a Creationist argument against evolution that is filled with ignorance and completely out of touch with reality is like finding someone named John – if you can’t find it you must not be looking very hard.  Yet there is one Creationist argument that manages to surpass its peers.  It is more ignorant than the “evolution is just a theory argument.  It’s more devoid of fact than the old receding moon argument*.  Yes, I am referring to the old “Darwin was a racist and so is evolution!1!1!!” argument.  Here is a fun recent example,  from a review of a new book called “DARWIN'S RACISTS - YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW” (no, I didn’t add the ALL CAPS, that was all them):

“DARWIN'S RACISTS - YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW exposes the real Charles Darwin: a racist, a bigot and 1800's naturalist whose legacy is mass murder. This well written book shows that Adolf Hitler, along with other genocidal mass murderers, was influenced by Darwin's half-baked Theory of Evolution. This book exposes Darwin's Theory of Evolution for what it is: an elitist and racist dogma that has infiltrated our every area of culture thereby undermining sense and sensibility.”

It would be hard for any other argument to fail this hard on so many levels.  Adding insults to ignorance is no way to win debates and this entire argument is utterly meaningless.  Let me count the ways.

It’s meaningless because it doesn’t matter if you like the facts.  Let’s pretend every single nasty thing the Discovery Institute, Ken Ham, Kent Hovind and all the rest ever said about Darwin and evolution leading to genocide and evil is 100% true.  In fact, let’s make up some more even worse things and let’s say they are true too.  So what?  Truth is not a democracy.  We don’t get to vote out our least favourite facts American Idol style.  Truth is truth, regardless of where it comes from or where it takes you.  Facts are facts no matter their implications. 

It’s meaningless because we don’t use scientific theories to determine our behaviour.  The Creationist insistence that exposing kids to evolution will turn them into raping, pillaging homicidal maniacs is about as out of touch with reality as you can get.  Do you stop thinking that your loved ones are special because atomic theory tells you they are just the same atoms, electrons (and lots of empty space) as everyone/everything else?  Do you push people down stairs because the theory of gravity compels you to?  Of course you don’t because that is ridiculous!  Scientific theories describe how the natural world functions and that is all they do.  They are descriptive, not prescriptive and therefore how we behave towards one another is on us, not the laws of nature. 

It’s meaningless because defaming the inventor does not defame the invention.  This is theological thinking at work – prove the prophet is a fraud and you render his message meaningless (See Swaggart & Haggard).  However while this may be the case in the field of ethics and morality, it hardly applies anywhere else.  If I could prove to you that the Wright brothers were paedophiles, would you stop flying?  If I could demonstrate beyond a shadow of doubt that the inventor of the wheel was a cannibal would you stop driving?  No?  Then why do they imagine that bigotry in Darwin’s life should be the silver bullet that kills the Theory of Evolution?  Many of our greatest scientists had some seriously kooky beliefs but we consistently don’t care because it’s irrelevant to their accomplishments.  Over here in the real world we don’t care that Newton stuck a needle in his eye just to see what would happen or that Tesla dreamed of death rays – their science stands independently of their eccentricities.

It’s meaningless because Darwin wasn’t the lord and king of racism.  If you listen to Creationists talk about Darwin you would swear the whole world was just filled with liberty, equality and brotherly love until he wrote The Origin of Species and ruined it for everybody.  The truth is that slavery, racism and bigotry was around for millennia by the time Darwin was born.  Darwin was not the evil racist he is made out to be, in fact he was very enlightened for his time - opposing slavery and treating people of all races with compassion.  The key words though being for his time.  Of course you can find racist statements by Darwin, he was a product of his time.  Look for instance at these words by a contemporary of Darwin:

“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”

The person speaking here is none other than the great emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln**.  See, while both Lincoln and Darwin were very liberal and enlightened for their time regarding race, we would still consider them incredibly racist.  It’s really pointless to go throwing around quotes by Darwin without considering the historical context of those words.

It’s meaningless because evolution did not influence Hitler.  I should probably just mention Godwin’s Law and move on, but since every Creationist ever seems the feel the need to connect Hitler to Darwin I feel I need to address this issue.  So then, here we go – you can’t blame Darwin for what Hitler did because:
- Hitler was not a fan of Darwin, in fact The Origin of Species was banned by the Nazis. 
- The only time Hitler ever used the word evolution in his book it was to refer to the development of political ideas in Germany.
- In Mein Kampf, while Hitler never mentions biological evolution, Darwin or eugenics he did in fact use God and Creationism as motivations for his ideas: “It is a sin against the will of the Eternal Creator if His most gifted beings by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands are allowed to degenerate in the present proletarian morass, while Hottentots and Zulu Kaffirs are trained for intellectual professions.”***
- Hitler didn’t need Darwin to whip the German people into a racist frenzy since anti-Semitism had been going strong in Europe for centuries (See Martin Luther’s fun little book “On the Jews and their lies”).
Seems to me like it’s a lot easier to make the case that Hitler was influenced by Christianity (just check out these Nazi artifacts) than to wangle a connection to Darwin!

It’s meaningless because racists always find reasons.  Hitler may have used the Christian faith to fuel his agenda but I don’t believe for a second that following Jesus turns you into a hatemongering anti-Semite.  It is as wrong to blame Christianity for Hitler as it is to blame Darwin.  Hitler did what he did because he was just that evil.  I believe he would have used the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales to further his agenda if he believed it would have helped.  Racism will always find a justification.  I don’t doubt that you can find people out there who really do use evolution as an excuse for their racism.  However when I grew up under Apartheid it had the full backing not of Darwin but of the church.  Pretty much all the Christian churches from Reformed to Pentecostal supported the idea that segregation was God’s idea and to a lesser extent that black people were supposed to be subservient due to the curse of Ham.  Again, I say this not to show that Christianity = racism but instead that people will always find reasons to justify racism.  I believe you will find racism in some form all over the world and I bet that every culture finds really sensible sounding reasons to justify it.  It’s probably a remnant of our tribal days, this sense of our side is totally good and their side is  totally bad****.  But as we grew more civilized we found more civilized reasons for it.  Whether it’s science, religion, your upbringing, because you got mugged or because they bombed Pearl Harbour – if you are being racist, the odds are you will find a reason to make it all sound logical and sensible to your own ears.

It’s meaningless because evolution must be the worst possible reasoning for white supremacy.  There are plenty of reasons why evolution does not equal racism, but here is just one.  Creationists seem to think that the evolutionary term “survival of the fittest” means that only the strongest, fastest and smartest will survive and that it therefore implies an elitist, winner-takes-all mentality.  It does not.  In evolutionary terms, “fittest” means “best at having offspring”.  Now take a look at population growth statistics and tell me if you think white people are “fittest”...  Far from supporting evil behaviour, “survival of the fittest” tends to undermine it.  Altruism makes you “fit”, being a good parent makes you “fit” – basically all the things that are good for family and community increase our “fitness”.  Being genocidal does not.

However I guess in the end the most meaningless thing to do is to try and convince those who buy into this fallacy regarding Darwin and racism that they are wrong.  I’ve had this conversation too many times to still believe it makes an actual impression on anyone who has their mind made up.  Somehow the facts will always be irrelevant.  For some reason they will still expect the organ music to swell and the ladies to faint when they reveal that the full title of Darwin’s book is (...wait for it...) “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”  Nevermind the fact that we already know that.  Nevermind the fact that the only reason we call it “The Origin of Species” or simply “The Origin” is because saying “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” everytime you mention it is ridiculous.  Nevermind the fact that if you actually read “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” you would see that “races” refer to varieties of plants and animals, not black, white and Asian.  No they will still whip out that title in debates as if it’s a clove of garlic and you’re a vampire.  Guess that us vs. them thing is stronger than we like to admit.  No wonder we have such a hard time getting rid of racism…

 *  If you ever watched one of Kent Hovind's videos you know he loves this argument.  He claims that since the moon is moving away from the earth, if you go back in time the moon would be closer and if you go back millions of years the moon would have been so close it would have been pretty much on the surface of the earth (he makes a lame joke about the dinosaurs getting "mooned to death") and therefore it proves the earth is 6000 years old. You have to wonder how much time Hovind spent working this out.  Just using a pocket calculator I found the following:
The moon recedes at 4 cm per year (4 cm = 0.00004 km)
Rewinding 4500000000 years = 180000 km closer to earth
On average, the distance between the Moon and the Earth is 384403 km
Therefore at a recession of 4 cm per year the earth would have been approximately 204403 km away from the earth 4,5 billion years ago.  Science - It works, bitches!!

** Source: ABRAHAM LINCOLN, fourth debate with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858.The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler, vol. 3, p. 14546 .

*** Since there is no way I'm linking to Mein Kampf, rather check out the very informative article:  Creationists, Hitler and Evolution

**** You have to love the irony here - the same engine that powers racism is powering this Creationist assault on Evolution.  When they ignore the Christianity of the Nazis and the KKK and instead blame evolution for every social ill ever it all comes down to the ancient instinct of "Our people good, your people bad!"