Fear and Loathing in the Name of Enlightenment

It’s increasingly clear to quite a few people these days that the most bigoted and intolerant people in our society are the very ones who make a big deal about being against bigotry and intolerance.  They keep using those words.  I do not think they mean what they think they mean.

Case in point: What better way to observe the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11 than by equating the aggressor with the victim.  That is what the author of this article does in quoting the post-9/11 predictions of Hunter S. Thompson:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.

War it is.  But last time I checked, it was not started by Christian terrorists flying passenger jets into buildings in Mecca.  Whatever one thinks about the nature and causes of the turmoil in the Middle East, the last time that a combatant entity treated the mass murder of enemy civilians as a legitimate aim of war or expression of grievance, the result was the Nuremberg trials.  One wonders whether the “lucid” assessment of Thompson would have characterized the American response to Pearl Harbor as “a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics.”  I call this not lucidity but a spectacular example of the sort of obtuseness one can arrive at when one’s view of events is colored by excessive hatred toward a group of people.

While it is true that many Muslims celebrated 9/11 as a legitimate act of war by Muslims against the “Christian West,” (H/T Instapundit) there was no equivalent sentiment on the other side.  Christian ministers do not call for the killing of unbelievers.  There were no spontaneous celebrations among Christians upon news of the deaths of Muslims.  Even reaction to the killing of bin Laden himself was muted.  Everything the West has done in response to 9/11 has been explicitly stated and defended in terms of national self-defense, not religion.  Bush even went on TV in the aftermath of 9/11 to assure the world that Islam is a religion of peace and retaliation against the Muslim world would be mistaken and unfair.   Whatever you think of America’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, these are the facts.

Christian jihad?  Religious extremism?  Pour yourself some tea, sit down and take your meds. Get some perspective and stop parroting such utterly irrational bigotry.  You want to see the sort of things that you accuse Christians of?  Look at Iran, where homosexuals are hung.  Look at Saudi Arabia, where people are imprisoned for expressing a worldview other than Islam.  Look at the merry mass murderers of ISIS.  If Christians both control the American government and harbor such murderous intolerance as is so glibly suggested, do you really think you could sit there behind your computer, safe from harm while saying such things?  The question itself doesn’t even exist outside the fever swamps of progressivist ignorance, hatred and projection.

Yet despite your hate mongering, you know deep down that promoting such hatred and defamation of Christians will get you a response no stronger than that of words.  You pick on those who don’t hate you the way you hate us.  You’re hypocrites. And cowards.

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Faith and science, with credibility

Francis Collins, former Director of the Human Genome Project, has a new project: the BioLogos Foundation.  It seeks to explore issues at the nexus of faith and science but from a positive standpoint.  While this endeavour will probably come under fire rather quickly from fundamentalists (both the religious and the atheist varieties), Collins speaks with a level of credibility that you don’t find with people like the young earthers or Richard Dawkins.

Demons in the details

This Rock Answers Angels & Demons’ False Charges – Catholic Answers Forums.

In which Carl Olson exposes some of the phony claims (regarding both fact and purpose) in Dan Brown’s next shovelful.

The phoniest aspect, in my mind, is Brown’s protestation that he wants peaceful coexistence between faith and science even while making all sorts of false accusations and vicious stereotypes against Christians.  He is a cheap propagandist who whines when  his revisions are examined critically, and those in the media who promote his work are helping promote slander and hatemongering.

Others are seeing this too

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity.

via The coming evangelical collapse | csmonitor.com.

I have already been seeing this.  Oddly enough, just yesterday I said in an email to a friend,

I suspect that we are in the beginning of upheavals –economic, political and social– on a historic scale and the landscape might look very different in just a few short years.  We could hope that a spiritual realignment will come out of this too.    It’s been apparent to me that nobody is a moral relativist when it’s their own ox being gored, and between layoffs and 401Ks a lot of us have been gored.  I hope people will wake up and recognize relativism for the contrivance and evasion it is, and start looking around for a worldview with staying power.  And we will need it, because it seems to me that if many more people reject the values of democratic pluralism we could be into a rather ugly form of dictatorship.  I know I sound a bit unhinged, but in the past when the same factors have been in play the outcome hasn’t been good.  People don’t realize what a historical anomaly democracy really is.

For decades now the idea has been pushed by the West’s culture makers, that it’s not just OK to not be a Christian, but there’s something wrong with you if you are one.  It means you’re ignorant, bigoted, uneducated, mean-spirited, hypocritical, repressed to the point of neurosis, and an all-around impediment to the happiness and well-being of others.  Or as it was put to me by a coworker a while ago, the only reason a person wouldn’t favor gay marriage is because they are afraid of people who are different or they let others tell them what to think.  No room for disagreement here; in the name of pluralism dissent is unacceptable.  Think I’m imagining things or exaggerating?  It wasn’t long ago that shootings and violent demonstrations in churches and church vandalism were unheard of.  Now they are so common that they sometimes don’t even get mentioned in the news.

Still, I  agree with the author that evangelicalism’s woes are largely self-imposed.  While I am generalizing and there are exceptions –there are evangelical Christians who are wonderful, Christ-like people and evangelical churches that do some great things– I think that in general there are some systemic problems.

It begins with worship.  There are churches where corporate worship in song has been replaced with a “praise band” who perform the the audience in the pews. (The problem is not about particular musical styles or instruments, but the motive and focus.) Sermons are so far on the seeker-sensitive and nurturing side that there is no sin, however so egregious, that the pastor will confront from the pulpit or in person.  A lot of  sermons are instead geared to being well-adjusted and developing a personal relationship with Jesus that might or might not manifest itself in how one’s life is lived.   Serving others, godly living, self-sacrifice: these things are very much optional. Biblical literacy is low and –following the wider secular culture– people don’t know how to think and really don’t care.  In short, much of evangelicalism has become a feel-good country club in clerical drag.  Or at least in Dockers and a Hawaiian shirt.  This statement captures the essence of the problem:

[T]he billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.

Which is to say that the emerging generation has been raised on a diet of entertainment with a Christian veneer, which more subtly confirms the message they get from secular culture as well: “It’s all about you.”

Also, as I have been complaining  for years, evangelicals have sold their spiritual birthright for a mess of political pottage.  In defining themselves in terms of what they are against and failing to show the wider society something better (is gay marriage really a bigger threat to the sanctity of marriage than all the divorce and remarriage among all nour nice, respectable, straight church people?) or showing much love for one’s neighbor, the evangelical movement has not been so much about good news as it has been about “thou shalt not’s” and condemnation.  Well, condemnation of other people’s sins anyway.

These failures within evangelicalism have resulted in self-marginalization and made it all the easier for the anti-Christians who help shape culture to caricature and demonize Christians and Christianity.  This is one of the factors that has led me to embrace Catholicism.  In contrast to this behind-the-curve, secular-culture-wagging-the-church-dog approach that bespeaks not a timeless, eternal message but a taking of cues from the secular world, the Catholic Church remains paradoxically relevant –indeed, prophetic– despite (or rather, because of) a conscious decision to not try to be trendy.  It will survive long after evangelicalism as we now know it joins the pile of history’s discarded ideas like the Protestant fundamentalism that preceded it.  Attila and his Huns swept all before them but stopped short of Rome.

Losing our religion

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

via FOXNews.com – More Americans Say They Have No Religion – Local News | News Articles | National News | US News.

I suppose researchers will come up with explanations as to why.  One thing I have noticed, in the workplace at least, is that people who don’t believe and who actively and consciously reject Christian morality have become more outspoken in recent years.  They are “coming out of the closet” as it were, and I wonder how long it will be until public school curricula are designed to actively promote it.

In any case, Hollywould seems to have been out front on this one again, not reflecting the culture but helping to mold it.  Which reminds me… there’s a movie prequel to the DaVinci Code coming out.

I recall a few years back the maker of an anti-Christian movie (I can’t remember the name of either) was described by the Hollywood crowd as “brave” for doing so.  Malarkey!   Make a movie critical of homosexuals and you will experience violent demonstrations and demonization in the press.  Make a movie critical of Islam and you literally risk your life.  Make a movie critical of Christianity -or, more crudely, designed for the explicit purpose of offending Christians– and you will get some polite objections along with a lot of kudos from your fellow travellers.  No bravery –or truthfulness– required.

Seen this before?

I’m starting to see some parallels between the recent raid on the polygamist compound in Texas and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in the same state a decade ago. In both cases, these communities (funny how that word sounds less menacing than “compound”) were assaulted by heavily-armed law enforcement in response to allegations of child molestation. In the case of the Davidians we discovered –after authorities went in guns blazing– that local authorities had already investigated those accusations and found them groundless. In the current situation with the polygamists, it turns out that the justification for the raid, an anonymous call for help from a sixteen year old girl forced to marry against her will, turns out to be fraudulent. In the meantime another community of nonconformists has been liquidated. Oops again.

This raises some troubling questions. Since when do we liquidate communities on the pretext that individuals within them are alleged criminals? How far are we going to pursue this “logic”? Arrest all residents of Las Vegas? Nuke L.A.? In the nornal course of events, arrests are made of specific individuals on specific charges based on specific evidence. But apparently accusations of child molestation are sufficiently emotionally-laden that we don’t question it if the authorities summarily violate the civil rights of hundreds of weirdos citizens.

The issue becomes thorny when we consider the alleged practice of teenage girls marrying older men. Given that many states allow girls under eighteen to marry under specific circumstances, though this varies from one state to another, it seems that the essence of the problem is that these people are doing things that are considered aberrant by the standards of mainstream culture. We don’t blink if thirteen year old girls are told how to have sex and provided condoms and/or abotions without parental consent –again, your state may vary– but allowing them to marry is beyond the pale. We’re all for cultural relativism and diversity up to a point; then we reach for some firepower.

Another thorny question is how we separate freewill from environment in such cases.The alleged teen brides say they enter into these marriages consentually, but is it consent when they are taught from birth that this is what God expects from them or that God’s “prophet” tells specific girls to marry a specific man? And this group’s “prophet” is seen as just that: his words are the voice of God and to question his orders is to court your eternal doom.
On the other hand, how different is this from our own kids being trained daily through TV, movies, radio, games and (for those who read) books that what is truly important in life is to seek material pleasure and base decisions on feelings: an attitude that is incredibly profitable to mega-corporations who are ready to sell our kids anything from hot new fall fashions to Britney Spears albums to political ideologies?

Is it really unacceptable to teach kids what choices to make, or is it only unacceptable when they are taught to make choices that conflict with our own views or biases? This is relevant not just for some cousin-marrying nut jobs living among the Texas sagebrush. There are some who want to make it illegal for any parent to teach their religion to their own children. They even invoke the same language as the CPS workers in Texas: they say it’s child abuse. No, not forcing your kid to marry some middle-aged polygamist dude. Teaching religion to your child is itself abusive under any and all circumstances. Do we really want social workers, backed up by State Troopers, to have the authority to decide which ideas parents may teach their children and which ideas they may not?

See, the dirty little secret is that our society is not tolerant and diverse.

People who are truly nonconformists have their families separated or killed based on accusations that nobody bothers to pursue under due process of law because they turn out to be bogus. Tolerance and diversity often as not are merely pretexts for telling people –religious nut jobs primarily– to shut up. Sometimes it’s “Shut up… or else.”

Currently, given that the original justification for the raid was false, the children of this cult are to remain separated from their parents on the basis that

the teachings of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints jeopardized children.

Jeopardized means “places in potential danger”. See, if you’re some wacko nonconformist, the state doesn’t have to prove that your kids actually have come to harm. They only have to speculate that they might. But if you’re a good conformist –if you look, act, talk and think the same as everyone else– then that’s normal and you have little need to fear the inquisitors rounding you up in the middle of the night and charging you with heresy.