Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
Bill Moyers: The Delusional is No Longer Marginal


Bill Moyers talks about the onslaught of 'delusional' thinking that has taken over our governent and its leadership. His sharp criticism is a breath of fresh air.

Writing in Mother Jones recently, Bill [McKibben] described how the problems we journalists routinely cover—conventional, manageable programs like budget shortfalls and pollution—may be about to convert to chaotic, unpredictable, unmanageable situations. The most unmanageable of all, he writes, could be the accelerating deterioration of the environment, creating perils with huge momentum like the greenhouse effect that is causing the melt of the Arctic to release so much fresh water into the North Atlantic that even the Pentagon is growing alarmed that a weakening Gulf Stream could yield abrupt and overwhelming changes—the kind of changes that could radically alter civilizations.

That's one challenge we journalists face—how to tell such a story without coming across as Cassandras, without turning off the people we most want to understand what's happening, who must act on what they read and hear.

As difficult as it is, however, for journalists to fashion a readable narrative for complex issues without depressing our readers and viewers, there is an even harder challenge—to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today. One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true—one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index. That's right—the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its 'biblical lands,' legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels 'which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man.' A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed—an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144—just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

He goes on to talk about the effects of Revelationistic thinking on the environment and the shaping of policies that effect the environment. Since these folks believe that Christ is coming to take them away, they don't care about the rest of the world, and in fact are actively accellerating the destruction of the planet to hasten Christ's return. Can you say hubris? Or heresy?

This is pretty sad and scary stuff- letting the world go to hell so a few religious believers can get to heaven. Can this madness be stopped? The ice caps are melting. The poles have open water where there was once solid ice. The Atlantic Conveyor is slowing down because of all the fresh water in the Arctic. If it stops, the UK and much of Europe will be in for severe winter weather without the influence of the warm Gulf Stream. The UK is north of Maine. Yet they have fairly mild weather because of the Gulf Stream.

When people like Bill Moyers, who I deeply respect, start mentioning this madness, you know that it has begun to erupt from the insulated enclaves of the Dominionists and is beginning to poison the world at large. Can we turn this madness around?