Concerto for blunt instrument

An irregular heartbeat from d.o. to you. Not like a daily kos, more like a sometime sloth. Fast relief from the symptoms of blogarrhea and predicated on the understanding that the world is not a stage for our actions, rather it is a living organism upon which we depend for our existence.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Truth or consequences

As the U.S. Supreme Court ponders over whether or not it’s kosher to display the Ten Commandments on the courthouse wall, out here in the real world we’re wondering if the wall between church and state will withstand the siege coming from 21st Century crusaders and their camp followers. Many of those followers seem to be waving little read books, at least little read by those upon the wall.

The popularity of the "Left Behind" books, fictional fundamentalist Christian accounts of the so-called Rapture and Second Coming, seems rather fitting for a culture as far removed from reality as the one that’s been manufactured here in the U.S. Since so much of our social experience, our media; our commerce; the everyday experiences of commuting; work; recreation; even education or relating to one another is fabricated more on what we’d like to believe than on what actually exists, it shouldn’t be surprising so many people cling to fiction. While the U.S. certainly isn’t alone in this, something more a product of human psychology than of social engineering, we surely have created one of the greatest infrastructures for the conveyance of illusion. Witness the idolism of Disney or the popularity of such euphemisms as "reality TV": all simulations, counterfeit realities. Of course religion and politics in this nation also reflect the reality of our unrealities. So, why is it so many of us mistake their contents for truth?

Well, there’s the truth and then there’s the gospel truth. The truth, in this observer’s opinion, is when you pick-up a rock, feel it in your hand, then hit yourself in the head with it. Ouch! That hurts. The rock is hard. There’s blood coming out of my head. The gospel truth, on the other hand, is intangible, a collection of stories. For instance, it’s supposedly the gospel truth that a guy named Jesus, who reportedly was crucified over 2,000 years ago, is going to come back from a place in the sky called Heaven (he already returned from the grave), and that his true believers here on Earth will also rise up into Heaven during a period called The Rapture, apparently without the aid of fossil fuels or an oxygen mask. Did I forget to mention Jesus also brought someone else back from the dead, that he once walked on water, and another time turned it into wine?

So, the gospel truth says that the Bible, appearing for all the world to be a work of fiction, given that so much of what goes on in it is physically impossible, is actually the literal truth. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ "Left Behind", being based on the Bible, might then be described by some as a work of fiction based on a work of fiction. However, that’s not necessarily how tens of millions of your fellow citizens might view it. They’re buying the book in droves and some of them are claiming salvation as a result of their purchase. Many others are simply saying what’s inside is true. That’s their reality.

Tim LaHaye is founder of the fundamentalist Creationist Institute and a co-founder of the rightwing Moral Majority. His wife, Beverly LaHaye, heads Concerned Women of America, another far-right noise machine lecturing Americans on how they should live. LaHaye is not your Little Brown Church in the Vale type preacher, not by any stretch. The guy is all about establishing a fundamentalist Christian nation right here in the much vaunted Land of the Free. In his book, "Battle for the mind", LaHaye proclaims "We must vote in pro-moral leaders who will return our country to the biblical base upon which it is founded." O, you weren’t aware your country was founded on a biblical base? Neither was the Father of our nation, George Washington. He said: "The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine." Transforming what’s left of our present day democracy (albeit floundering in corruption and hypocrisy) into a theocracy will take a good deal of salesmanship and clever PR. Televangelists and their fellow travelers are no strangers to those fields of endeavor, in fact, proselytizing may be THE sales pitch of all time. LaHaye and Jenkins’ works of fiction are apparently just the most recent successful product line for the born again crusader lifestyle; another useful tool for filing the ranks of Christian soldiers marching off to war. The war is essentially the same one they were going on about 800 years ago, the war against non-believers, heathens, the other. The Bush regime’s much hyped War on Terror, something Bush himself referred to as a crusade, seems to provide numerous examples [1], [2] of that greater crusade.

But check that calendar, it’s the 21st Century, not the 12th. The major battleground, at least as far as the fundamentalists are concerned, remains in the Mid-East. As we speak, IED’s are going off not far from the alleged ruins of the Garden of Eden. Rightwing nut-jobs are hatching plans for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Perhaps more ominously, at least for us here an ocean away, is the second front of that war: what appears to be the battle for the United States of America. In the lexicon of the alleged Second Coming there’s supposed to be a seven year period after all the "saved" have caught the flight to Heaven, it’s called The Tribulation. During that period whoever remains earthbound will be brawling with the anti-Christ. It’s supposed to be very ugly.

Taking on rightwing extremists who seem bent on subverting democracy, taking control of the nation and the world, returning women to the shackles of servitude, and reducing the planet to a lifeless desert is tribulation enough. We can pick up their brochures in our hands and read them, we can see and hear their fire and brimstone on the media, read their over-the-top books, or witness their cruel votes in congress. The present occupant of the White House claims to be "saved", he has told people he is doing God’s will, that God told him to attack Iraq. His decisions and the work of those around him have resulted in tens of thousands of needless deaths, they have thrown away the lives of 1500 young, mostly poor, U.S. soldiers, they have initiated countless incidents of torture and abuse, they have destroyed untold numbers of lives of the worlds’ other creatures, as well as contributing immensely to the ruin of forests, watersheds, and the biosphere. These are tangible losses. Like a rock to the head, they bring pain and bloodshed. That’s the truth.

But the gospel truth is something else, something that was supposed to bring comfort to the stricken or bereaved. That the Bible and its spin-offs are used for the opposite purpose, for creating fear and discomfort is, well, a real sin. It’s getting so you can’t tell your preachers from your false prophets, you saviors from your anti-Christ. In an interview on Air America recently, TimLaHaye said the anti-Christ will be a person full of charisma, the leader of a major power. In the "Left Behind" series that person is Nicolae Carpathia, the Pope. In the real world, if an anti-Christ exists at all, he may well be enthroned closer to home.


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