Sunday, August 20, 2006

Chicken Little: Part Two

This is the second of a two part post related to an article by Karen Armstrong entitled 'Bush's fondness for fundamentalism is courting disaster at home and abroad.' Parts of the article follow in italics. The title of the post refers to this amusing cartoon courtesy of Mike Gene of Telic Thoughts. My comments are in bold print.

Is there a connection between a religiously motivated mistrust of science, glaring social injustice and a war in the Middle East? Bush and his administration espouse many of the ideals of the Christian right and rely on its support. American fundamentalists are convinced that the second coming of Christ is at hand; they have developed an end-time scenario of genocidal battles based on a literal reading of Revelation that is absolutely central to their theology. Christ cannot return, however, unless, in fulfilment of biblical prophecy, the Jews are in possession of the Holy Land. Before the End, the faithful will be "raptured" or snatched up into the air in order to avoid the Tribulation. Antichrist will massacre Jews who are not baptised; but Christ will defeat the mysterious "enemy from the north", and establish a millennium of peace.

This grim eschatology, developed in the late 19th century, was in part a reaction to the "social gospel" of the more liberal Christians, who believed that human beings were naturally evolving towards perfection and could build the New Jerusalem here on earth by fighting social injustice. The fundamentalists, however, believed that God was so angry with the faithless world that he could save it only by initiating a devastating catastrophe; they would see the terrible battles of the first world war, which showed that science could be used to lethal effect in the new military technology, as the beginning of the End.

The "reaction to the social gospel" hypothesis is very dubious. Armstrong greatly distorts beliefs of conservative Christians who believe that God is both sovereign and in control of events. These Christians believe the saving event was the atoning death of Christ on the cross. There is no need to save it a second time through catastrophies.

The fundamentalists' rejection of science is deeply linked to their apocalyptic vision. Even the relatively sober ID theorists segue easily into Rapture-speak. "Great shakings and darkness are descending on Planet Earth," says the ID philosopher Paul Nelson, "but they will be overshadowed by even more amazing displays of God's power and light. Ever the long-term strategist, YHVH is raising up a mighty army of cutting-edge Jewish End-time warriors."

It has become increasingly evident that this quote of Paul Nelson is a fabrication. The story was well covered here and in subsequent posts. Despite being caught committing a grave journalistic offense neither author Karen Armstrong nor the publication 'The Guardian' has yet to either acknowledge the problem or apologize for it.


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