Laurel and I are finding it difficult to practice Christian compassion. First problem: we’re not Christians. Second problem: it’s hard to be compassionate toward Christians when so many of them act like fools. Case in point, our nation’s Christian-in-Chief, President Bush.
He is threatening to veto legislation that would loosen restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Bush calls himself pro-life, but he doesn’t want to promote research that promises cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other degenerative brain and nerve diseases.
Bush’s own Christian compassion is constrained inside the tiny box of Christian fundamentalism, where crazy ideas are free to flower without any inconvenient pruning by facts. The legislation he wants to veto lets government-funded researchers work with embryonic stem cells left over from fertility treatments. These excess embryos either will be discarded, or they will be used in research.
It’s a no-brainer: use them for stem-cell research. But unfortunately Christian right voters do have brains, albeit malfunctioning ones.
Bush is afraid that he’ll lose the political support of fundamentalists who somehow have discovered in the Bible a theological foundation for banning therapeutic cloning, which the Bible never mentions. These, of course, are the same people who criticize the Supreme Court for finding support in the Constitution for allowing abortions, which the Constitution never mentions. Go figure.
My personal theological conclusion is that God must be a Buddhist, notwithstanding the fact that Buddhism doesn’t believe in a personal God (if the Christian right can make outrageous leaps of religious logic, so can I). For evidently God has blessed the predominantly Buddhist nation of South Korea with the leading world expert on cloning human embryos to treat and study disease, Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University.
“I want to give humans a gift of healing knowledge,” I picture God saying to herself (my anti-patriarchy wife reads this weblog). “But the United States is filled with too many closed-minded Christians to make wise use of it. So I’ll send a breakthrough in therapeutic cloning to a Buddhist country instead. I love those Buddhists; they don’t try to confine my will within imaginary bounds of their own making.”
More and more it looks like the United States will be getting health care advances from South Korea, consumer items from China, and information technology from India. It kind of makes you want to convert to Buddhism, Taoism, or Hinduism, since fundamentalist Christianity is becoming a foe of modern progress, just like fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Judaism.
Those big three Western monotheistic religions have an inbred aversion to seeing reality as it is. By comparison, the big three Eastern pluralistic religions don’t. Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism find it easy to absorb scientific facts into their flexible worldviews. This is one reason the United States is heading downhill, socially and scientifically, while South Korea, China, and India are on the upswing.
I’m pessimistic that things are going to get better in this country so long as Christian groups like the Center for Reclaiming America have so much support among the citizenry. I heard the Center’s founder, D. James Kennedy, interviewed on PBS radio recently. He’s scary. Really scary.
Kennedy believes that this country has to be governed on the basis of Christianity. He sounds just like Islamic fundamentalists who want Koranic law in Muslim countries. Except his Koran is the Bible. Otherwise, you could plunk Kennedy down in Iran or Saudi Arabia and he’d feel right at home.
The Center for Reclaiming America presents the untruth that our nation’s founders intended the United States to reflect Christian principles. Given this false premise, it is possible for the Center to make intolerance of non-fundamentalist Christian views into a virtue. A United Nations declaration, “Tolerance…involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism,” is ridiculed.
There’s no room for tolerance in right-wing Christianity. For example, it is obvious that creationism is true and evolution false. Why? Because the Bible tells Kennedy so, and there’s no need to consider inconvenient facts—such as the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence in support of evolution.
Naturally the Center also finds support in scripture for “ending judicial tyranny,” by which Kennedy means that judges should make decisions based on their Christian faith rather than the nation’s laws. Yes, I heard him say this in the PBS interview. He likened judges who rule in support of a woman’s right to have an abortion as being akin to judges in Nazi Germany who supported anti-Jewish German laws.
Again, he’s scary. Really scary.
As is George W. Bush. And everyone else who is trying to make the United States into a Christian nation. The way I see it, what is at risk here is nothing less than reality. Christian fundamentalists want us to close our eyes to truths. Truths about therapeutic cloning. Truths about evolution. Truths about persistent vegetative states. Truths about the big bang. Truths about the genetic basis of homosexuality. All kinds of truths.
Carl Sagan warned some time ago that the demons are beginning to stir. He was right. Now the demons are becoming more active. They have to be defeated. Take a stand: don’t go to church tomorrow. Read a copy of Scientific American instead.
“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us—then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.
The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.” [Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark]