It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power. We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis. Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion real-world solutions to otherwise intractable challenges.
In the just-concluded election cycle, as Mark Silk writes in Religion in the News,
...the assiduous cultivation of religious constituencies by the Bush apparat, and the undisguised intrusion of evangelical leaders and some conservative Catholic hierarchs into the presidential campaign, demonstrated that the old rule of maintaining a decent respect for the nonpartisanship of religion can now be broken with impunity.
The result is what the Italian scholar Emilio Gentile, quoted in Silk's newsletter, calls "political religion"—religion as an instrument of political combat. On gay marriage and abortion— the most conspicuous of the "non-negotiable" items in a widely distributed Catholic voter's guide—no one should be surprised what this political religion portends. The agenda has been foreshadowed for years, ever since Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other right-wing Protestants set out to turn white evangelicals into a solid Republican voting bloc and reached out to make allies of their former antagonists, conservative Catholics.
What has been less apparent is the impact of the new political religion on environmental policy. Evangelical Christians have been divided. Some were indifferent. The majority of conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, have long hooked their view to the account in the first book of the Bible:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
There are widely varying interpretations of this text, but it is safe to say that all presume human beings have inherited the earth to be used as they see fit. For many, God's gift to Adam and Eve of "dominion" over the earth and all its creatures has been taken as the right to unlimited exploitation. But as Blaine Harden reported recently in The Washington Post, some evangelicals are beginning to "go for the green." Last October the National Association of Evangelicals adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," affirming that "God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." The declaration acknowledged that for the sake of clean air, clean water, and adequate resources, the government "has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."
But even for green activists in evangelical circles, Harden wrote, "there are landmines."
Welcome to the Rapture! (continued)
No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means. --George Bernard Shaw
How many true believers are there? It's impossible to pin down. But there is a constituency for the End Times. A Newsweek poll found that 36 percent of respondents held the Book of Revelation to be "true prophesy." (A Time/ CNN poll reported that one quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.) Drive across the country with your radio tuned to some of the 1,600 Christian radio stations or turn to some of the 250 Christian TV stations and you can hear the Gospel of the Apocalypse in sermon and song. Or go, as The Toronto Star's Tom Harpur did, to the Florida Panhandle where he came across an all-day conference "at one of the largest Protestant churches I have ever been in," the Village Baptist Church in Destin. The theme of the day was "Left Behind: A Conference on Biblical Prophecy about End Times" and among the speakers were none other than Tim LaHaye and two other leading voices in the religious right today, Gary Frazier and Ed Hindson. Here is what Harpur wrote for his newspaper:
I have never heard so much venom and dangerous ignorance spouted before an utterly unquestioning, otherwise normal-looking crowd in my life.... There were stunning statements about humans having been only 6,000 years on Earth and other denials of contemporary geology and biology. And we learned that the Rapture, which could happen any second now, but certainly within the next 40 years, will instantly sweep all the "saved" Americans (perhaps one-half the population) to heaven....
I read that the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:
• that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the national Environmental Policy Act that requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources;
• that wants to relax pollution limits for ozone, eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment;
• that wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public;
• that wants to drop all its New-Source Review suits against polluting coal-fired power plans and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies;
• that wants to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America;
• that is radically changing the management of our national forests to eliminate critical environmental reviews, open them to new roads, and give the timber companies a green light to slash and cut as they please.
I read the news and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency plotted to spend $9 million—$2 million of it from the President's friends at the American Chemistry Council—to pay poor families to continue the use of pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry concocted a scheme to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.
I read that President Bush has more than one hundred high-level officials in his administration overseeing industries they once represented as lobbyists, lawyers, or corporate advocates—company insiders waved through the revolving door of government to assure that drug laws, food policies, land use, and the regulation of air pollu-tion are industry-friendly. Among the "advocates-turned-regulators" are a former meat industry lobbyist who helps decide how meat is labeled; a former drug company lobbyist who influences prescription drug policies; a former energy lobbyist who, while accepting payments for bringing clients into his old lobbying firm, helps to determine how much of our public lands those former clients can use for oil and gas drilling.
I read that civil penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency against polluters in 2004 hit an fifteen-year low, in what amounts to an extended holiday for industry from effective compliance with environmental laws.
I read that the administration's allies at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon-Mobil and others of like mind and interest, have issued a report describing global warming as "a myth" at practically the same time the President, who earlier rejected the international treaty outlining limits on greenhouse gases, wants to prevent any "written or oral report" from being issued by any international meetings on the issue.
I read not only the news but the fine print of a recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with ob-scure amendments removing all endangered species protections from pesticides, prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon, waiving environmental review for grazing permits on public lands, and weakening protection against development for crucial habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer —pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age twelve; Thomas, ten; Nancy, eight; Jassie, three; SaraJane, one. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then the shiver runs down my spine and I am seized by the realization: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."
And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to our moral imagination?