Monday, February 21, 2011

Idiocy, meanwhile, does seem infinitely renewable.

A Minnesota State representative (R-natch) believes that it is Right and Good that we should waste, exploit and destroy what he believes to be the gifts god has given us.

No, really.

This is a prime example of my feeling that Christians and Atheists should both be appalled by the behavior of someone speaking in the name of religion in general, and Christianity in specific.

"God is not capricious. He's given us a creation that is dynamically stable," Beard told MinnPost. "We are not going to run out of anything."

There's a lot to deconstruct, there.

Hopefully, the first thing to jump out at you is the absurd notion that all resources are infinite. Not just coal, mind you, but everything. Even very small children understand that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the cookie jar runs out of cookies. Most kids even piece together the idea that the jar is not self-replicating cookies; it's some grown-up filling it when all the cookies have been eaten. From there, they also generally realize that cookies come from the store. The more clever or curious among us may even begin to wonder where those cookies may have resided before that and discover that cookies are produced somewhere else entirely and how that happens. While we don't, as children, typically dwell on the notion that perhaps one day we will run out of cookies, we also don't put much thought into the notion that cookies are infinitely renewing. We do grasp the basics of where they came from and how they got there, and go about our business until something threatens that cookie paradigm.

That's how most humans view resources, in general. The more privilege we have, the less we think about the process at all. It's not the ideal worldview, but it's rather typical not to dwell too much on our routine unless it's directly and immediately threatened by change.

Rep. Mike Beard, however, was a kid who not only believed that the jar was being filled by a magical, invisible entity but that it would continue to do so forever and that, in fact, if he smashed the cookie jar into a million pieces that magical, invisible entity would be happy to glue it all back together and continue its endless supply of treats.

Perhaps it was adorable when he was in diapers--although were I his mother, I would find such entitled ignorance bratty and tiresome--but this man has held onto this ridiculous worldview in the face of all reality and wants to risk jobs and lives on it. He's creating policy on coal and he doesn't even have a child's understanding of how it comes to be. This proud and defiant rejection of not only science, but even the vaguest sliver of rationality would be hilarious if he were Some Dude on the Bus, rather than a representative of the 12th largest state in the U.S., who has been elected and re-elected consistently since 2002.

We learn something else about Mike Beard from that quote and his use of the word "capricious."

Rep. Beard thinks that it would make god capricious were he not to give us everything we want whenever we want regardless of our actions. In this model, god is only consistent and predictable if he continues to provide regardless of whether we earned it, deserve it, or feel inclined to care for whatever it is he's providing. In this model, in fact, we can exploit and destroy his gifts, and it would be inconsistent of him not to simply fix it and hand it right back to us.

That's a sickening distortion of Christian doctrine, and an example of a bizarre and twisted conception of and relationship with god.

A major biblical theme is the notion of stewardship--the concept of being wise, honorable, and caring of that which belongs to god. In other words, everything. That includes material possessions, gifts such as talent or wealth, the people around us, ourselves, and of course the environment.

The rejection of the concept of stewardship goes hand in hand with the rejection of the notion of caring for the poor. Something that's become popular in this rising form of Bizzaro Christianity where up is down, wrong is right, cruelty is kind, and god is the manifestation of personal resentment and prejudice. The things we're commanded to care for most are the things we care for least. This takes it a step further into active destruction.

And since god is such an extension of himself and his view of the world, Rep. Mike Beard cannot conceive of a world in which he may not survive while simultaneously acknowledging that this sort of destruction takes lives.

"How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out? We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible. But, can we recover?" Beard asked. "Of course we can."

The "we" he's really thinking of is of course not Hiroshima or Nagasaki, which suffer profoundly to this day because of our actions. The "we" are those who dropped the bomb, who set the devastation in motion. We razed two cities and annihilated 150,000 - 246,000 lives, but that didn't really affect us! Things are fine, and the consequences were minimal, because I don't experience them!

For people who believe in a being they cannot see, hear, touch, taste, measure or quantify in any meaningful way outside of emotionally, so many of us as Christians have a baffling amount of trouble believing in the experiences of those with whom we do not have constant and tangible connections.

In the most basic terms of decency, imagine going to great lengths over and over to prepare a fantastic meal for someone you love. Imagine, then, that they mash it in their hands, throw it on the walls, flip the table and shatter the plates. When someone comments that perhaps that isn't wise or sustainable type of behavior, this loved one responds that it's ridiculous not to think that you will simply do it all again tomorrow, and forever after. This loved one mocks the very idea that this great and beautiful gift is perhaps something valuable that should be cared for. You will continue to do it because you always have, and you always will. That isn't faithfulness or loyalty. That's abuse.

Those in power in Bizzaro Christianity are bullies and abusers. Like children brought up in an abusive environment, their followers are learning these behaviors as their only recourse in a confusing and difficult world. The cycle may have caused them damage, but at some point they must stand up and take responsibility to seek out new tools and ideas that don't continue to spread cruelty and devastation.

Rep. Mike Beard is, biblically speaking, a swine. Let us protect what is sacred from him.

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