Archive for October, 2010

On the eve of the Rally to Restore Sanity (which I’m going to! Hooray!), there have been some people asking whether it is simply a get-out-the-vote effort for the Democratic Party. Others, too, have expressed the fear that it could become political. And that certainly is a danger; viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report do tend to lean to the left. And the Democratic Party would love a bit of momentum to stem the Election Day shellacking they are likely to receive, and would love to use this rally to gain momentum.

I really hope that doesn’t happen. If the message of Stewart and Colbert became politicized, it would be terrible for America, because their message is exactly what our national discourse needs. Consider these two videos: the infamous head-stomping at a Rand Paul rally, and Keith Olbermann’s Glenn Beck-esque declaration of the Tea Party’s intention of bringing back Jim Crow and hanging union leaders.

Both sides are losing their damn minds. The increasing hysteria only serves to allow one side to hysterically point out the other side’s hysteria as proof that the first side is the non-hysterical one. And the media, conservative and “lamestream” alike, treat it like a boxing match, without ever asking why they give the hyperventilating fools a platform. What do they care if the country goes to hell? It makes for great TV.

In the midst of this stupidity, Stewart and Colbert point and invite everyone to laugh at the stupidity. And in the midst of the laughing, they hit on a pretty important idea: the governance of the country is not a reality show or a sporting event. It should be more grown up than this. While we laugh, we stop and realize, hey that’s a good point.

That’s why I’m going to the rally. Because it invites us, after we’re done laughing at stupid people, to realize that America is bigger than an ideology. We’re attempting to “create a more perfect union.” You know, union–like a marriage. And unions don’t work out when the husband is stomping on his wife’s face, and the wife says her husband wants to bring back Jim Crow and hang union organizers. You have to stop the name-calling, and try to see it from the other person’s side, and admit that sometimes you’re wrong, and work out a livable compromise. That’s what the rally is about. And that’s why I’m going.


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One of the things that Jon Stewart does best is skewer news programs for treating politics, the governance of America, and serious world events like a reality show, rather than actually being serious world events. Here and here are a couple of classics.

Neil Postman bemoaned the banality, triviality, and silliness of news programs, and TV in general, throughout his career. But towards the end of his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death, he predicts the rise of someone doing exactly what Jon Stewart does:

There are only two answers that come to mind, one of which is nonsense and can be dismissed almost at once…

The nonsensical answer is to create television programs whose intent would be…to show how television recreates and degrades our conception of news, political debate, religious thought, etc. I imagine such demonstrations would of necessity take the form of parodies, along the lines of “Saturday Night Live” and “Monty Python,” the idea being to induce a nationwide horse laugh over television’s control of public discourse. But, naturally, television would have the last laugh…[t]he act of criticism itself would, in the end, be co-opted by television. The parodists would become celebrities, would star in movies, and would end up making television commercials.

I think Postman is being a bit overly cynical in his assessment of the lack of effectiveness of the Jon Stewarts parodying television. But it is remarkable, because what he described in 1984 is almost exactly what The Daily Show does. And it must be said, Jon Stewart has become a bit of a celebrity, as he is now the most trusted “news”man in America. So far, I don’t think he has sold out the way Postman predicts, and I hope he doesn’t. Regardless, Neil Postman was the man.

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I discovered this website a couple of weeks ago over at Scotteriology. Galileo was wrong about the earth revolving around the sun. (Yeah Tycho Brahe!) It’s exactly what it looks like, and yes, they’re totally serious. It’s sad; although I have to confess, I was (and still am) very tempted to buy a “Galileo Was Wrong” t-shirt. I guess it’s an ironic hipster thing. Anyways…

Here are some examples of the train of thought on the website:

“…you see from Volume I how modern science has documented for us in bold fashion that the Earth is motionless in space and occupies the center of the universe (yet have done an equally remarkable job in keeping these important facts out of our educational system)…”

“Copernicanism (which was abandoned by Galileo before he died) is one of the biggest deceptions ever perpetrated upon mankind…”

“…part of modern cosmology and physics, including Relativity Theory, has been invented out of “whole cloth” precisely to avoid the philosophical implications of a universe with a motionless earth at the center.”

Read through the whole thing. It’s surreal. The certainty and boldness with which they set forth their ideas is unsettling.

But I don’t mention this to mock these people for being stupid. I should probably try to avoid doing that on this blog (and in real life), seeing as my last post was about how you shouldn’t feel superior to others. I mention it because I think that there is a contemporary scientific/religious situation that is analogous to what was going on in the 1600s.

I’m talking about evolution. Yes, for those who know me from First Assembly and Grove City, I am coming out of the closet. I’m totally down with evolution.

Now before I go any further, I will say this. I’m not writing this post to try to “prove” or argue for evolution, because there are other people who have done that far better than I could. (They are informally known as “the overwhelming majority of the scientific community.”) The point of this post is simply to compare support for creationism today to support for geocentrism 400 years ago.

Growing up creationist, I remember hearing and reading statements about evolution in school and church that were almost identical to what these guys are saying about a sun-centered universe. You can substitute heliocentrism for Darwinism, and the arguments are the same. Modern science PROVES that evolution/heliocentrism is wrong, but it’s being totally kept out of the educational systems. Darwin/Galileo recanted on his deathbed. These theories were completely invented, despite gobs of evidence to the contrary, to avoid the philosophical implications of creationism/geocentrism. Everything is treated like it’s a lie, like society is the victim of a vast, improbably successful, scientific cabal designed to turn people away from God. These guys are saying it about a sun-centered solar system, just like many are saying about evolution.

In its day, geocentrism was supported because it seemed obvious. It was supported based on a very literal understanding of certain passages of Scripture. It was supported because it represented an entire cosmology, an entire metaphysical vision of the universe and humanity’s place in it, with the support of Scripture and the Church. It was supported not based on the preponderance of evidence, but because the beliefs which had been built on that foundation were absolute. And I think that’s what is going on today with evolution.

The debate within Christianity about evolution is not simply about the means through which humans came to exist. It’s about whether we can reconcile a belief in a God who chooses to reveal Himself in Scripture–a God who is not just a bedtime story with a good moral–and the best conclusions modern science has come up with. It’s about what we’ve been taught from childhood. It’s about what we believe about Scripture. It’s about trusting the guy in the pulpit. It’s about if God is real, if the salvation of souls is real (or even souls themselves).

Because somewhere along the line, we accepted as valid this line of reasoning: To go to heaven, you have to be a Christian. Real Christians, good Christians, believe the Bible is real. Believing the Bible is real means accepting the beginning of Genesis as being factual and historically accurate. Believing that Genesis is factual means rejecting evolution. Ergo, if you accept evolution, you don’t go to heaven. Or at least, you aren’t a very good Christian. And the terrible consequence is that Christians who accept that line of reasoning AND take an honest look at the evidence feel they have to choose between their faith–their very souls–and their brains.

I think there are a lot of Christians who, if they felt compelled by the evidence to accept evolution, would feel just as compelled to become atheists. And they would hate God, because they would love what He stands for, and would desperately want to love Him, but would hate Him for daring to not exist. All because we have pitted our faith against a scientific theory that, in the words of a creationist from an evangelical college, has “gobs and gobs” of evidence.

We have been faced with the need to radically reinterpret a non-salvific, scientific/historic understanding of our faith, as in the 1600s. It took the Catholic church almost 400 years to eventually say sorry to Galileo (though, it must be said, much less time to realize that he was right). How long will it take us to figure it out this time?

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Been a While…

Haven’t been posting as frequently the last couple weeks. Not that I was very frequent to begin with–something like once a week, if that. But the blog postings do tend to go down when you get a full time job. 😀

But I’ve got a few of them in the back of my mind, and hopefully I’ll find the time to bang them out. Plus there’s one I’ve been working on for a while because I wanted to say it as carefully as possible (which probably means I’ve butchered it into something much worse than what it would have been if I’d just sat down for an hour and finished it off).

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