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Monday, May 28, 2007

Selling Indulgences for the New Catholic Religion

There is a new "Catholic" church in the world and I don't mean what you think I mean. The new "church" isn't exactly a church. It's almost an anti-church. It doesn't worship God the Creator, it worships the creation. Man is not made in the image of God. Man is a cosmic accident that isn't turning out to be such a good thing and (except for certain enlightened exceptions) will probably need to go extinct if the planet is to be saved.

I am, of course, referring to the church of environmentalism. Its theology embraces evolution, the doctrine of global warming, the belief that human non-interference in nature is the way to go and that America is the cause of most of the world's problems because we're too rich and complacent (except, of course, for the wealthy devotees of the new religion).

I call the religion "catholic" because that word "catholic" actually means "universal" or "all encompassing". Environmentalism we are told embraces everyone in a cloud of universal guilt. We all have sinned against our environment. This concept is being taught in schools, churches, magazines, television, radio and everywhere else its message can be spread. It is a religion, because its tenants are taken on faith and based on theories derived from evidence limited by the capacity of current science and the data on which it relies. We are to trust that science - the same science that once proclaimed the earth flat and told us straight-faced that there was a fifth element (in addition to earth, wind, fire and water) called phlogiston that made things burn. The idea eventually lost credibility to the point that a 60's rock group decided to drop "Phlogiston" and water from their name because (a) Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Phlogiston was a bit much even for the sixties and (b) it violates the "Rule of Threes" (Never name more than 3 elements in literature, marketing or theology to make your point).

Like the worship of God, the worship of the environment is based on the idea that there is something greater than yourself that deserves your worship, sacrifice and devotion. In the same way, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists base their own worship on the idea that there is a being or "force" that is greater than themselves, the environmental movement abases itself before the idea of an idealized "nature" which knows better than we do how to take care of itself.

Both "religion" and environmentalism rely on bodies of writers like Solomon, David, Moses, and Paul or modern authorities like Al, Rachel, Alec, Barbara and Michael for the tenets of their beliefs. Each of those writers tell of their experiences of either God or mother nature in order to reveal to believers, the character of their god.

What both of these styles of worship have in common is that there exists within each body of believers, individuals seeking power who are willing to utilize the devotion of the faithful to increase their power over the believers. This has happened throughout Christian history, Muslim history, Jewish History AND the history of the environmentalist movement.

What is at the base of it all is the lust for power. It was the cause of Lucifer's original downfall and it is the cause of all of the misery, the blame for which is laid (unfairly) at Christianity's door. In our world, it is not only Jim Jones, Osama Ben Laden and David Koresh, but also Michael Moore, Barbara Striesand AND Al Gore that take the slide down the slippery slope into blind fanaticism and drag their followers along for the ride. Theirs is a fanaticism that brooks no challenge to its theology. Those who disagree are singled out for ridicule, suicide bombs and machine gun fire. Brilliant, respected scientists who challenge the "universal" belief that man is single-handedly destroying the planet are shouted down. Educators, policy makers and pundits who challenge the science that purports to show that a global disaster is on the way if we don't all park our cars and start walking will find themselves quickly marginalized, castigated in the media and sometimes losing their jobs.

Groups like The Conservation Fund and make a tidy living planting trees to "offset" the carbon emitted by celebrities flying around in their private jets, cruising in their SUV's and burning the lights in their multi-million dollar mansions. They are as jealous of the dogma that protects their income as Jim Baker and Oral Roberts were. There is not a whit of difference between Scientologists milking Tom Cruise for financial support and the Conservation Fund milking Delta Airlines' corporate guilt to cover the agency's operating budget.

There is no difference that I can see between selling religious "indulgences" and environmental "offsets". Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk, went about selling indulgences to wealthy 16th century Germans to fund the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Rome got money for more marble and the German jet set got a little guilt free debauchery. The Carbon Fund sells carbon "offsets" by planting trees in exchange for generous donations. In return, Al Gore can fly around to his well paid speaking engagements in a luxurious business jet instead of waiting on the runway for the snow to clear with the rest of us peons sitting for 7 hours in Jet Blue business class. Angelina and Brad can fly around the world adopting orphans, ostensibly without releasing more carbon dioxide through their afterburners than the trees they bought can clean up out of the air. Barbara can get to her concert in Rome where people are plunking down $1000 per seat and she can arrive in a time to have her wardrobe fluffed in a nice hot dryer - all without guilt because the Carbon Fund planted some trees for her.
Nice if you can afford it. Meanwhile people like me can't afford to buy enough trees to get to work and back.

Look, I'm not to saying that environmentalists aren't true believers in what they are doing. It's just that the leaders of their movement are not any more immune to the temptations of hypocracy, excess, greed and lust for power than are the leaders of churches, cathedrals, monasteries, mosques and synagogues.

So give it a rest. We grant you the right to believe what you want to believe. We ask for the same right. We may have to allow for the fact that what each of us genuinely believe may be, in some respects, repugnant to one another. You believe in "choice" and anything else is to you an abrogation of a woman's rights. Others believe abortion is murder and an abrogation of the right to life of an unborn child. Is there any way to solve that without one side forcing the other side to bow to its demands?

Not really.

Many Christians believe we were placed upon the Earth to till the soil, to garden and to take care of the animals. A vehement group of animal rights activists and Earth-First conservationists believe we need to leave the earth alone and let it take care of itself - as though nature had a mind of its own and knows best what is good for it. Can the two opinions be reconciled?

Probably not.

So how do we handle the fact they we have not just two sides, but a multitude of cultures, faiths and belief systems that are often totally at odds with one another?

We compromise. It's how we do things in America. We find a solution that allows everyone to retain his beliefs while acknowledging that others have a sacred right to their beliefs. The compromises are often unsatisfying to everyone, but they allow us to live together in relative peace. We allow a person to change his belief system as a result of rational discourse without being in danger of a beheading or banishment. Joe Bob goes to church on Sunday, I go on Saturday. Machmud goes on Friday while April Dawn communes with nature on the weekend. We disapprove of burning down churches, kidnapping people to make them join your church or passing laws that say you have to belong to any one church.

That leaves an awful lot of room for everyone to practice their faith. The case of Desmond Doss springs to mind. Desmond was a skinny Seventh day Adventist kid who got drafted at the outset of World War II. He was a concientious objector - refused to carry a gun or kill anyone because of his religious beliefs. He met his service obligation by becoming a medic. He was hated, reviled and tormented for not "defending his country", but he remained steadfast. Soon after his unit hit the islands in the Pacific, everyone learned a new respect for the skinny medic. One afternoon in Okinawa, he rescued 75 wounded men from an escarpment where they were pinned down. Bullets rained down on Doss, but he was never hit and kept standing at the edge of a cliff in full view of the Japanese, lowering one man after another to safety. One Japanese sniper later reported that his gun jammed every time he tried to shoot Doss. Corporal Doss won the congressional medal of honor for his action that day, was later wounded and was permanently disabled in the service of his country. The men in his platoon respected him so much that they all went back onto the battlefield under fire after he was wounded to recover his Bible.

We are a nation of many beliefs and values, but there is room for all of those values so long as there is tolerance as well. By tolerance, I do not mean that we must embrace and encourage all beliefs ourselves without question. One may believe that homosexuality is a sin and still fight for another's right to be gay if they want to be. You may believe that as a Christian I am an infidel and that is okay so long as you don't hinder my right to be one. We can argue and we can debate these issues all day long, but we each have the right to have our beliefs respected.

Shouting each other down in the public forum does no good to either of our causes. I'll go to my revivals and rallies and celebrate my beliefs. You go to yours. I won't throw rocks at you. You don't throw them at me. That's how we do it in America, okay?

Just one man's opinion.....

Tom King