What’s up for 2014 in the world of religion? Luckily for us, Pat Robertson has a direct pipeline to God as long as the televangelist shows up at a special mountain retreat. He missed last year’s predictions because the weather kept him away—Robertson, not God. The year before, God’s messages led Robertson astray, especially the one in which Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama and be a two-term president.
God’s predictions at this year’s retreat:
- Severe economic problems that will devastate the global economy;
- An non-unified world;
- Emergence of a nuclear Iran;
- Islam in retreat while “people in the pews” are blessed;
- GOP takeover of the Senate but not veto-proof majority;
- Leadership of China;
- “Greatest year in the history of the church”;
- President Obama withdrawing and becoming a Hawaii surfer. (Yes, Robertson really said that!)
Mayor Tom Hayden has further shredded the thin veil between church and state when he proclaimed 2014 as “The Year of the Bible” in Flower Mound (TX). Not everyone is happy. Resident Curt Orton said, “He was elected mayor. Not as the spiritual leader of Flower Mound.”
The Dallas chapter of the Anti-Defamation League said:
“As a public official, he [Mayor Hayden] has both a moral and legal duty to equally serve his constituents of all faiths or no faith. Regardless of his benign intent, the Mayor’s action is highly inappropriate, not to mention likely unconstitutional. It can only serve to divide residents along religious lines and conveys a message of exclusion to constituents whose faith tradition does not include the Bible. We urge the Mayor to reconsider the issuance of his proclamation.”
Hayden’s idea is on a website thebible2014.com that gives a different scripture each day. By the end of the year, readers will supposedly finish reading the Bible, according to Jon Bell of Calvary Chapel. The “Comments” section has been disabled because of too many responses. It might be interesting to know what kind of responses. Hayden did point out that no one voted on this proclamation. He thinks that it’s just the sort of announcement that all elected leaders make.
A further move to destroy the First Amendment comes from Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, who wants to eliminate all public office holders who believe in evolution. Because people who believe in evolution don’t know that all our rights come from God, they are unable to uphold people’s rights.
“We don’t share ancestors with apes and baboons. In fact, I would suggest to you if a politician, if somebody wants to be, wants to exercise political power, and he is an evolutionist, he is disqualified from holding political office in the United States of America because he does not share the political worldview that established the United States of America, and made it the greatest nation in the history of the planet.”
If Fischer goes to pieces at the idea of his relationship to “apes and baboons,” can you imagine his reaction to being related to a banana. In fact (scientific fact, at least), human DNA is about 50 percent identical to banana sequences. Think about that the next time you eat a banana.
The anti-science position growing among Republicans is damaging the level of education in this country. U.S. 15-year-olds place 21st in the world in science, four places lower than in 2009. Vietnam, which participated this year for the first time, scored better than the U.S., and students in East Asian countries and provinces took seven of the top ten places. Shanghai, China’s largest city, is #1 in the world in science testing.
Of three states that increased its participation in testing, both Connecticut and Massachusetts scored higher than the international average. Florida scored lower. The two states above average are considered blue states whereas the one below average is controlled by Republicans. It would be interesting to see how the other red and blue states compared.
Fischer and other literalists (fundamentalists who think that everyone must believe how each of them personally interprets the Bible) may have increasing trouble with Pope Francis. Last November the pope struck out at Christian fundamentalism as “not healthy”:
“It is not a good strategy to be at the center of a sphere. To understand we ought to move around, to see reality from various viewpoints. We ought to get used to thinking.”
Thinking is a concept that doesn’t fit with extremists’ Christian culture. Perception from a different point of view is also not in Christian fundamentalist realms.
The pope thinks that “some time of real contact with the poor is necessary.” It may make people more understanding of their plight instead of seeing them as lazy users. Pope Francis does follow his own directions: he is known to dress as a regular priest at night and go out on the streets to minister to the poor.
Pope Francis supports other beliefs that Christian fundamentalists don’t: environmentalism; assistance for immigrants and the marginalized; and respect, kindness, and understanding for atheists and Muslims. He calls on his flock to be more in line with the teachings of Jesus. Fundamentalists twist their own Bible to oppose the New Testament and turn Jesus into a capitalist warrior.
Pope Francis preached:
“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”
Another of his teachings is also offensive to Christian fundamentalists:
“God reveals himself not as one who stands above and who dominates the universe, but as He who lowers himself. It means that to be like Him, we do not have to place ourselves above the others, but come down, come down and serve them, become small among the small, and poor among the poor.”
Pope Francis has company in opposing the stranglehold of extremist Christians. People are beginning to react more against fundamentalist Christian attitudes:
- Atheists are more willing to declare their non-religious beliefs, for example, atheist, Rebecca Vitsmun, when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked her if she thanked the Lord for living through the Oklahoma tornado.
- A new generation is more willing to express their personal beliefs.
- Human rights are expanding, for example the number of states legalizing marriage equality and the demands to end the rape culture and lack of women’s rights allowed in the Bible.
- Cognitive scientists are beginning to openly explore the relationship between religion and mental illness such as anxiety disorders, panic, and depression.
- Communities are building outside religion to bring together those with like beliefs to provide support through community service, lectures, and recreation.
- Giving, once led by faith communities, is now being taken over by those outside the religious structure.
- Texas, a state that controls the content of textbooks, will teach biological science after publishers refused to include creationism in the books.
- Organizations such as Freedom from Religion are beginning to chart wins in their work to bring back more separation of church and state, and many of the leaders are young people.
- Young people who were isolated in homeschooling now have a network, Homeschoolers Anonymous, to lend support for each other. Others in church schools are starting to protest the bigotry, for example when hundreds of them walked out after a Bellevue (WA) school fired a gay teacher.
Between Pope Francis’s teachings and the changing demographics of the United States, the country may move away from a militaristic country of unfettered capitalism toward more compassion and acceptance for others.