Praying for Armageddon
As the religious right gains ground in the US,
accompanied by politicians evoking the god-fearing
values of good and evil, a culture honoring diversity
is replaced by calls for apocalyptic war.
As always, the schoolyard has become a major political
battleground. Hysteria over removing "under God" from
the Pledge of Allegiance aside, the latest educational
minefield lies in the origins of life: namely a return
to the 1925 Scopes Trial debate of evolution vs.
creationism. For example, to promote Christianity, Cobb
County, Georgia is putting disclaimers on its science
textbooks, saying that evolution is "a theory, not a
fact," and school districts from Kansas to Ohio are
enmeshed in battles royale over an issue that should be
settled in a country separating church and state.
Not that bible-banging US attorney general John
Ashcroft is troubled by the far right's assault on the
First Amendment; claiming "I think all we should
legislate is morality," the man charged with upholding
the Constitution has instead slowly dissected it to fit
his far-right Assemblies of God ideals.
And then there's Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's
insisting "the religious viewpoint should have a role
in the legislative and political process." Speaking at the University of Chicago earlier this year, Scalia
cited the New Testament to assert government, "derives
its moral authority from God ... to execute wrath,
including even wrath by the sword," adding, "the more
Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard
the death penalty as immoral ... for the believing
Christian, death is no big deal."
Good thing he cleared that up because for many of us
death seems like a pretty big deal indeed.
The upshot of all this is that by promoting fear and
blind arrogance, "leaders" charged with protecting the
tolerance and diversity that make our country strong,
chisel away at the base instead. Their approach boils
down to: "If you are one of us, religious freedom and
life itself are all-important; if you are one of them, your beliefs are wrong and your death is no big deal."
This attitude would be creepy enough if many of those marching us into a Middle Eastern blowout didn't
believe in a literal Armageddon. Not helpful either that a full 59% of Americans polled say they believe in the apocalyptic events predicted in the Bible's Book of Revelations: when the Messiah returns on judgement day, believers will be lifted to glorious heaven while sinful non-believers will be "left behind" to do battle with the anti-Christ. All of this is complicated by the belief that the Messiah can return only if a new temple is built on Temple Mount, one of the holiest - and most contentious - sites for Islam, Judaism and Christianity combined.
So we're left with US arsenals of mass destruction in the hands of politicians with a simplistic good/evil,
us/them approach to the globe - among whom are those
seeking salvation in a fiery Middle Eastern apocalypse.
Not the most comforting reality as the potentially
nuclear Palestine-Israel conflict implodes, and Iraq is backed into more dangerous corner every day.
While longing for deeper meaning is natural in times
like these, divisiveness and fiery death aren't the correct goals. And who said our lawmakers should be in
the business of legislating morality and defining life
and death according to their own religious beliefs?
Ultimately, rather than glorifying in the sinners "left
behind" to face torturous battles with the anti-Christ,
we should focus on helping those left behind by today's
unbalanced social and economic systems. Through
diversity and tolerance we all are lifted up; through
small-minded arrogance and greed we all lose.
Heather Wokusch is a free-lance writer. She can be
contacted via her web site at www.heatherwokusch.com
Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time and to its government when it deserves it. --