Thursday, February 03, 2005 03:27:37 AM
Are We Doomed? Insanity
There Is No
- By Bill Moyers,
(Posted here by Wes Penre, February 3, 2005)
of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is
no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of
power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history,
ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.
propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to
a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted
as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are
not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger:
voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's
first Secretary of the Interior? My favorite
journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James
Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was
unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In
public testimony, he said,
"after the last tree is felled, Christ
will come back."
snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about.
But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the
country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally
true, (only parts of it are factual--the prophecies parts written
early on by the same 'elite slave mongers' that are still running
this planet, and were written 'agenda's for the future' NOT
prophecy ) - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent
Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good
and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture
That's right - the rapture index. Google it and
you will find that the best-selling books in America
today are the
12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian
fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These
true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the
19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate
passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has
captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the
British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of
it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding):
Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions
of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the
valley of Armageddon.
As the Jews who have not been converted are
burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will
be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where,
seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their
political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores,
locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that
I'm not making this
up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these
people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are
sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to
help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish
settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers.
The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 - just
one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will
blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven
and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.
It's why the invasion of Iraq (next
there will be cause to bomb Iran) for them was a warm-up act,
in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the
great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A
war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but
WELCOMED- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.
So what does this
mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a
remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer - "The
Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how
millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental
destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -
even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
As Grist makes
clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who
hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress
before the recent election - 231 legislators in total and more since
the election - are backed by the religious right.
and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent
approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right
advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,
Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick
Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House
Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only
Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen.
Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book
of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord
God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be
relishing the thought.
And why not? There's
a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of
Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of
Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the
Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your
radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in
the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can
hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand
why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be
expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why
care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and
pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the
apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate
change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why
care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who
performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few
billion barrels of light crude with a word?"
Because these people believe that until Christ
does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high
school history book, "America's Providential History." You'll find
there these words: "The secular or socialist has a limited-resource
mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up
so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that
the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of
resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view the world
as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth
sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of
Karl Rove goes around the White House
whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian
Soldiers." He turned
out millions of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have
made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American
It is hard for the
journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let
me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how to be in this
world without expecting a confident future and getting up every
morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an
optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I
once asked: "What do you think of the market? "I'm optimistic," he
answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered:
"Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."
I'm not, either.
Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the Center for
Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the
natural environment when they realize its importance to their health
and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure.
It's not that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read
the news and connect the dots.
I read that the administrator of the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate
for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:
a.. That wants to
rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered
Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their
habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which
requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might
damage natural resources.
b.. That wants to relax pollution limits
for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease
pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and
diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.
c.. That wants a new
international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain
information about environmental problems secret from the public.
That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against
polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees
reached earlier with coal companies.
e.. That wants to open the
Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling
in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of
undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal
wild land in America.
I read the news just
this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had
planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of it from the
administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay
poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These
pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but
instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the
industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a
camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the
I read all this in the news.
I read the news just
last night and learned that the administration's friends at the
International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon Mobil and
others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is
"a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe
catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."
I not only read the
news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by
Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a
clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides;
language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a
waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands;
a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial
habitats in California.
I read all this and look up at the pictures on my
desk, next to the computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the
future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father,
forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short
by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We
are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their
And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't
care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for
outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?
What has happened to our moral imagination?
On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you
see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it
I see it feelingly.
The news is not good
these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the
news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that
sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want.
And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for
cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from
those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient
Israelites called hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity
to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.
Believe me, it does.
Disclaimer: The links in this article were
not put here by Bill Moyers, but by myself. Mr. Moyers may, or may not, agree
with the connections. Wes Penre, Illuminati News
Bill Moyers was
host until recently of the weekly public affairs series "NOW with
Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it
first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers' remarks upon
Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for
Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.
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