Monday, December 07, 2015

Hell and Hamnation

The above picture shows the New York Daily Times front page carrying the headlines about a recent indiscriminate terrorist attack in California which left 14 dead. The terrorists were a Muslim couple who were not on the Security Services radar probably because other than being inspired by Daesh (formerly “Islamic State”) they had no other connection with the terrorist group. Once they had conceived their plan the ready availability of high powered semi-automatic weapons of mass death allowed that plan to be implemented to devastating  effect.

To my mind the NYT front page is almost certainly a protest against the free availability of guns in the US. Viz: “End gun scourge”. I’m not going to comment on this debate here other than to mention that following on the heels of the California attack the UK was rocked by what appears to be a lone wolf attack by a knife wielding Daesh sympathiser. In fact it is possible the perpetrator was inspired by the attack in the US.  He injured two people although the injuries were not life threatening. This arbitrary rampage would have been a lot worse if the would be killer had easy access to semi-automatic military rifles.

But what really interests me about this front page is the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”. In the US a headline like that is unlikely to be anti-God – in fact it could conceivably be contrived by a Christian who is simply against weapons of mass death being sold as a consumer product: If for the sake of argument we conjecture that the headline was written by a Christian then it could be an expression of the Christian belief that God can’t or won’t do anything until the subject is willing to change, repents and does works worthy of repentance. In this connection the repentance would be to turn from the retailing of over-the-counter machines that can deal out death on industrial scales. 

Of course, the foregoing is not to say that this is the actual attitude of those behind the headlines, but it is a construction that could be placed on them. Now let’s turn to a right-wing fundamentalist’s view of these headlines, namely the censorious and condemning Ken Ham. In a blog post dated 3rd December and entitled “God isn’t fixing this?” we can read the following from the keyboard of Ken Ham. I reproduce the post in its entirety (with my emphasis):

By Ken Ham on December 3, 2015

This morning’s cover of the New York Daily News references the tragic shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left at least 14 dead and several wounded. It shows tweets from politicians referencing prayers for the victims but then boldly declares “God isn’t fixing this.”
This front page of a major newspaper is a blast against approaching God in prayer—it’s mocking God and mocking Christianity. It clearly shows where our culture is at today as America becomes more secular. It’s an utter rejection of God and an ignorance of His Word.
The paper’s editors say that “God can’t fix this”—but which God are they talking about? Our culture and government have by and large thrown the teaching of the true God out of public schools, tossed out nativity scenes, crosses, and the Ten Commandments from public places. They’ve largely taken Christ out of Christmas, made it legal to kill millions of children in mothers’ wombs, and our culture shakes its fist at God in regard to His teaching on marriage. Our culture has largely rejected God and has the audacity to say God can’t fix problems.
Our culture refuses to acknowledge we are living in a fallen world (Genesis 3)—although God is not responsible for the tragedies we see all around. God created a perfect world that was ruined by mankind’s sin—it’s our fault in Adam. Our culture by and large refuses to acknowledge God is the absolute authority. Instead we’ve raised up generations of students who believe they are nothing more than animals and that there is no God who makes the rules. Our culture has worked hard to throw the biblical and true teaching of God out of America, and then expects God to protect America!
America needs to repent and turn to God! The only thing that will save this nation is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hearts and minds need to be changed with the gospel for now and eternity.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

We need to pray for this nation and share the gospel with our family, friends, and neighbors, and raise our children to love the Lord and think biblically. And yes, please pray for the families of those who have been affected by the California massacre.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
In many ways this is typical fundamentalist fare: Ham jumps straight in firing on all barrels and accuses the NYT of blasting against prayer, mocking God and Christianity. This outburst is then the trigger for all the other holy grievances Ham holds against his society; he lumps the NYT in with those grievances. The majority of Americans would not regard Ham with a great deal of respect, even many evangelical Christians, but that only further marginalizes Ham and increases his sense of righteous outrage and offence. All the antipathy directed toward Ham registers on his meter as an affront upon the Almighty Himself. Where there is otherwise good conscience Ham only sees sin. In this particular instance Ham doesn’t acknowledge that the NYT headlines are likely to be the outcome of a moral compass that is set against the consumer-level availability of machines of mass death; either his easily triggered "blasphemy detectors" blind him completely or his right-wing political stance prevents him from siding with anyone who is anti-gun lobby; his politics and his religion are inextricably mixed.

I have said something like the following many times before but I say it again: The fundamentalist perceives the world beyond his subculture to be in a state of total depravity, capable only of evil; a wicked world that he holds in contempt and deeply despises. He is constantly at odds with that world and in a perpetual state of offence and grievance about it. He sees it as his moral duty to level uncompromising charges against outsiders even when the case for those charges is very flimsy. If you have ever had a clinically paranoiac person accuse you of a quite fanciful misdemeanor your reaction is likely to be “However did they managed to work that one out? It's a total fantasy!”. And that echoes both my personal experience of the apocalyptic paranoia of the fundamentalists and my reading of Ham’s fanciful charge against the NYT.

In Ken Ham’s behavior I see the prototypes of something sinister: Alienation, utter disaffection, marginalisation, spiritual loathing of the world, new dawn restorationism, paranoiac conspiracy theorism, epistemic arrogance, faith testing, huge spiritual ego, uncompromising, unwillingness to negotiate or engage in diplomacy. anti-science philosophy etc – a whole cocktail of attitudes and practices that lead individuals to impose their world view on others by spiritual intimidation of one sort or another, and possibly worse.  From Jerry Falwell to Donald Trump, some (and I'm glad it's only some) versions of Christianity in America are suffering from a canker. All very embarrassing for a Christian like myself whose faith appears to have become the stamping ground of right wing crackpots and authoritarians. Having moved in Christian circles for many years and had contact with fundamentalists I’m bound to admit that if it weren’t for the New Testament explicitly breaking the link between religion and violence, the prototype attitudes I list above can push a certain class of mentality toward fascist government or failing that, lethal terrorism. It makes me shudder to think that a person like Donald Trump is so close to attaining presidency in not only the most powerful country in the world, but one on which the whole of Western democratic civilization swings. The internal enemy is always the most dangerous enemy.

 Gun-ho-ho-ho!: Look what Santa has brought these nice Christian people!
 Ken Ham is unlikely to want to upset the  right-wing gun toters

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