Faith Deformed

[This first appeared at The Jagged Word on June 29.]

I knew this was going to happen. I knew that if a movie was hyped over and over, time and again, as being an incredible, profound meditation on faith and doubt, that it was unlikely to be anything of the sort. If someone has left or been scarred by Christianity, or an American Fundamentalist version of it; if someone is quick to say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious”; or if someone is fully convinced that what the Church should do is take up the apocalyptic cause du jour, then that person is the perfect candidate to be over-impressed with Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.

I don’t mean that those aren’t authentic responses to a real emotional and intellectual experience of viewing this film. But if you don’t find yourself resonating with one or more of those categories, you might well wonder if you’ve completely missed the point of the film. Is there an additional scene after the credits? Did I miss the profundity? Am I too stupid to understand the basic elements of serious film and thereby misunderstand Schrader’s intentions? The last two might, of course, be true. But the simpler answer is probably more accurate: It’s an attempt to be profound about religion, faith, and doubt, without actually achieving it.

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How Long Until Children Become a Liability?

I don’t mean the money you pay to have them or raise them; I don’t mean the time and energy you expend to give them what they need, especially when it goes against your own desires or dreams; I mean, very literally, when will it be a tax liability to have the children whom God gives?  Read this article at Salvo by Robin Phillips. 

Dr. Barry Walters, a professor of obstetrics at the University of Western Australia, argued a few years ago that those who refuse to use contraception should be levied with a climate-change tax. In a 2007 article in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr. Walters proposed that such a tax be assessed on all couples having more than two children. He suggested an initial fine of $5,000 for each “extra” child when born, with another $800 assessed every year thereafter. However, parents could redeem themselves by using contraceptives or undergoing sterilization procedures, for which they would receive carbon credits.

Okay, that’s Australia.  But you have to know there are people pushing for similar things in the United States.  People who admire China’s one-child policy, though China has the most carbon dioxide emissions in the world. 

Inverting the Christian redemption story, the new religion of science sees mankind as the curse, and scientists as the prophets pointing out the path of redemption. Like the prophets of old, the modern scientist-prophets know that salvation can never occur without sacrifice. The sacrifice they are calling for is simple: We must become fewer and poorer. Only then will the world will be saved from the environmental Armageddon that is fast approaching as a result of “reckless breeding” (a term employed by Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger).

As Chesterton said,

The Birth-Controller does not bother about all these things, for the perfectly simple reason that it is not such people that he wants to control. What he wants to control is the populace, and he practically says so. He always insists that a workman has no right to have so many children, or that a slum is perilous because it is producing so many children. The question he dreads is “Why has not the workman a better wage? Why has not the slum family a better house?” His way of escaping from it is to suggest, not a larger house but a smaller family. The landlord or the employer says in his hearty and handsome fashion: “You really cannot expect me to deprive myself of my money. But I will make a sacrifice, I will deprive myself of your children.” [“Social Reform versus Birth Control,” http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Social_Reform_B.C.html]

When, in “The Christmas Carol,” Scrooge refers to the surplus population, the Spirit tells him, very justly, not to speak till he knows what the surplus is and where it is. The implication is severe but sound. When a group of superciliously benevolent economists look down into the abyss for the surplus population, assuredly there is only one answer that should be given to them; and that is to say, “If there is a surplus, you are a surplus.” And if anyone were ever cut off, they would be. If the barricades went up in our streets and the poor became masters, I think the priests would escape, I fear the gentlemen would; but I believe the gutters would be simply running with the blood of philanthropists. [Charles Dickens, Part II, chapter VII http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/CD-2.html]

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Peace?

This has got to be a joke. What does this have to do with peace? Maybe I misunderstand the basis of the award, but I always thought that the name had something to do with why it was given. I could be wrong, but trumped up environmental scare tactics don’t seem to have anything to do with peace. “Raising awareness.” Right. Al Gore has become a parody of himself. And now the Nobel committee has joined him in the joke.

It just happens that I also found this today.

“It is now common ground that it is not simply a science film – although it is clear that it is based substantially on scientific research and opinion – but that it is a political film.”

But, of course, that has nothing to do with whether Al Gore is deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In a statement, Gore said he was “deeply honored,” adding that “the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

Clearly, winning a “peace” prize for a non-political issue would have nothing to do with U.S. politics, would it?

A source involved in Gore’s past political runs told CNN that he definitely has the ambition to use the peace prize as a springboard to run for president.

But he will not run, because he won’t take on the political machine assembled by Sen. Hillary Clinton, said the source. If the senator from New York had faltered at all, Gore would take a serious look at entering the race, the source said. But Gore has calculated that Clinton is unstoppable, according to the source.

Gore repeatedly denied he has any plans to run again, but this week a group of grass-roots Democrats calling themselves “Draft Gore” took out a full-page ad in The New York Times in a bid to change his mind. …

The Nobel committee praised Gore as being “one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians.”

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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“The Fool Says In His Heart, ‘There is No Global Warming'”

There is a new dogmatism sweeping the world.  It is the dogmatism of “climate change.”  I am not convinced that it is anything other than the normal ebb and flow of the earth.  However, whether it is real or not is quite irrelevant to its disciples.  As is, for that matter, whether humans are causing it.  The devotees of gaia are certainly convinced that the earth will be destroyed by humans if nothing is done to change our current habits. 

There is a reason why great fervor overtakes Al Gore and his sycophants: they have found their god and they will protect its reputation at all costs.  In the current use of the term, they are fundamentalists for their cause, as much as any backwoods, s’uth’n Bible-thumper.  This means that there is no room for any actual discourse on the merits of their case.  Witness the heretic-burnings that take place in the newspapers and talk shows when anyone dares to question the reigning orthodoxy.  The response is either rage or bemusement, as if viewing a strange, long-lost specimen. 

It is not, you see, so important that climate change is real, as it is that humans wish to be in control.  Because if it is humans that cause the problems, humans can fix them, right?  If only we can just reduce our carbon emissions, or purchase “carbon offsets,” or “go green,” or recycle more, or kill all the cows, or….or….or….  THEN everything will be alright, and we will preserve the earth (whether the human race survives is not all that important to the cause’s more radical martyrs).  Because we are in control. 

And if we are not, what then?  What of all our striving?  What will happen…after? 

That is the question.  If there is no end beyond these means, then the preservation of the earth is  the end.  It is the goal.  And it is idolatry.  Christians preserve the earth because it is God’s, not ours.  We do what we can and we leave the results to God.  We are stewards, not owners.  But that would push us humans out from in front of the control panel–and that the climate-change apostles cannot abide.  Because, as the well-known psalm has it: “The fool says in his/her/its heart, ‘There is no global warming.'”

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Now That’s Inconvenient

This story has been around for a few days, but I just think it bears repeating–especially after the Al Gore-lovefest, I mean the Grammys, the other night.

Steven Milloy writes,

While Gore relaxes in his posh pool house and heated pool, you should be taking shorter and colder showers, and hanging your laundry outside to dry. As Gore jets around the world in first-class comfort to hob-nob with society’s elites about his self-declared “moral imperative”, you should travel less and bike to work. You should use less electricity while Al and his wife, Tipper, use 20 times the national average. Now that’s a real carbon offset.

“Are you ready to change the way you live?” Gore literally meant you – and only you.

Do you realize that it costs Al Gore more money to heat his pool than it costs me to heat my house? Drafty windows and all? Gore makes a big deal about his carbon offsets, which is a stupid idea in the first place, and yet he doesn’t even pay for his offsets.

First, Al Gore doesn’t purchase carbon offsets out of his own pocket and the actual economic cost, if any, to him is unknown.

The actual offset purchaser is a London-based investment firm, Generation Investment Management (GIM), that Al Gore co-founded with former Goldman Sachs executive David Blood and others in 2004.

GIM supposedly purchases carbon offsets for all 23 of its employees to cover their personal energy use, according to a March 7 CNSNews.com report. These offsets, then, would be provided to Gore more as an employee benefit, thus requiring very little sacrifice on his or his family’s part. …

But it’s the carbon offset purchases through which Gore really validates application of the $300-man epithet to him. His company buys the offsets for their employees. There’s no cost to him. He benefits politically – and perhaps financially, as well – from them. He then advocates that the rest of us who cannot so easily offset are carbon production suffer myriad personal sacrifices.

Of course he’s laughing on the Grammys. (And, btw, did you really think that Melissa Etheridge song was the best? How can Dreamgirls have three nominated songs and not win?) He’s laughing because he owns more houses right now than most people have in their lifetime. That’s the joke.

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