Bill McKibben at UNCA tonightBy
From Mountain Xpress:
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader, and other defining books on the environment has become a galvanizing force in American politics. On tour, he will be visiting
Asheville on Wednesday, November 30 to speak at Lipinsky Hall, on the campus of UNCA. The program begins at 7:00 PM.
While McKibben is best known for his environmental writing, there’s a non-environmental essay from 2005 I keep going back to: The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong. McKibben examines that bizarre amalgam of Horatio Alger, Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ that for many Americans passes for Christianity, the same faith that informs McKibben’s environmentalism.
Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.
And on and on. The power of the Christian right rests largely in the fact that they boldly claim religious authority, and by their very boldness convince the rest of us that they must know what they’re talking about. They’re like the guy who gives you directions with such loud confidence that you drive on even though the road appears to be turning into a faint, rutted track. But their theology is appealing for another reason too: it coincides with what we want to believe. How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell.