Saturday, November 19, 2005

More of this kind of thing to Come?

By their fruits you shall know them, we are told. In 2004, a member of the Dover, PA school board is said to have read parts of Genesis and exclaimed

How can we allow anything else to be taught in our schools?

A Rev. Jim Grove of Dover around the same time claimed

The teaching of evolution takes you somewhere--it leads you to atheism.

I don't know, but I strongly suspect these folks were not big fans of James Griffiss, Westerhoff, Holmes, or, say, ECUSA's leadership. And that is no accident--the school board member had a certain way of reading the Bible such that to her the Genesis creation myths were fit for a science classroom. Or at least they could serve as tacit guideposts for the articulation of intelligent design theory--for Genesis gives us the facts as they happened, right? And science supposedly is all about the facts. So only a perverse secular ideology would prevent ID from being taught in science classes, they may have thought.

Their thought most likely depended on their way of reading the Bible, seeing it as a repository of propositional dogma, ready made such that parts, like the creation myths, may be extracted simply as-is. A similar reading strategy informs the Anglican right on questions of the permissibility of gay unions: parts of Leviticus and Romans, especially, are treated as repositories of propositional dogma. But that reading strategy is invalid--as the case of Dover is sufficient to show; even if tha strategy got things right on the gay unions issue, it would not be on account of the reliability of the reading strategy; given the reading strategy, their getting it right would be an accident. That is, the case of Dover serves to present us with a potent reductio applicable to some on the Anglican right--perhaps even to the Very, Very, Very Reverend Akinola? Who knows--has he ever stooped to offer his hermeneutic?

And yet I cannot help but have unsolicited pity for these Christians in Dover, our brothers and sisters. Let's look away from the mockery they bring to the faith in the eyes of the honest, the diligent, the literate; let us look away from the stumbling block they put into the way of those who see their mess as representative of the serious and devout calling to a Christian life--their antic display isn't merely one of amazing ignorance, but more, and much, much worse. Dover is no picnic, so far as I can tell; what would have been fertile soil for populism in an older time is now fertile soil for another kind of resistance--Red State Conservatism consistently in the serv ice of the Republican Party. What would Thrasymachus say about them, in Book I of the Republic? They are like the cattle who love the herdsman looking after them--why? Because of his concern, concern apparently for their well-being. But in reality, they are not merely grazing for their own good. Cui bono?

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