The Profits of Doom(Comments Off)
The doomsday prophets of pop Christianity have spotted yet again another opportunity to exploit the gullibility of a certain segment of the Christian population by preaching, writing, and blogging on the international crisis in Syria.
If you’re at all familiar with how this generally works, then you’ll already know what they’re saying—events in Syria will lead to the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
I grew up with this kind of newspaper exegesis. Every headline, every war, especially every reported trouble in the Middle East, was connected to this or that prophecy of Scripture, no matter how tenuous. If one of the biblical seers predicted future catastrophe, and in doing so mentioned a particular region or city associated with the Holy Land, the doomsday prophets never fail to see that some one or other contemporary event is that which was foreseen in the Bible.
The objectively verifiable problem with this method of interpreting the Scriptures is that it has never been right and is always wrong in its predictions. Whether uncovering the identity of the Anti-Christ (Kissinger’s name adds up to 666 via gematria) or the imminency of the rapture (the Left Behind books) or setting the date for Christ’s return, these self-appointed prophets never fail to misunderstand biblical texts.
Taking Harold Camping as the most recent, well-known example of this phenomenon, he has three times predicted the return of Christ. He laid out his “biblical” case in his book 1994?, followed shortly after by Are You Ready?: Much More Evidence that 1994 Could be the End of the World. When 2011 rolled around, Camping was still here making new predictions about the apocalypse happening in May, and when May came and went, in October of that year. The third time was a charm; Harold Camping has officially retired from prophecy.
And yet, others remain undeterred. Why? It has to do with the profits of doom. There’s money to be made. Biblical prophecy is an industry that pays well. Our Lord told us that the poor are always with us; so are the conspiracy buffs and end-time junkies.
A saner though less exciting and lucrative approach to biblical prophecy is to recognize that the majority of the Bible’s predictions have been already fulfilled. The things foreseen are in our past, not our future. America will not be fulfilling ancient oracles should it lob missiles into Syria. It will simply be making another poor decision with the potential for some very serious consequences.
With all of this said, I should add that there is, of course, that grand and ultimate event still future to us, the final return of Jesus Christ. But what precisely the circumstances are leading up to that history-punctuating moment, no one can know, most certainly not the prophets of doom.
Sitting in traffic I happened to notice an unfortunate pro-life bumper sticker featuring an unborn child inquiring of the vehicles behind it: “ . . . what about my choice?”
Before applauding this as a poignant question directed at those advocating what’s now called “choice” in our culture, consider that this line of reasoning amounts to an unintended advertisement for euthanasia. Yes, should this hypothetical child grow up and choose to end its life over some malady, physical or otherwise, such a choice would be in keeping with the assumption of the slogan “. . . what about my choice?”
Utilizing this popular conception of choice in discussions of life and death is not a virtue it’s a vice. Life, whether our own or others, is a gift. Period. We are its recipients, not its masters. And in the case of parents, the two become willing, albeit passive, participants in our Creator’s live-giving handiwork.
Death, likewise, is a certainty, providentially governed by the One who gave life. Both beginning and end are fixed firmly in God’s hand. This is why talk of choice in these gravest of matters is arrogant and perverse.
I was reminded of this when reading last week about a letter written by actor Mark Ruffalo in which he celebrates his mother for aborting his older sibling. You may be wondering why the opinion of a man whose fame derives from his role as the Incredible Hulk matters on any moral issue, whatever. In the narrower context of moral philosophy, it most certainly does not; in the larger cultural milieu in which we’re situated, however, it does. It does because what he articulates, however clumsily and predictably in his letter, is what our broader culture has accepted as true: “ . . .what about my choice?”
Ruffalo’s letter is burdened that his mother was “forced” to have an illegal abortion, in “an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind.” He writes, “It cost $600 cash. It was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different.”
He continues, “We made abortion and a woman’s ability to be her own master a Right. That Right was codified into law. That law was the law of the land for decades. My own mother fought to make herself more than a possession; she lived her life as a mother who chose when she would have children, and a wife who could earn a living as she chose. I want my daughters to enjoy that same choice.”
Where to begin with Mr. Ruffalo? First, no one forced his mother in this circumstance to have any kind of abortion. She could have kept the child, or found a loving family for him or her, but instead consented to an illegally procured abortion. What she didn’t have in this case was legal or societal approval, which is what Ruffalo is on about in his letter.
Second, somebody needs to tell this man what used to be common knowledge before our contracepting and abortion obsessed society separated the sexual act from having children. When a man and woman have conjugal relations a child is not unexpected. These are the dynamics of the act; its main purpose is to generate offspring. It is precisely here that we may appropriately speak about choice in relation to life—if one does not want children, one should choose not to have sex.
Third, stripping away all the practiced moral indignation, the logical fallacies, the jargon of equality and rights, and the studied euphemisms designed to hide the real horror of abortion, what this Hollywood celebrity is really advocating, what a significant swath of our culture is advocating, is the right of a mother to murder her unborn [...]
Finding out the sex of a new baby is an important moment for moms and dads. It’s the great mystery of the pregnancy. Everybody in the family waits with something like Christmas eagerness to discover whom they’ll meet at delivery—a bouncing baby boy or a precious little girl.
Things, however, are not always so clear.
If you haven’t seen, news outlets around the web are reporting that Germany is leading Europe in legalizing “third gender.” As of November 1, German parents will no longer be required to declare their baby’s gender. Their decision can be either permanent or deferred until such a time the child chooses to assume the identity of male or female.
“Third gender” you ask? It’s a term used to describe a person who by their will or on account of social consensus, i.e., based on indeterminate sexual anatomy, is neither male nor female. This new legislation provides them legal recognition as a distinct group and is already being likened to the gay rights issue, while at the same time receiving criticism from certain “intersex” groups who believe such recognition will open individuals to greater discrimination.
For those of us whose view of the human person is grounded—regardless how simplified that view—in what can be recognized as traditional ontology, biology, and philosophy, this novel “third gender” approach to human nature is dangerous, and portends serious consequences for societies embracing the notion of a self-determined sexual identity.
Where there is legitimate physiological ambiguity, parents in consultation with their doctors, and based on objective criteria, do have crucial decisions to make about discerning the sex of their child. This is already the case without the addition of this new legislation, a fact highlighting that there is something more at work here than the good of these children and families. This law serves as another example of legislation advancing a cultural agenda bent on demolishing, among other things, the normative, natural categories of male and female.
Once upon a time, nouns had gender; people had sex, namely, an identity stemming from the structural and functional differences that distinguish male and female, particularly in reference to reproductive functions. But today the chalkboard has been wiped clean and secular orthodoxy insists that people do indeed have gender, namely, a sexual identity stemming from the subjective choice of the individual, an identity to be changed, shed, or mixed at will.
In the case of the people purportedly intended to benefit from this kind of legislation, the normal structural and functional differences between the sexes are to one degree or another initially ambiguous. The word initially is all-important.
So what to do? Germany (like Australia) is offering its citizens a new legal status as a solution. But rather than solving the problem this course of action instead undermines human nature by assuming the gender lie and introduces a radical confusion, that in comparison, makes the one occurring at the biological level look only slight.
Not long ago, in a conversation I was having with someone on the subject of same-sex marriage, I found myself on the receiving end of one of those oft heard, emotionally saturated, hackneyed epithets intended to force the politically incorrect party sharing in the discussion into apologetic agreement.
Yes. I was labeled a bigot. And, this after having made clear that my opposition has nothing to do with personal preference or uninformed prejudices, but instead with the nagging contours of reality in which every human person necessarily participates, namely, that men and women are different yet complementary; that as persons they fit together in every way imaginable; all of this making procreation possible and desirable, giving rise to family units that ensure the stability of society and the promise of future generations. You know, the kind of stuff everybody used to believe.
All the principled reasoning in the world could not shield me from the charge of bigotry. Why? Because I oppose same-sex marriage—and I’m a Christian.
But what exactly is bigotry, and is it an exclusively religious phenomenon?
I’ll put that notion to rest: any judgment that doesn’t, for one reason or another, take into account all of the facts in assessing another’s position is bigoted. No wonder “narrow-minded” appears so frequently near the term.
A bigot doesn’t seek to understand the rationale of the views with which they disagree. They simply make judgments about others out of the resources of their own personal or group ignorance. Sadly, this tends only to reinforce and perpetuate the stunted conception of the world they’ve already adopted.
So, no, bigotry isn’t particularly the problem of religion, and, yes, it can flourish in the most professedly open-minded individuals. For instance, someone labeling all religiously based discrimination as de facto bigotry is itself an example of bigotry, for the very reason that it precludes taking into account all of the facts informing religious morality.