“Why me, Lord? Where have I gone wrong? I've always been nice to people! I don't drink or dance or swear! I've even kept kosher, just to be on the safe side. I've done everything the Bible says; even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff! What more could I do?” - Ned Flanders
Left Behind? How About Just Leave Us Alone.
But Abimelech had not come near her. And he said, Lord, wilt thou also kill a righteous nation?
On the surface, Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson’s next-door neighbor, is wise and well- intentioned. You know him, or someone like him: the big front-gate smile, the unbeatable optimism, the unassailable good nature. Ned’s harmless. He’s conservative and believes the Bible was dictated by the Almighty to a stenography pool of goat-sacrificing God-channelers living in mud huts, but so what? My brother thinks Jim Morrison was a great poet. We’re all entitled to our delusions. Especially when they harm no one but ourselves.
If enough people to fill a church, or a baseball stadium, share a delusion, then those delusions become a belief system - BS for short. For instance, Red Sox fans believe that Babe Ruth put a curse on their team when they traded him to the Yankees. This is easier than accepting that they suffered through 86 years of bums and chokers. Which obviously was the case. But what harm is there in a supernatural explanation for bad management, as long as it’s not a publicly traded company, or a democratically-elected government?
I know a high-tech salesman in Boston with a degree from Harvard Divinity School who postulates that the Bible was an R-Rated soap opera written for Bedouins with no dancing girls. He could be right; the Bible can easily be read as a hot romance novel. As he says, “It’s got larger-than-life heroes, sex of every stripe, and many strong, willful women, including two named Mary - one a virgin, the other a ‘ho.”
It also wraps up with a killer last chapter called Revelations, and leaves us hanging by a litany of sequel possibilities. So who can say? Regardless of the facts, irrespective of the text, we believe what we want.
My reading of the Bible produces two things: the parts when the Israelites are in captivity reminds them of the poltroonish behavior that landed them there, then it tells them to keeps their chins up and to glorify God; in the other parts, when they’re not enslaved, and things seem to be going well, the Bible chides the Israelites that “pride goeth before a fall” in so oh many, ways, and also to remember to increase their glorification of God in proportion with their inevitable wickedness.
Ned Flanders gleaned much from the Bible that others shrug, laugh, and grimace at, but central to his tautology is a hard and fast belief that the end is coming sooner than we think. Not the end of the Sopranos, or the end of Microsoft as we know it, or even the end of American democracy, but the end of the world. The whole damned thing. Which is an odd belief for a guy who’s always smiling, but it does put Ned’s objection to stem cell research in context: who needs a cure for their incurable illness if we’re all lunch pretty soon anyway? And why should we worry about the environment when the world’s destruction is a harbinger of the End Times?
The Apocalypse, the Antichrist, Armageddon, the Rapture, The End Times - these aren’t just plot lines in B movies and books that sell gazillions of copies in paperback, they’re the basis of belief for more than 65 million American Christians who pray daily not for world peace, as you might expect, or for an end to strife and suffering - but just the opposite. They beseech their Lord and Savior to bring about the end of the world.
These aren’t just prayers, they’re imprecations against the rest of us. In case you haven’t stayed in a hotel lately and haven’t thumbed through a Bible in a while because the porn is so over-priced, let me remind you that the end of the world comes about by fire. Matthew talks about it, and he’s the same guy telling people to lop off their limbs and pull out their eyes if they offend thee.
Then shall he say also to those on the left, Go from me, cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels
So we all get burned up, alive, that’s the bad news. It hurts, a lot, and that’s the worse news. The Prophet Elijah said so, and he had a lot of first-hand experience torching soldiers by summoning flames from the sky. But, you might ask, how can every one of us die by fire? We have firefighters and office sprinklers for that sort of thing. And why would somebody pray for such a calamity in the first place?
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill conflagration. We’re not talking about the Weber grill flaming out on the porch and causing a 10-alarmer in the heart of the city. Or even Elijah winning an oxen bake-off against the priests of Baal. This is the mother of all fires. But again, where does such a fire come from, and how does it get started? It’s simple actually, but something Ned won’t discuss over the back fence with you. Nuclear weapons are the secret ingredients for his End Times barbecue. A mushroom cloud souffle is the Big Bang that the Neddites believe in and look forward to - and also why nuclear non-proilferation is a non-issue for George W. Bush, the King of the Neddites. Put simply, if their prayers are answered, the existential jig is up.
But didn’t Jesus say weapons and war are bad? Well yeah, but he also, said,
Don't assume that I came to bring peace on the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Do you think that I came here to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
Or at least, that’s what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Tim Lahaye, the author of the Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels (60 million copies sold worldwide) believe. Jesus wasn’t a Kumbaya kind of guy after all. He’s butch in a big way - big muscles, big swords, gleefully smiting, massacring, and decimating the forces of Satan. He’s the Prince of Peace, but the peace is hard-fought. So Jesus is buff and looking to mix it up and Ned’s not conflicted or mis-guided after all. He is, however, extremely motivated. He might argue, and not rhetorically:
“How can bombs be intrinsically evil? They’re just…highly-enriched plutonium bolted to C-4 detonators. Like all God’s works, thermonuclear devices can be put to good use by people of moral clarity. Hey, don’t take my word for it; Read,
Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down
24:11 …all joy is darkened…
Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet. Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets. And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.”
Teeerific. Sounds pretty hot to me. So does this:
Therefore just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
He’s not talking about yard waste there, he’s talking about me, and maybe you. Pointedly, he’s not talking about the Neddites. While the rest of us are having the burnt flesh flailed from our emaciated carcasses, they’ll be having orientation in heaven - learning their locker combinations, dive bombing each other with their new wings, going to keggers with celebrity saints…all that stuff. So if they seem a tad self-satisfied at times, self-righteous even, that’s because they are.
Anyone who says a true Christian can’t be a warrior, biblically-speaking, is talking out of his Unitarian ass. At a bare minimum, they need a Neddite Bible study class. Campus Crusade youth ministries - basically Neddite college kids having a messianic summer of love - often refer to themselves as “Warriors for God”, and the slogan they live by is “If you haven’t been persecuted for your faith today, you aren’t trying hard enough.”
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
What “persecution” amounts to these days can be anything from getting a speeding ticket (must have been the God is My Co-Pilot bumper sticker) to somebody like me chasing them off my porch with a stick. Theologically speaking, according the Apostles, especially Paul, Mark, and Matthew, there’s actually a blessing in being a nuisance.
The Neddites have a distinctly Paulist, Us vs. Them outlook on the non-Neddite world. One can understand why St. Paul might have been a little paranoid - he and the early Christians actually were persecuted - crucified, drawn and quartered, raped, maimed mutilated. Today, the Warriors for God equate civil unions for gay couples with being thrown to the lions. Anything that offends their interpretation of the Bible is an effrontery to their faith, and an assault on their spiritual beings. Which in a pluralistic society is a thin-skinned and unworkable attitude. Ask them if they care.
The Neddites aren’t pushing old school, God-of-Vengeance sturm und drang; this is the unenlightened New Testament they’re preaching, the Word according to Mel Gibson. The Neddite Jesus is a macho son of God, feisty and direct, a bar-brawler and a provocateur. If He were a live today, he’d be Dale and Arnold all rolled into one - that is if Dale wasn’t already dead and Arnold wasn’t such a damned liberal. Nevertheless, soon the Rapture will unfold for the Neddites (because what fun is it if you don’t plan for it coming any day now?) and all the superficial distinctions between life and death will lose their meanings.
Is the end of the world really coming? Is it less likely than death and taxes? More likely than global warming? You can learn these secrets if you understand Biblical prophesy.. Which I’m guessing you don’t, or you wouldn’t be reading this. The Neddites steep themselves in The Book of Revelations to get the inside dope. It’s the Bible’s Apocalyptic literature, from the Greek meaning “to reveal,” or “to uncover.” These are the tidbits that can only be known through special powers of interpretation and prophesy - such as that the earth is at the center of the universe and the whole thing is held up in space by angels. Stuff like that.
The Apocalyptic literature is read mainly for its details on the End Times, also known as the Eschaton, from the Greek meaning the end of the world. This is crucial information for some Neddites. Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, to know if, for instance, they rape their secretary, or pound the pulpit with a hooker in a cheap motel, will there be time for God to bestow his special forgiveness on them before the Rapture? If they invest in Pat Robertson’s blood diamond mind in Liberia, will they be able to get their profit out and enjoy it before Jesus returns?
Prophecy is a real hoot for most people, as evidenced by the glut of telephone psychics and storefront tarot card readers everywhere. But these soothsayers are guided by demons, according to the Neddites. They are agents of Satan, proof that the world is locked in an angelic war for the souls of humankind. Demons are everywhere - lust demons, complacency demons, pride demons, theft demons, adultery demons, rebelliousness demons. Demon R Us. This isn’t metaphor or symbolism, there’s nothing ethereal about these demons. The Neddites believe in literal evil, with a nasty personality. When Andrea Yates went tragically mad and drowned her five kids in the tub, it was demons that drove her to it. Or when another mother in Texas hacks off the arms of her 10-month old baby, because in the Book of Matthew, Jesus says: “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee,” it’s not mental illness, or post-partum depression that causes such a tragedy, it was, Rafar, the Demon Prince of Babylon. Or some other murderous beast from the netherworld, released upon these hapless souls by a dusty Ouija Board under somebody’s bed.
Back to the events at hand. The Neddites realized long ago that nuclear weapons are the key to the Apocalypse puzzle, and these days, for a price, anyone can buy a garage-built Fat Boy, or a juiced-up Strella of their own. But actually getting a bomb is harder than it seems. Negotiating with atheistic Russian gangsters, making money-drops in Yemen, consuming all that spicy food and strong-smelling coffee - frankly, it takes all of the Holy Spirit out of procuring weapons of mass destruction. Fortunately, as it turns out, buying the US presidency actually costs a lot less than buying a nuke with a dependable delivery system, and it’s legal.
Once the Neddites have the weapons, or access to launch codes through the Commander-in-Chief,, according to their highly parsed version of the Bible, all the Muslims in the West bank and Gaza Strip must move somewhere else. Saudi Arabia or Kuwait would be fine for now, but Alpha Centauri would be better. So they’ve got a few million people to relocate, and nowhere to relocate them to. It’s nothing for God to accomplish. He provides Cat bulldozers as easily as loaves and fish.
On May 1, 2002 on MSNBC, then House majority leader, now former Rep. Richard Armey (R-TX), a card-carrying Neddite, had the following conversation with the“Hardball” host, Chris Matthews:
ARMEY: I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank.
MATTHEWS: Well, where do you put the Palestinian state, in Norway? Once the Israelis take back the West Bank permanently and annex it, there's no place else for the Palestinians to have a state.
ARMEY: No, no, that's not--that's not at all true. There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land and - and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state.
MATTHEWS: So you would transport - you would transport the Palestinians from Palestine to somewhere else and call it their state?
ARMEY: I would be perfectly content to have a homeland, just as --most of...
MATTHEWS: But not in Palestine?
ARMEY: Most of the people who now populate Israel were transported from all over the world to that land and they made it their home. The Palestinians can do the same, and we're perfectly content to work with the Palestinians in doing that-
MATTHEWS: Right, no. No, that's not the question and that's not your answer. The question here is: What is the future of the Palestinians who are fighting Israel right now? You say there future is somewhere besides Palestine. That runs in the way of US policy going back to 1948. It runs - it runs completely against the president's policy and every policy I've heard a president take, which is that Israel has to give up its settlements on the West Bank and give it back to the Arabs in exchange for peace. You say the deal should be the Palestinians leave?
ARMEY: That's right... I happened to believe that the Palestinians should leave.
MATTHEWS: Have you ever told George Bush, the President from your home state of Texas, that you think the Palestinians should get up and go and leave Palestine and that's the solution?
ARMEY: I'm probably telling him that right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, just to repeat, you believe that the Palestinians who are now living on the West Bank should get out of there?
The idea of "transporting" the Palestinian people to new countries in the region is regarded as radical and racist by most Israelis. Not to mention ironic in the extreme, given the world events that led to the formation of the State of Israel. But now that the Neddites have their fingers in foreign policy, ethnic cleansing of certain people from certain areas passes for mainstream politics in the United States.
Once the small matter of several million Muslims is settled, all the other Muslims have to move too. Because according to Book of Ezekiel, chapters 47 and 48, Eretz Israel is a specific geographical area that includes Jordan, Lebanon, most of Syria and all of the northern Sinai, from the Euphrates to the Nile. This area includes regions never settled by Israelites and excludes Gilead, which was the Chicago of ancient Israel. So again, go figure. But the Neddites don’t scrutinize the Bible, they read it literally, and follow The Word as closely as they can. Hence the armless baby. When it comes to God, theirs is not to reason why.
So, once the Muslim world has packed itself onto one of those man-made islands off the coast of Qatar, and the Israelites stake their claim from the Dead Sea to the Jordan River and down to the Mediterranean, the Neddites then need - again according to their punctilious reading and odd understanding of sacred scripture - all the world’s Jews to move to Israel. So pack your bagels, Bubula, you’re going home.
Ye shall be gathered one by one O ye children of Israel
The Neddites see it as a re-patriation, but very few Jews would agree with that characterization. Moving to Israel under their own steam is fine, but Israel is home to fewer than half the world’s Jews, and those in the Diaspora remain there for their own reasons. I couldn’t get my mother to move into an assisted living apartment, but Ned thinks everybody’s Bubbie is going to schlep off to East Jerusalem just to get herself blown up on the bus and make Pat Robertson happy. I’m doubtful, but that is one big difference between Neddites and the rest of Christianity. They never doubt..
And what they know is that Jesus will return to earth when the preconditions laid out in the Book of Revelations are met, the first of which is establishment of a state of Israel. The next sign is Israel’s occupation of “Biblical lands” bestowed upon it by God after the 1967 War, and finally the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques. When the armies of the north and west meet on the Plains of Armegeddon, actually Meggida, very near the Plains of Sharon (and boy isn’t that titillating), those Jews who have shown the wisdom and faith to accept Jesus as their personal savior will be spared. The others are screwed along with the rest of us.
The Neddites seek to bring all this about, which means, among other things, staging confrontations at the Dome of the Rock - in 2000, three American Neddites were deported for attempting to blow up the Al-Aqusa mosque. Currently, there are hundreds of activist Christian Zionists at work in Israel with the blessing and assistance of the Sharon government, Joe Lieberman, and Gary Bauer, sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories (the Christians Friends of Israel sponsor an “adopt-a-settlement” program, with 60 settlements participating), demanding ever more US support for Israel, and doing their damnedest to provoke a final battle with whoever the armies of the Antichrist turn out to be. The fact that the great majority of Israelis want, need, and work for peace with the Palestinians is inconsequential to the Christian Zionists. The Jewish people have a collective, non-speaking role in the Neddite passion play, and are mere props.
Ned envisions Jews pouring in from everywhere - China, Sierra Leone, Tierra del Fuego...In a matter of days, or as quickly as everyone can get their dry cleaning all at once, Manhattan will be a virtual ghost town; large tracts of Florida will be completely deserted as if a great plague had set upon them and smote the slow-driving retirees verily. None of this seems remotely likely, of course, and that’s the point. Despite no one ever actually experiencing miracles, they are the chief currency of faith. And you have to have faith, or you’re not a good Neddite. In fact, you’re not a Neddite at all.
Israel will be crowded at first, what with ten million new people moving in all at once. But they’ll only have to tough it out for a while because most of them are going to be incinerated in Armageddon soon enough anyway.
When all the Jews are finally herded back to Israel, and all the Muslims are miraculously somewhere else, we get the Rapture. This is when Jesus returns and hoovers all the born-again Christians up to heaven, and all the dead Neddites are risen from the grave to go meet Jesus in the flesh - a sort of Easter Sunday meets The Night of the Living Dead.
The sinful and uninitiated are left behind to be terrorized by the Antichrist in a post-Armageddon, boil- and locust-filled world. If the movie posters are anywhere near accurate, this is going make the post-911 world seem like the Gilded Age.
After seven years of this extreme nastiness - Christ (Godzilla) returns and kicks ass on the Antichrist (Rodan). He also manages to completely destroy the world on his victory lap. But it’s not a problem, because Christ rules over heaven on earth for a thousand years, like Hitler was supposed to, only nicer and with fewer uniforms. But still no Jews. Jesus will then perform a series of miracles (because everybody begs for them at parties) and soon the world look like the Home&Garden Network as it did before that untidy Adam and Eve eviction so long ago.
The order of things vary according to pre-millenialism, post-millenialism, and amilenialism. There are also dozens of sub-sets within these three schools of thought. And when is this all supposed to start? According to many Neddites, it already has - on September 11, 2001.
When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
10: Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: `Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'
11: The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more.
To see the future so clearly, when most of us can’t make heads or tails of the present, is truly a gift. Of course prophecy, like the existence of evil itself, is a mystery and an act of faith available only to Neddites. They subscribe to a complicated, contradictory, polyphonic, anonymous, and illogical theory with no empirical evidence to support it. Bullshit is what we’d normally call that. But we live in the age of paper-free, faith-based voting, and all things are possible.
The Neddites have it all in writing, in the most popular book in the world after The Da Vinci Code. It believes palpable evil to be demons, and requires the acknowledgment of the Antichrist’s presence, or imminent arrival on the world scene. For being one of the faithful caught up in the Rapture, you will avoid the Tribulations. These truths are axiomitic to Neddism.
The pesky contradictions, and seemingly unChristian prejudices they’re forced to bare will all be explained at the Rapture. Or at the very latest at the orientation brunch with the Martyrs and Archangels, after service that next Sunday.
Neddites can disagree about the identity of the Antichrist (Osama, Obama, Dan Rather), but they can’t deny the clear and present danger that lesbians, socialists, pornographers, Democrats, and the Antichrist, whoever he may be, pose to the future of the Republic. The end is near, it says so in no uncertain terms in the Bible:
Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
Luke 21:32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
Those words were written more than two thousand years ago, and several hundred years apart, so we can safely assume that those generations did pass before all was fulfilled.
Still, Neddites interpret the Bible literally, which is odd because it wasn’t written literally. They key to prophesy lies in the code of the Bible - a well-read, but functionally schizophrenic text written thousands of years ago. Is it the future foretold? Is it the inspired word of God?
All interpretations of the Bible, from the Neddite to the New Age, require faith. Which means, to one degree or another, believers set aside reason and give themselves over to superstition. For some, God is a comfort, for others He’s a means to power. If you’re a Neddite selling auto insurance in Birmingham, Talabama and you attract customers by adding the phrase “Christ-Centered Business” to your Yellow Pages ad, then you know the power of the Lord.
Christians who don’t share the Neddite literal interpretation of the Bible agree that it’s, well, goofy. And Ned is goofy too. So why worry? Okilly-dokilly, not a problem, no harm done. But ask yourself, truly: no harm?
Why did George W. Bush, the King of the Neddites, attack Iraq when no one else wanted to? The answer for Neddites is simple: read your Bible. If you did, you’d know that lots of places, such as Tel Aviv and Iraq, have different names in the Bible. Tel Aviv was called sand; Iraq was called Chaldea, also Babylon:
2nd Chronicles 26:19
Then the Chaldeans burned God's temple.
They tore down Jerusalem's wall, burned down all its palaces,
And destroyed all its valuable utensils.
Destroyed all its valuable utensils? And so near the Church of the Holy Spatula? Those bastards. Now you begin see from where this millennia-long animosity derives. You don’t just forget a thing like that. But here’s the important part -Abraham, The Big Cheese of the three major monotheistic religions, actually hailed from Chaldea, specifically the land of Ur, where he hung loose until he was seventy-five years old, chatting with God, making a nice living, and avoiding the child welfare people who were after him for back child-support payments.
Then one day, God gave him the land of Canaan, every inch of it. Just laid it on him, right out of the blue. Abraham was like, Dude, are you sure you want to do this? But God told him to pack up his wives and slaves and drag ass out of Ur, because the promised land awaited.
Truth was, God had a bone to pick with Chaldea/Babylon/Iraq - He hated it in fact, the way some people do LA. Or Baghdad. Otherwise, He could have just given Iraq to Abraham and saved on the moving costs. It’s a nice place, the Tigres and Euphrates Valley, the area many people believe to be the Garden of Eden. But that’s where it all went badly for God’s grand plans, and He soured on the place.
It was an ugly scene with a nice enough couple, Adam and Eve, who were guilty of nothing more than stealing fruit, evicted without what to wear, or where to live. God’s a tough landlord (an infinite prick, to hear Lilith tell it). Anyway, the place held unpleasant memories for God, so He said to Abraham, what are we hanging around here for? I didn’t create this whole planet for nothing.
So God doesn’t like the place much, and therefore neither do the Neddites. What’s more, Neddism regards the invasion of Iraq as the first battle of Armageddon, which in their view of events is a very good thing
Revelation Chapter 9:14-16
“Saying to the sixth angel that had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound at the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, who are prepared for the hour and day and month and year, that they might slay the third part of men; and the number of the hosts of horse [was] twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.”
But all that oil underground - God must have known it would be valuable someday, and cause a lot trouble too. What was he thinking? He’s a trouble-maker that God, full of tests, trials, and tribulations. Still, He was very eager for Abraham to get a piece of Canaan, as if it were the biblical Hamptons or a really nice private club with a long waiting list. So Abraham loaded up the truck and they moved to…Israel. That name got changed eventually too.
Israel was okay, but to be honest, a little cramped. Sure, it made for a nice yard, but not such a big country. The whole place could easily fit into God’s broom closet, and there was nothing really nothing to recommend it. Abraham wondered aloud if this could be the land of Canaan he’d heard so much about. Nobody was happy - his family, his concubines, his slaves, everyone was understandably pissy in this place you couldn’t squeeze an ounce of water or a half-day’s work from because it was infested with tribes whose Gods had also given it to them. Still, the Almighty had the God-sized balls to make it all seem like a big favor to Abraham - especially given the way things turned out.
Ishmael was Abraham’s first born; his mother was an Egyptian slave named Hagar, no relation to the slacks worn by many Neddites today. Abraham’s name was Abram back then, and Sarah’s was Sarai. Who knows why they changed them; maybe they owed people money. Then, at the age of 86, Abraham found out Hagar had a bun in the oven, and was dumb enough to think it was his. This says it all:
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her:
You have conceived and will have a son.
You will name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard your [cry of] affliction.
This man will be [like] a wild ass.
His hand will be against everyone,
and everyone's hand will be against him;
he will live at odds with all his brothers.
Poor Ishmael got negatively coded early on there.
To celebrate his hundredth birthday, virile Abraham had a new baby with his wife, the formerly barren, now very fecund ninety-two year old Sarah. Thanks be to God. Their progeny, the fair and pleasing Isaac, was so perfect in Abraham’s mind that God got jealous and threatened to get rid of him.
If God was insecure around Isaac, Ishamel was completely bummed. Eventually banished with his mother to wander in the desert, and written out of the will, we may surmise that these events hurt young Ishmael’s feelings, alienated him from his tribe and family, and made him resentful toward his famous father. To hear Sarah tell it, he was the proto-Columbine assassin. And let the record show that it was all her idea - but in the end, God went along with it.
So she said to Abraham, "Drive out this slave with her son, for the son of this slave will not be a co-heir with my son Isaac!"
But God said to Abraham, "Do not be concerned about the boy and your slave. Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her, because your offspring will be traced through Isaac.
Abraham also had Ishmael circumcised on his thirteenth birthday, whereas Isaac’s schmeckie got cut when he was just eight-days old. Big difference - that had to create some hard feelings too. And these things add up over time.
So now Ishmael, off on his own, wandering in the desert, got to thinking that life wasn’t humming along quite as he’d like, or had hoped. Perhaps, in worshipping his father’s God he was worshipping the wrong God. Or worshipping God in the wrong way. Today in the Middle east, the of Abraham still fight over who Grampy liked best.
The Neddites seek political power to enforce their conservative social agenda, but according to them, this is only in service to God and Judgement Day. It’s not like they want power for the sake of power - perish the thought. They’re bringing souls to Jesus to maximize the Rapture’s harvest by opposing abortion, gay marriage, conga lines, drinking anything fun, calico cats, and independent thought.
Neddite tithe up to ten per cent of their annaual gross so that the church can be bigger next year, every year. And they sell a lot of Amway. Their lives, both social and spiritual, revolve around their church, where the pastor, by Biblical instruction, is Il Duce. There’s no dancing, but you get to trade that off for lots of Bible study. So it’s not like they don’t know how to have a good time.
In late October 2004, just before the presidential election, Christian Coalition founder and Bush ally Rev. Pat Roberton told CNN’s Paula Zahn that prior to the start of the Iraq war he relayed to President Bush a message from God that the war would be messy and full casualties. As revelations go, this wasn’t exactly the third secret of Fatima, but it was a nice try. According to Rev. Robertson, the President immediately corrected him and said that he too spoke to God, and was told that that there would be no casualties in the Iraq War. Even Jason and the Argonauts took a few hits, and they had Zeus and Hera watching their backs. Too bad that while God was chatting these two up, he never mentioned a cure for cancer, or poverty. But as the Neddites point out, there are only 179 references to the poor in the Bible, whereas there are 867 about war.
So who does God talk to? And who speaks for God? When these Holy Tribunes contradict each other, as Pat and George did, does it short-cicuit Neddite logic? No, not at all, because there is no logic to Neddism.
Neddites don’t fuss about inconsistencies. In fact, they wallow and exalt in the occult aspects of their special knowledge-through-ignorance. Intellectual blindness makes unrattled faith seem truly blessed, inspired by God, like the Bible itself. Contradiction isn’t on the fringes of Neddite belief, these aren’t half-erased question marks in the margins of Neddism. They live for mystery and the incomprehensibility of it all. If there were no unknowns, no contradictions, then what would be the point of faith? And if The Word weren’t so difficult to grasp, then there’s be no reason to study the Bible, attend Sunday school, men’s prayer breakfasts, women’s prayer sewing circles, prayer play dates for the kids, and all the other cultish ways fundamentalist churches monopolize their parishioners’ discretionary time.
Contradiction lives at the heart of most theology, but it’s especially true of the Neddites. In their gestalt, nothing is metaphorical, or even metaphysical. It’s all real - the Devil, for instance. He’s an actual guy, or demon - you can touch him. And most of them have - which is what drew them to this silliness. He could be sitting next to them on the train doing the crossword in pen. Or maybe he’s the principal at the government school they’re forced to send their kids to.
Neddites, like most religious people, believe that God is supremely powerful and good, and he created all that exists. Yet, they also believe there is real, living evil in the world. Turn on the TV - even C-SPAN - and you’ll see it firsthand. Where did this evil come from? Did a good God create evil? It’s beyond being a question for the committed Neddite, it’s a mystery. Theologians and other navel gazers have turned themselves inside out trying to explain this fundamental error in the essential goodness of God, but in the end, there’s never a satisfactory explanation for a paradox, or it wouldn’t be one. How evil came to be, and how it contradicts the Neddite concept of divinity, aren’t issues worth pondering. Maybe He creates and uses contradiction in ways we can’t understand. Without evil, there is no free will, because every decision one makes is equally good. Then how the hell do you get into heaven? But don’t complicate faith too much for the average Neddite. They don’t see contradictions at all ,,but rather place markers where the human ability to comprehend God’s intentions abruptly ends.
For secularists - not virulently irreligious, or “avowed atheists” (though who an atheist would be making his vow to is unclear), but simply people who are uninterested in God in the same way they don’t care for astrology or what happened to the lost continent of Atlantis - it seems to us that if given the proper cues the Neddite mind can contort to believe almost anything. And as they become more prominent in politics, this is a problem for us. Before they destroy the world, they have plans for our children’s education, for scientific research, the American family, and as many pointless wars as it takes. It’s all in the Bible, all you have to do is know how to read it.
Neddites ascribe significance to current events - the Middle East, the war in Lebanon, the formation of the European Union, AIDS, bad television, and Britney Spears. There’s a long list of things they don’t like, and know they can fix if only they can somehow trigger Armegeddon and destroy planet Earth. Until then, they’ll settle for making most things illegal and putting the rest of us in jail.
While it’s undeniable that the Neddites are a doomsday cult, they also have an earthly to-do list that puts everything right with Jesus before he returns. The War in Iraq - or Mesopotamia, Babylon, or Chaldea…take your pick, -- has answered to them all. A vast region north of Israel, the size of California, and home to 20 million people; secular historians and archaeologists refer to Iraq as “the Cradle of Civilization”. Neddite Bible prophecy paints Babylon as a second city to Jerusalem, figuratively and literally in its number of geographical mentions. An evil place, worthy only of disrepute and destruction. War, occupation, terrorism, the oil economy - all of it is grist for the Neddite apocalyptic mill; every day since the founding of the state of Israel has given the Neddites a little more hope that Jesus’ return is now imminent.
Neddite prophecy and geopolitics focus on where it all began - Israel and the Middle East. The War with Iraq from the Neddite perspective, which is to say George Bush’s cross-eyed view, puts Israel at the center of the universe, God’s chosen, His favorite. But it exists today because of the Holocaust; does that also mean that the Shoah was God’s idea? And if so, was God was responsible for the whole of the 20th Century’s unrivalled carnage, since the rise of Hitler and the Nazis can be traced back to World War I? Neddites claim they don’t speculate; they read The Word, and that’s where their ideas derive.
The Neddites interpret the Bible as prophesying that Israel will eventually become intolerable to the rest of world, it’s very existence keeping us all balancing on the precipice of annihilation, perhaps forever. Or at least until the oil runs out. The world’s leaders will decide that before there can be peace in the Middle East, the threat of Israel must be eliminated. Neddites believe that God will cause Israel to never truly embrace this false peace of men, and thus force the issue of Armageddon. Only Jesus can establish true peace on Earth, and God has a long history of destroying the village to save it. This mythology is dangerously close to becoming self-fulfilling, and the Neddites play no small part in the offing.
Zechariah 12: 2-3
"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it".
In the Neddite mind, the Iraq War has moved the world tantalizingly closer to Armageddon. It will be Satan’s final campaign to destroy Israel, and prevent Jesus Christ from returning to His millennial throne atop Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. But he will lose, according to The Word, and you’d think he’d know this and try a different plan altogether. But the Neddites are fatalists, and events are in motion, impossible to stop even if they wanted to, which they don’t.
The Neddites know Iraq’s end-time future, as well:
“The word that the Lord spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet. Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded, Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces. For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall depart, both man and beast"
“The prophet said further: "Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her. Then the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, shall sing for Babylon: for the spoilers shall come unto her from the north, saith the Lord."
The Neddites believe we’re in the final minutes of the existential game. Is there an al Qaeda dirty bomb in Iraq’s future, or maybe a thermonuclear strike by the US or Israel? The Neddites aren’t sure, but they’re hoping one or the other comes soon.
Jeremiah 51: 29
“And the land shall tremble and sorrow: for every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant"
Revelation 18: 9-10
“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”
Most Biblical scholars read these passages and interpret them, like so much of the Bible, as Jeremiah’s prosaic way of saying Babylon sucks and somebody ought to kick its ass. After all, you have to give the readers what they want. The Neddites, unfortunately, read it all as literal prophesy, and then expect results.
The prophet Daniel foretold a peace that will destroy many people, both Israel’s and its enemies. The Antichrist will be, according to Daniel 9: 26-27, the politician who brokers a seven-year covenant of peace for Israel. Could this be the weakened peace negotiated by the inept Rosh HaMemshala, Ehud Olmert negotiates after his ill-conceived attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon? Many Neddites think so - they also believe it might mark the start of the Tribulation - provided the newest incarnation of Jesus shows up soon. And there’s shortage of Messiahs to be had. Take your pick.
The Tribulation is prophesied by Daniel and Jeremiah, and also by Jesus, to be a time of God’s judgment upon rebellious earth-dwellers. Like me. The Tribulation will last seven years, concurrent with the false peace imposed upon Israel, and will conclude with Christ’s return, just after Armageddon has squashed us all like the bugs that we are. The Neddites believe that the Iraq War is growing out of control, inciting radical Islamists, and forcing “peace” between Israel and its traditional enemies in the region - Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon..
Which leads us to Christian Zionism - no, not just an oxymoron anymore. Actually, they’ve been around for two thousand years, and for all the wrong reasons. They flourished first in Victorian England, lobbied hard for the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and again in 1947 for the creation of the Jewish homeland, but always with an apocalyptic ulterior motive. Now they’re back. American Neddites support Israel with an uncritical zealotry usually reserved for God, not government. Since the early 1970s, Israeli politicians - both Labor and Likud, but mostly the latter - have wooed two generations of Neddites for material support and political cover. Now the Neddites want their pay-back in the form Armageddon.
In 1980, after the United Nations condemned Israel for declaring Jerusalem the "eternal and indivisible capital" of the Jewish state; in response, thirteen countries moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. And in reply to that diplomatic exodus, fourteen hundred Neddites from fifty-five nations opened the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
They drew Biblical validation from Isaiah 40:1-2:
"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins,"
They’ve been there ever since, fomenting Armageddon from ground zero.
In 2001 and 2002, during the al-Aqsa Intifada, also known as the “Oslo Wars”, and the “Ebb and Tide Events” (everything in Jerusalem has at least three names), thousands of Neddites swarmed to Israel on solidarity missions like fundamentalist versions of the sandalistas in Nicaragua during the Contra war. They had to - John Nelson Darby’s grand plan for the Holy Land is the lynch-pin in their eschatology.
The few who were apprehended trying to blow up the Dome of the Rock a few years ago were deported. Christian Zionists are also staunch defenders of Israeli settlements on the West Bank and Gaza, and have marshaled resources into social programs for Israeli communities that they call by their Biblical names - Judea and Sumaria. (Neddites eschewed the kibbutzim as not territorially expansive enough, often left-wing and secular, and not at all war-like in their fundamentals.) The Biblical dimensions of Eretz Israel covers much of the Arabian Pennisula, and for some Neddites the re-establishment of the Biblical borders is a non=negotiable criterion for Christ’s return. To this end, hundreds of Neddite groups in the United States have sponsored the emigration of thousands of Jews from the US, Russia, Ethiopia, and many other countries.
The Rev. Malcolm Hedding, director of International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem claims: "We stand for the right that all the land that God gave under the Abrahamic covenant 4,000 years ago is Israel's ... and He will regulate the affairs of how Israel comes into the allotment which is hers forever. There is no such thing as a Palestinian."
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, another Christian Zionist group, holds an annual Day of Prayer for Israel that last year involved 18,000 American churches last year. Eight years years of fundraising has netted $100 million in aid for Israeli social programs - $20 million this past year alone. They’ve also sponsored 100,000 émigrés, says Yechiel Eckstein, who helped found the group with a Neddite pastor.
"We have 350,000 donors who support this work, and we get 2000 to 2500 checks in the mail a day," he says.
Ralph Reed, the Republican Party strategist, failed politician, Jack Abramoff co-conspirator, and former Christian Coalition executive director, founded Stand for Israel with Eckstein, to build grass-roots advocacy for the Jewish state among American Neddites.
Americans for a Safe Israel are full-score against “the road map to peace,” (and in favor of their own road map to war); they use bumper stickers and billboards to encourage other Neddites to call the White House and complain when US Middle East policy strays from its Biblical calling.
The Christian Zionists have also hooked up with the Jewish millenarists in Israel, a group that is known, like their Christian counterparts, to be a few verses shy of chapter. Neither group, of course, wants or expects remotely similar outcomes from their coordinated effort. It’s a marriage of convenience, and both sides are immovable in their conflicting certitudes. Nevertheless, together they prepare for the 200 million man army from the east to defeat the Antichrist, just after re-dedication of the third temple. Recently, they’ve helped to arrange for millenarist rabbinical students to be trained in the proper way to sacrifice a goat to God, so that once the Dome of the Rock mosque is destroyed, and the Jewish Temple rebuilt, it can be officially rededicated.
If through war or disaster Israel becomes a southern province of Syria, or because of a lopsided birth rate it grows more Muslim than Jewish, or if diplomacy eventually works and Israel finds a way to live in peace and mutual security with its Arab neighbors, it will throw an unacceptable monkey wrench in the Neddite apocalyptic machinery. When Gary Bauer and Jerry Falwell lobby in Washington against “the Road Map,” that’s because it’s the road map to peace, which for their purposes is entirely in the wrong direction.
Christians' Israel Public Action Committee lobbies Congress to oppose any limitation on Israel's action. Richard Hellman, CIPAC president, recently called on US leaders, "to desist from proposing any more plans to settle the Israel-Arab dispute."
When President Bush asked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of the West bank town of Jenin in 2002, it was the White House that found itself under siege - within twenty four hours, Bush received 100,000 emails from angry Neddites. He never mentioned Jenin again.
Gary Bauer, president of American Values, recalls Israel's first attempt on the life of Palestinian Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi in June 2003, when Mr. Bush publicly berated Israel. "Several Evangelical leaders took issue with the president," Bauer said. "I got thousands of emails the next day that were copies of emails sent to the president. Within twenty-four hours, he’d modified his remarks and emphasized Israel's right to defend itself."
The White House was publicly supportive in April 2004 when Israel's second effort to assassinate Dr. Rantisi succeeded.
It would be easy to dismiss the Neddites and their aspirations for humanity. But when it comes to religious belief in the United States, deluded doesn’t necessarily mean marginalized. Sixty-five million people attending thousands of Neddite churches are working hard to bring about the End Times. Nearly half the US Congress are Neddites or fellow-travelers who owe their seats to Neddite support. President Bush is the Neddite Warrior King. Neddite chat rooms speculate whether he’s the second coming of Christ (which could be why he proclaimed June 10, 2000 as Jesus Day in Texas). Other fundamentalists think he may be the Antichrist; he is a Skull and Bonesman, after all, as was his dad and his dad before him…
What should concern us more, is that until the Antichrist makes himself known, and Armageddon commences, the Neddites have big plans for life on earth - preparing it and us for the Rapture, to the best of their supernatural abilities.
In Texas, conservative Christians are backing an amendment to prevent human cloning, a measure that would also block the kind of cloning used in embryonic stem-cell research. In Georgia, after redistricting helped Republicans take control of the state legislature, advocacy groups hope to win approval of two new limits abortion. In Kansas, conservatives now have a majority on the State Board of Education, and this spring will introduce changes to the high school science curriculum challenging the theory of evolution. In Maryland some black churches have joined with a white Republican state delegate to push for a ban on same-sex marriage.
Virginia's Republican-controlled General Assembly is considering banning same-sex marriage - and also looking into adopting an anti-gay marriage license plate for supporters of “traditional marriage”. The plate would feature two interlocked golden wedding bands over a red heart.
"People were mobilized during the election and they're still mobilized," said Judy Smith, Kansas state director for Concerned Women for America, which is working to put a measure on the ballot in 2006 to amend the Kansas Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. "We would be stupid not to act now. This is exactly what we had hoped for."
The Neddite earthly agenda is a radical as their supernatural foreign policy plans. Take , for instance, public education - at a bare minimum, the Neddites demand prayer in our public schools. It’s part of their culture, and they don’t care that it isn’t part of yours. They demand your tolerance and respect, but it’s a one-way street.
If out of political correctness, non-Neddite School Board members, or state legislators, or the Supreme Court, agree to require a moment of prayer in public schools, then should they also encourage wiccan children to go out on the playground to hug a tree, and Muslim children to pray multiple times during the school day. When the Santaria kids need to butcher a chicken every noon time and paint their faces in the blood, we’ll get a sense for how inappropriate this sort of thing is in a public school. But for Neddites, a multi-culturalist compromise amounts to paganism and political correctness, which they abhor, even when they’re on the receiving end of it. Neddites proudly practice “religious correctness,” and naturally, only their religion is correct.
A good example of religious correctness is the Bush Administration’s $900 million fear- and faith-based sexual abstinence program for school kids. This replaced the Department of Health and Human Services former “Programs That Work Initiative”. Because we don’t want that.
According to its widely distributed literature, the abstinence appeal advises young people that tears and sweat transmit HIV (according to the NIH no one has ever gotten HIV this way); it also counsels young women that pre-marital sex promotes cervical cancer. Which, as they say, is so dumb that it’s not even wrong. The long list of doozies in this taxpayer-funded Neddite propaganda boggles the non-Neddite mind. And sadly, there’s much more where that came from.
Another Neddite public school obsession is evolution, which obviously runs contrary to the Book of Genesis. The world wasn’t created in six days, or as the liberal Neddites will allow, six-thousand years. But rather than raise doubt in the Neddite mind, it hardens their bunker-for-Jesus mentality. Satan put those dinosaur bones in the ground to test their faith, and so that they’d have to somehow explain yet another apparent scriptural contradiction to their children who are being taught “evilution” down at the government school. So, with the help of Christ-centered political consultants and the urgings of televangelists and preachers in the pulpits on Sunday, they work to foil Satan’s plan by changing the school curriculum, make it more “Christ-friendly.” Not Buddha-friendly, or Allah-friendly, or Lilith-friendly. It’s the Neddite way, or no way at all.
To accomplish this, they run for school board, attend Town Meeting en masse, vote as a bloc - often on a single issue - work hard to organize and elect friendly candidates by bothering people in their homes at all hours, putting signs and brochures everywhere, and jibber-jabbering on endlessly like a single-minded crackhead to anyone who will listen. Non-Neddites should take notice because this is an excellent way to grab power in a liberal democracy, and it may not be available forever.
Currently in nineteen states, the Neddites have successfully nullified evolution as a science in the classroom, or actually countered it with teaching creationism. Creationism is the belief that the world is 10,000 years old, and that we’re all descended from Adam and Eve. And though God made the universe out of nothing, he needed mud to make Adam, and one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve. But as the Neddites say, “evolution is only a theory.” And so is gravity, or perhaps I should say, “Jesus magnets.”
To bolster creationism, in 2003 the Bush Administration authorized the distribution of the book: “Grand Canyon: A Different View.”.It ignores extensive geological evidence that the canyon evolved over several million years, and instead argues that it is the result of a single catastrophe several thousand years ago: the great biblical flood. The same flood which was survived by Noah, his family, and two (although the numbers on this, as with most “facts” in the Bible, it contradicts itself) of everything else - including killer viruses, African foot worms, and porcupines.
In 2003, the US Geological Society publicly objected to the sketchy scheme of creationism being offered by National Park Service's educational programs. The separation of church and state aside, they pointed to the Park Service’s written policy, "to promote the use of sound science in all its programs." The government's top geologist, David Shaver, denounced the book’s thesis as "purport(ing) to be science when it is not," and said that it makes "claims that are counter to widely accepted geological evidence." Nevertheless, the book was reordered when it ran out, and continues to be marketed by the Parks Service.
In February 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a strongly-worded missive signed by sixty-two leading scientists - twenty Nobel Prize laureates among them. It read, in part:
"Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences. But the Bush administration had disregarded this principle by placing people who are professionally unqualified or who have clear conflicts of interest in official posts and on scientific advisory committees, and by censoring reports by the government's own scientists. Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front."
The future of science, the republic, and history is at stake. We can’t teach tomorrow’s Darwins and Einsteins that evolution is a shaky, unproven hypothesis - much less that creationism is its scientifically viable alternative. The scientific method, which drives all research and understanding, works through hypotheses drawn from observations, and only after many predictable and replicable results do these observations become theories. Hence, the Theory of Evolution.
Fundamentalists arrive at their strongly-held beliefs through untested epiphanies, supported by dogma. The fact that there are no data supporting creationism, and libraries-full refuting it, the Neddites are unfazed. Creationism may prove to be the Prohibition of the 21st century, its effects felt long after it’s been discarded; it has the potential, if widely taught, to spread more ignorance throughout America than five decades of prime time television and the war on drugs combined.
Another Neddite shibboleth is their specious objection to stem cell research, which holds incalculable medical promise, has effectively been halted as long as the Neddites have powerful allies atop all three branches of the federal government. The President’s faith precludes him from allowing the “destruction of embryos” for the scientific research, and it’s the first and only veto of a bill he’d made in his entire presidency. It’s the Neddite anti-abortion argument, and a medical-ethics position the President takes based not on the greater good, or competing harms, but on the dogma of absolutes and the notion that “life is always sacred.” Unl;ess it’s Arab life living too close to where America or Osraeli bombs fall.
This is a central Neddite argument, which unravels as soon as the death penalty enters into it. As Governor of Texas, George Bush never tired of signing death warrants - he holds the record for the highest number of executions (157), including the youngest and most brain-damaged perpetrators, which amount to a lethal injection hat-trick. Neddites wholeheartedly support this life-is-sacred-when-we-say-so policy.
Before each execution, Bush reviewed the facts of the case with his legal counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, now the US Attorney General. They’d touch on any mitigating circumstances, appeals, briefs, and objections from the defense and friends of the court. Gonzalez researched and wrote one-page explanations for the President, which, reportedly, he also read to him. When he was done, Bush would put down the Game Boy joystick and sign the death warrant.
Before becoming the last defense a condemned prisoner could hope for, Gonzalez was a real estate lawyer; he’s never tried a single case in court, civil or criminal. Which means he was far from the best legal mind in Texas for so important a job - you know, life being precious and all.
Is it possible that one of those 157 prisoners was innocent? Actually, it’s likely. So many people are sprung from death row these days due to proof of prosecutorial misconduct and exculpatory DNA evidence - especially in states where the Governor and his staff are actually concerned with undoing injustices - that they hold conventions, as if they were Shriners, or the American Beef Council. In April 2002, Ray Krone became the 100th prisoner to be released from death row since 1973. Mr. Krone spent 10 years in prison in Arizona, including time on death row, for a murder he didn’t commit.
So clearly, protecting life is not an absolute for the Neddites. Consciously or not, they confuse absolutism with simple dogma, spending much of their time splitting hairs with one another over what God would have to say about this or that. And while the pointless palaver goes on, stem-cell research opportunities are missed, and lives are lost. Who knows what the true damage will be?
In 2002, ideology trumped science once again in the selection of Dr. W. David Hager of Lexington, Kentucky to the Food and Drug Administration's Reproductive Health Advisory Committee. The Bush Administration initially wanted Hager as chair of the committee, but after a public outcry from women’s groups and the scientific community citing his skimpy credentials and Neddite political views, the White House settled for making him a committee member rather than the chair. Hager is best known for co-authoring a book with his wife that prescribes reading scripture as treatment for premenstrual syndrome and, in his private practice, for refusing to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women.
If it weren’t so deadly serious, it’d be comical to listen to peple who believe in the Great Sky God tell us that global warming is a myth. This is perhaps the most public of the ongoing eristic disputes between the Neddites and the scientific community. The Greenhouse Effect, an ecological disaster unfolding around us, is universally accepted among rational, fact-based scientists. It’s a theory that’s as well accepted as evolution. Nevertheless, the long litany of intersecting facts proving the theory are ignored, and the scientific studies supporting it attacked by everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Dan Quayle - whose understanding of the weather begins and ends with the forecast, and whether it’s a good day to play golf.. So forget the melting glaciers and snowpacks, pay no attention to the rising temperatures, the wacky weather patterns, the violent storms, the unrelenting heat waves - all predicted by climatologists as consequences of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere..The Neddites dismiss it all, denouncing the the National Academy of Science as a bunch of secular humanist and liberals who can’t be trusted, because the scientific method is not “of God.”
The first official act of the George W. Bush’s first administration was to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases, signed earlier by the Clinton administration in 1997. To date, 110 nations, including Russia, are signatories. The harmful effects are now so obvious that in 2004, it wasn’t Ralph Nader sounding the global warming alarm, but conservative US Senator John McCain. Nonetheless, the White House and the Neddites continue to scoff. Moreover, they claim the protocols would have been too expensive for the US to absorb. Its overall price tag was estimated at roughly what the first three years of the Iraq war have cost us.
In addition to “climate change,” the Neddite euphemism for what can’t be ignored, the environment is under siege from the Bush Administration on every flank - mercury emissions are up and rising, endangered species are as fair game as Valerie Plame, our national forests are plywood farms, and a Karl Rove-induced political litmus tests for scientific advisory panel nominees requires, for instance, that a marine ecologist on the Arctic Research Commission also be a political supporter of the President.
Short-term profits are often behind willful environmental damage - dumping hazardous waste, drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, starting wars, and the like - but it’s not all crony capitalism, or even anti-environmentalism, that’s causes the Bush Administration to treat the earth as its whipping boy. On the ladder truck of public policy, Dick Cheney is driving the ass-end, and steering hard up front, in the fast lane to Armageddon, is George W. Bush, exercising his primal Neddite impulse to catalyze the Rapture.
In the Neddite context, a scorched-earth policy makes perfect sense. The Neddites’ souls are saved, so their attitude is, hey - let’s do this thing already. In the process, the more damage suffered upon our demon-infested hulk of planet, the better. Let’s pump all the oil and strip out all the minerals, let’s clear-cut the forests, pollute the rivers and lakes. It’s all temporal and temporary - unlike the human body, which they’re taking with them to heaven after they’ve been pulled naked out of their clothes up to heaven in the Rapture - naked at last, for no longer need they be ashamed of their bare flesh. Except Jerry Falwell, of course.
One might think that the wanton and greedy destruction of God’s creation would insult the worshipful, or that their your-body-is-a-temple philosophy would apply to the larger creation around us, as well. Wrong. To the Neddite sensibility, respect for the physical world smacks of paganism. So de-forestation is a good thing. And so global is warming, even if it caused 26,000 deaths in a heat wave across Europe last year, or is changing the direction of the Gulf Stream, or has melted the once-permanent 100-foot thick ice sheet in the Arctic Ocean and polar bears are growing extinct as a result. This is the least of it. If the End Times and Jesus are coming, why fight it? As if to make a point, the Neddite national pastime is NASCAR, in which they worship the internal combustion engine itself.
Despite Biblical admonitions against getting to tied-up in the affairs of mammon, civil society is dead square in the purview of the religious right -- assisted suicide, civil unions, divorce, abortion, gay adoption, immigration, civil liberties - all will be lost when the Neddites come to power. Neddites believe that government should be a reflection of faith and Godliness, as they interpret it. Clearly, modern western nation-states don’t come close to this Neddite ideal, nor should they wish to, but the White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives (a program to direct tax dollars to religious organizations), is Bush’s giant step in that direction. Neddism explicitly breeds contempt for secular government, especially liberal democracy. Theocracy is its system of choice; all else is Babylon.
Should the Reconstructionist Neddites prevail over their pre-millennialist peers, civic life will be change even more radically; their form of theocracy includes the expansion of the death penalty to cover the crimes of blasphemy, heresy, adultery, homosexuality, prostitution, witchcraft, and idolatry. Churches not following Mosaic Law are in violation of the 1st Commandment, and guilty of idolatry - this includes all non-Christian religions, roughly two-thirds of humanity, and most of Christianity as well. The Reconstructionists favor Mosaic Law, but follow only about half of its precepts - with more than six-hundred dos and don’ts, being fully observant is a full-time job. They’ve retained many of the moral outrages, physical assaults, and stone-age ignorance of the Law, but reject the Talmudic midrashes that have softened and modernized it over the past five thousand years.
It decrees the death-penalty for adultery, for wearing a linen-wool mix garment, for not keeping holy the Sabbath, and for thirty-four other capital crimes. It prescribes as the means of execution either the stoning or the burning of the guilty. The Neddites are divided on which method to employ, but most advocate for stoning because rocks are so readily abundant and re-usable. Corners must be cut somewhere, after all if every government budget is to be balanced, and the income tax eliminated. This policy is in keeping with Shakespearian, if not Biblical law - neither a lender or a borrower be. Neddites regard thrift as a great virtue, usury as a crime, and Polonius as a very wise man.
The Reconstructionist are post-millenialists, as opposed to pre-millenialists, which means Jesus won’t come until after they’ve accomplished their task of destroying civil society everywhere, and putting the world right with God. In a rare display of realism, they concede this may take a while. Most Neddites are pre-millenialists, or amillenialists, and rely upon prayer and prostheltyzing to spread The Word. The Reconstructionists operate in forced-conversion mode of Draconian law, and re-education camps.
The indivisibility of state and church is a central Neddite tenet . Some of the most powerful politicians in America are Neddites, or rely heavily on Neddite support to stay in power. There’s the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence General Jerry Boykin - Patton’s love child with the Blessed Virgin. But he’s the least of it.
According to the Christian Coalition (founded by Diamond Pat Robertson), based on a series of key pro-Neddite votes, 231 members of congress received an 80% rating or better. That’s more than 40% of the Congress, including many in the leadership - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN.), Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), Senate Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-PA.), Senate Republican Policy Chair Jon Kyl (R-AZ.), House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL.), House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO.), and House Majority Leader John Beohner (R-MO). Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who resigned his leadership position and House seat after he was indicted for money-laundering campaign funds is an unabashed Neddite, and traveled to Israel in 2003 to tell the Knesset that, “there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking.” He also said, "I don't see occupied territory; I see Israel."
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), speaking on the Senate floor at that same time said Israel had a right to the land, "Because God said so." So much for the separation of church and state, so much for the establishment clause of the Constitution, so much for liberal democracy.
And then there’s their leader, the King of the Neddites who we shall know by his deeds, President George W. Bush. According to David Frum, Bush’s former speech-writer, morning Bible study at the White House was, “if not compulsory, not quite uncompulsory.”
But the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on earth can’t let it be known that he’s praying for a fiery end to it all; that would be bad for the markets.
Bush doesn’t profess to belong to a particular church, which is odd for a born-again Christian, especially one with an entourage. He’s dodgy about his precise religious affiliation, which is nominally Methodist, with good reason, but the truth is as obvious as that bulge on his back during the 2004 presidential debates. Last year, when White House reporter Russell Mokhiber of the CommonDreams.org News Center, asked presidential spokesman Scott McLellan whether the President supported the idea of Armageddon, McLellan refused to answer the question and stalked off-stage, ending the press conference. Touchy.
State religions have a long and bloody pedigree. This is for a simple reason: with God on your side, it’s hard to be wrong (though, if you read the Bible, it happens with great regularity). Now that George W. Bush, the self-imposed war president, has assembled a second term cabinet that’s the most loyal and conciliatory in the history of the modern presidency, and has majorities in both houses of Congress, and has made two very conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice…if these aren’t the End Times, they’re certainly interesting.