The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Creationism and End Times Thinking in the US Presidential Race

Iowa is known largely for possessing many reasons for not visiting it. Prominent amongst these reasons is the First Assembly of God Church, a statement of whose beliefs can be found below.

http://www.indianolafirst.com/new/believe/

For those who can’t be bothered poring over the witterings of crazy people, I will summarise. This is a church that believes literally in the Bible as a document to be used for everything from ethics to lawmaking to science. It believes in the end times and the rapture – that at some point in the future faithful Christians will levitate into the heavens leaving all us heathens behind to be ruled over by Jesus Christ in Israel for 1000 years. There are solid reasons to be worried about this belief from a geopolitical point of view (not to mention the mental health aspect). They also believe in speaking in tongues, Christian faith healing and other assorted lunacy.

Why should anyone care?

Well, aside from the fact that they have a large following and a significant role in ‘educating’ children to believe that the world is 6000 years old and made of cheese (I made up the cheese bit), no less than 3 of the Republican US presidential candidates are visiting the church and therefore seeking the endorsement of the group. A superficial examination of the situation will lead us to conclude that this isn’t really a serious problem. The three candidates in question are Tea Party crazies and outliers of the primary campaign. The church itself is widely lampooned in US mainstream media, largely receiving coverage for the same reason that well-to-do English matrons took their children to visit Bedlam. At a deeper level, however, is the underlying problem with the mere existence of such candidates and such churches.

A sufficiently significant minority of the US population to fund and support no less than 3 candidates in the most expensive political race in the world is apparently perfectly happy with this kind of thinking. This in itself is worrying but not especially dangerous. While we may spit and rail against silliness and superstition everywhere, there is no real harm in the fact that a majority of Americans believe in angels. There’s even some comedy value, which, on balance, makes the world a better (or at least a funnier) place. Where the real worry exists is in end times beliefs – the belief in rapture, apocalypse and, most importantly, the rise of Israel in the end times.

What this means is that current and potentially future serving members of the US government either believe or subscribe to the belief that the existence of Israel as a single state is key to God’s plan and therefore non-negotiable. The implications of this are bloody terrifying and hardly need explaining. In fact, in the context of recent history, far from needing explaining, this fact explains a great deal in itself. It helps to explain, for instance, the USA’s violent swings of policy with regard to hegemony in the Middle East, its seemingly schizophrenic attitude to the various Israel ‘solutions’ and the frankly bizarre attitudes of many of its lawmakers to Israel’s neighbours.

So what can be done about it? It would be entirely wrong to prevent people from standing for election on the basis of their beliefs. It would be equally wrong to disenfranchise people on the basis of religion, tempting as this might be. It is, however, interesting to note that beliefs of this kind cut comparatively neatly down socio-economic lines. Basically, the poorer a person is, the more likely they are to believe this kind of nonsense, thus falling prey to cynical manipulation by televangelists and their ilk. So we can conclude that the prevalence of beliefs of this kind are a direct index of the wealth gap and poverty in a country like the USA, and that the key to eliminating or minimising the influence such beliefs lies in the promotion of equality and the spread of prosperity. In short, we should probably stop laughing at these people and try to improve their station in life so that they shed this kind of craziness on their own.

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