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Mike Pence, Taylor University, and the Political Realities of White Evangelicalism

by William Trollinger

Conservatives at Taylor University can breathe a sigh of relief. Mike Pence is on his way. The leftist assault has been thwarted.

Just 14 months ago the alarm was sounded at the evangelical school of 1900 undergraduates in Upland, Indiana. A newsletter — portentously entitled Excalibur — suddenly appeared throughout campus,  in which the authors (who did not reveal themselves, fearful of the “current cultural climate” as well as “leftist trends” on campus) charged that Taylor was awash in

permissivist views of human sexuality, hostility toward creationist perspectives, . . . and uncritical endorsement of liberal-progressive ideals (e.g., in the form of Marxist-inspired critical race theory).

Adjunct professor Amy Peterson reports that, disturbingly but tellingly, “in some dorms, [Excalibur] was only distributed to the rooms of students of color and sexual minorities.”

Controversy erupted immediately, as many in the Taylor community resented and rejected the anonymous attacks. Within 48 hours, college president Paul Howell Haines had issued a “community letter,” in which he regretted that “the unsanctioned, anonymous, and suspect distribution of the publication sewed discord and distrust, hurting members of our community.”

The four white male Excalibur authors – two professors (biblical studies, and philosophy/religion), a soccer coach, and the university marketing director – felt compelled to reveal their identities. But they were not finished, as they renamed Excalibur as (the slightly less pretentious) ResPublica, while continuing to press the trope of white male victimhood (the newsletter’s subtitle now reading, “The Conservative Voice You Are Free to Ignore”). More significant, just two weeks after sending his letter expressing concern for those who were hurt by Excalibur, President Haines backtracked, issuing a second statement in which he said that “those who believe he stood against the content of Excalibur misread his statement”; instead, what he had really wanted to communicate was that “Taylor is a place where we wrestle with ideas of all kinds.”

So much for standing with those who were hurt by “the unsanctioned, anonymous, and suspect distribution” of Excalibur. But then again, Haines may well have been – as is common among evangelical college administrators – looking over his “right shoulder” to the conservatives in Taylor’s constituency who were alarmed by the claims made by the Excalibur quartet.

And now, one year later, Haines has found a way to reassure conservatives that Taylor is the Right kind of school. As Haines announced last Thursday:

Taylor University is pleased and honored to welcome to our campus and its 2019 Commencement exercises, Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence has been a good friend to the University over many years, and is a Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates. We welcome the Vice President and his wife, Karen Pence . . . and thank them for their love and service for our nation, our state, and our institution.

Once again, controversy has erupted at Taylor. The faculty voted 61-49 to register their dissent. One of the dissenters noted that, upon hearing the news, he “immediately became angry and cynical, thinking . . . that the administration was [betting] they could turn graduation into a political statement, and, furthermore, a revenue stream . . . pleas[ing] people with deep pockets with whom the administration would like to partner.” Many students – particularly students of color and LGBTQ students (the sorts of students targeted by Excalibur) – are quite upset; as one Puerto Rican student observed, “I was excited for graduation, since neither of my parents have a degree, [but now they have] to sit and listen to a man who is part of an administration that doesn’t care for our people.” Alumni responded with a petition calling on the university to rescind its invitation, a petition that, as I write, has approximately 5,000 signatures.

The administration has responded by asserting, in the words of the school’s provost, that “there is always something to be gained from listening” and “working through our opinions.” Last year students “worked through their opinions” by listening to the CEO of Interstate Batteries; two years ago, it was Butler University’s head basketball coach.

Some students and faculty are quite supportive of bringing Pence to campus. Pro-Pence alumni have themselves drafted a petition that has secured more than 2,000 signatures. Oddly written – e.g., “Taylor is by no means aligning themselves with the alleged controversial views of the Trump administration, they are simply giving a voice to all opinions and planes of thought” – the petition concludes with Romans 13:1-2 as the clinching argument:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.   

It is not clear how these verses apply to Mike Pence delivering a commencement address, but among evangelicals it is a commonplace to trot out these verses in behalf of – and only in behalf of – conservative politicians and conservative policies.

Taylor alumnus C. Christopher Smith has responded to the controversy by calling for his alma mater and other evangelical institutions to abandon its allegiance to the Trump administration, and instead embrace “a new brand of evangelical politics” marked by “transparency, hospitality, and empathy.” As Smith sees it, not only is this alternative evangelicalism possible, but it “is quietly being cultivated by the Spirit outside the reach of the limelight.” Amy Peterson shares Smith’s hopefulness:

Since the 2016 presidential election, young evangelicals have had to rethink everything we’d been taught about what it means to be faithful Christians engaged in politics. If the uproar at Taylor this week is any indication, white evangelicals may not be such a monolithic voting bloc the next time around.

I wish I could share their optimism that the Taylor controversy is evidence that white evangelicals are rejecting the racist misogyny of the Trump administration and embracing an alternative, empathetic, hospitable politics. But polling data indicates otherwise: after two years, white evangelicals support Trump at approximately the same levels that they did in the 2016 election.

As Adam Laats has rightly noted, “faculty lounge” evangelicals simply do not represent evangelicalism as a whole. While many Taylor faculty and some Taylor students “might reel in dismay at the university’s decision to honor Mike Pence,” some faculty and many students are thrilled that Pence will be on campus. As Laats continues, the administration, “as always desperate to reassure students and families [and donors] that they represent ‘real’ evangelical values, decided that Pence embodied these values.”

Nevertheless, Smith and Peterson are right that something is happening. That something is the shrinking of white evangelicalism. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of American adults who are white evangelicals dropped from 23% to 17%. The median age of white evangelicals is 55; only 11% of white evangelicals are between the ages of 18 and 29. More than this, only 8% of white American adults under the age of 30 identify as evangelical. And a good deal of evidence suggests that much of the disaffection with evangelicalism has to do with the fact that it is so tightly identified with the Christian Right.

Despite these demographic realities, and to quote from an earlier post,

Evangelical schools [like Taylor] hold the course, in the process competing with each other for a rapidly shrinking demographic. And all the while their “evangelical” brand becomes increasingly tarnished as “judgmental and hypocritical and hateful.”

Tucker Carlson and Ken Ham: Culture War Comrades

by William Trollinger

Over the past four months Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight has lost at least 34 advertisers thanks to Carlson’s history of offensive comments. Companies that have ceased to purchase advertising time include Farmers Insurance, Lexus, Red Lobster, and TD Ameritrade.

Some of Carlson’s comments are very recent, and some go back a decade. For those of you who have had the good fortune to miss out on what Carlson had to say, here are a few of the remarks that prompted the boycott:

  • Immigrants make the US “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”
  • Iraq is a country of “semi-illiterate monkeys.”
  • When women earn more than men, the result is a decline in marriage and thus “more drug and alcohol abuse, [and] higher incarceration rates.” “more drug and alcohol abuse, [and] higher incarceration rates.”
  • Regarding a teacher facing charges for performing a full-contact lap dance for a 15-year-old student, “There’s no victim here . . . a 15-year-old boy looks at this as, like, the greatest thing that ever happened.”
  • In defending arranged marriages with underage girls, Carlson opined that “the rapist, in this case, has made a lifelong commitment to live and take care of the person, so it is a little different.”
  • “I love women, but they’re extremely primitive, they’re basic, they’re not that hard to understand.”
  • “I feel sorry for unattractive women.”
  • Martha Stewart’s daughter is a “c—” who desperately needs to be spanked.

Carlson not only has refused to apologize in any fashion for his remarks, but – as is the wont of conservative white guys under fire – he presents himself as the victim of a liberal/feminist witch hunt.

But not everyone is abandoning the “persecuted” multimillionaire.  As Newsweek reports, “commercial breaks on Tucker Carlson Tonight over the past month have been filled with lesser known brands.” Companies currently advertising on Carlson’s show include My Pillow USA, Nutrisystem, Sandals Resorts, American Petroleum Institute, and . . . Ark Encounter.

What? The theme park devoted to making the case that God had to drown up to 20 billion people because of their wickedness is also financially supporting someone who traffics in misogynistic and racist remarks, and who finds it humorous to joke about underage sex?

Yes.

To be fair, it is possible that Answers in Genesis (AiG) CEO Ken Ham simply does not find Carlson’s remarks to be offensive. For example, he has (as far as I can tell) had nothing to say about the plight of refugees at our southern border. Moreover, while Ham expends enormous energy blasting homosexuality he has (again, as far as I can tell) been silent about sexual harassment in the Southern Baptist Convention and elsewhere in fundamentalism.

More than this, AiG is all in for patriarchy, repeatedly making the case that wives should happily “accept their role as submissive helpers,” in this way emulating Jesus’ submission to the Father and the Spirit’s submission to both (Righting 174). While the latter claim seems to violate orthodox Christian theology, it does powerful work on behalf of cementing female subordination. And when it comes to violating sexual taboos, the Creation Museum (in explaining that Adam and Eve’s son Cain married his sister) explicitly asserts that heterosexual incest was not a problem for millennia:

While “sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage, whether between close relatives or not, has been wrong from the beginning,” marriage “between close relatives was not a problem in early biblical history,” as long as “it was one man for one woman (the biblical doctrine of marriage)” (Righting 177).

All this to say that it may be the case that Ham and his AiG colleagues are not bothered by Carlson’s racist misogyny and underage sex jokes.

Or perhaps all this is beside the point. As we argue in Righting America, AiG, the Creation Museum, and (now) Ark Encounter are Christian Right enterprises that are about “preparing and arming crusaders for the ongoing culture war” (15). And Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Donald Trump would seem to be on the same team, no matter how offensive and how at odds with the Gospel their statements may be.

In the end, maybe we should not be at all surprised that Ark Encounter is purchasing ads on Carlson’s program, regardless of what dreadful things he says.

Well, maybe not regardless. If he were to joke about gay sex, that might be the bridge too far.

White Supremacists, Fundamentalists, and the Ideology of Separation

by William Trollinger

Once you “other” someone, then you can do anything to them.

Rebecca Solnit is a wonderful writer, not just because she is masterful with words (and here I confess some envy), but also because she has a compelling moral sensibility that invites us to remember that – despite how bleak the current political moment might seem –  there are lots of loving folks on this planet. For example, in an article arrestingly entitled, “The American Civil War didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president,” Solnit argues that those who (in contrast with the president and his minions) hold to equality and justice for all are on the side of history, but we (if I may) must reject culture war logic and instead reach out to those with whom we disagree.

Recently Solnit published a brilliant article in The Guardian  entitled  “Why You’ll Never Meet a White Supremacist Who Cares About Climate Change.”  The article was prompted by the eerie reality that the slaughter of 50 Muslims in the Christchurch mosque coincided with the nearby climate strike on the part of the city’s youth. As Solnit put it, “it was a shocking pairing and also a perfectly coherent one, a clash of opposing ideologies.” On the one hand, climate activists are driven by a “recognition of the beautiful interconnection of all life and the systems . . . on which that life depends.” Climate action is about protecting life, all life, “because human beings are not separate from the fate of insects, of birds, of the life in the sea, of the forests that sequester carbon, of the diseases that will thrive on a warmer planet.” In short, climate activists are driven by love, a love for the entire planet.

In contrast, the Right is adamantly, apocalyptically opposed to climate action, in good part because that would require recognizing that we are all connected on this planet, and that we must all cooperate. As Solnit puts it,

So much of rightwing ideology now is about a libertarian machismo in the “I can do anything I want” vein. It’s the pro-gun myth that we can each protect ourselves with a weapon when in reality we’re all safer with them out of our societies. It’s the idea that we can deregulate the hell out of everything and everyone can just look out for themselves whether it’s food safety or infrastructure safety or air and weather quality. To kill someone you have to feel separate from them, and some violence – lynching, rape – ritualizes this separateness. Violence too comes out of a sort of entitlement: I have the right to hurt you, to determine your fate, to end your life.

This same ideology of separation animates much of Protestant fundamentalism, even those parts of the fundamentalist movement which would recoil from the notion of “white supremacy.” For example, take Ken Ham’s young Earth creationist organization, Answers in Genesis (AiG). It is not just that the creationists at AiG absolutely do not care about climate change (see here, here, here, and here). It is that they evince no concern for those – humans and animals alike – who will pay the price for global warming.

But all of this tightly connects with their notion that the saved (i.e., themselves and those who believe as they do) are completely separate from all other human beings. They imagine themselves so separate from all other human beings that they are very matter-of-fact about the notion that God is entitled to impose the worst sorts of violence on “the other.” How else to explain the creation of a theme park (Ark Encounter) that has its central theme that God rightly drowned up to 20 billion people (including children and infants) – not to mention billions of animals – in a global Flood?  How else to explain AiG’s resolute affirmation of the justice of divine genocide?

I have struggled to understand the moral callousness at the heart of Ark Encounter, the Creation Museum, and AiG. But I think Solnit has it right. As far as these young Earth creationists are concerned, those species going extinct, those billions who (so they claim) drowned in the Flood, those billions (so they claim) who will suffer eternal torment in Hell: they are oher. We are separate from them. They are not our concern. So be it.

White Jesus at Westmont College: The Controversy

by William Trollinger

Image of Jesus from the Nancy Voskuyl Prayer Chapel at Westmont College. Photo courtesy of The Horizon

Last weekend Sue and I were at Westmont College (Montecito CA) for the 18th annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts. The theme of this year’s conference was “High Anxiety: Liberal Arts and the Race to Success,” for which we contributed a paper on the ways in which academic rigor and an interdisciplinary first-year curriculum can actually work against undergraduate anxieties regarding future careers.

Interestingly, we were invited by a small group of Westmont administrators and staff to show up early for an informal conversation regarding the “white Jesus controversy” which has roiled Westmont’s campus community this academic year.

First, some background. In December 1959, Westmont student Nancy Voskuyl died in an automobile accident. She was the daughter of Westmont president Roger Voskuyl, and, as a memorial to her, the Nancy Voskuyl Prayer Chapel was erected on campus. In this chapel there is a stained glass window featuring a Jesus who is light-skinned with Anglo-Saxon facial features, and who is standing on what appears to be North America.

This year “white Jesus” has become a point of contention. In the fall, various notes were taped to the window, pointing out that – to quote one of these notes – “Jesus wasn’t white.” But the controversy picked up steam in early February, when three Westmont students sent a letter to Westmont administrators – which was then posted online with an accompanying petition – in which they expressed concern about the “symbolic and theological impact” of the white Jesus and called for dialogue with the administration and board.

Since then there has been an evening presentation on white privilege at Christian colleges, a faculty forum on both the white Jesus window and the racial climate on campus, and a round-table discussion on “how should we depict Christ on campus?” And the student newspaper, The Horizon, has been filled with articles and responses, starting with a February 14 op-ed piece written by the three students who drafted the letter to administrators. Entitled “Westmont needs to face its White Jesus,” the authors asserted that “this image (and other representations of Jesus as White) comes out of a troubled chapter in the evangelical church’s history,” in which “evangelical Christianity aligned becoming Christian with becoming like White Europeans.” They conclude the article by asserting that

We believe it would be healthy and healing for Westmont to repent of colonialist imagery and embrace its commitment to “diversity in a biblical vision of God’s Kingdom.” In our view, removing a White-appearing Jesus from the spiritual heart of Westmont would be a manifestation of Westmont’s commitment to witnessing to the entirety of the kingdom of God, and would therefore be an “act of restorative justice.”

A few weeks later The Horizon devoted an entire issue to the topic. In a thoughtful article entitled,  “A Westmont to belong to,” historian Alister Chapman – author of Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement – and sociologist Felicia Song praised the students for having “expressed [their] concerns with grace and self-restraint, thanked them for “raising these knotty matters,” and called on the campus community to “see this as an opportunity to live into God’s reconciling work.”

At the other end of the spectrum was an article by Professor Emeritus and Scholar-in-Residence Robert Gundry, entitled “Why objections to a white Jesus are only skin deep.” In this piece Gundry asserted that Jesus “may well have been fair-skinned,” asked if the authors of the petition and op-ed would really have us “conclude that all non-whites suffer oppression at the hands of whites?,” and complained that “to darken the skin of Jesus . . . would spoil the symbolism of his identifying himself with Nancy Voskuyl.” He even invoked a very familiar trope:

My first friends and playmates were exclusively black as black can be. My later friends and colleagues were often Hispanic. Knowing them as I have, I can’t take seriously – or as accurate – the OpEd’s implication that for them as people of color “salvation became about being or becoming White.”

So, what did we have to say to the administrators and staff persons with whom we met? In keeping with Chapman and Song, we noted that we were impressed with how articulate and thoughtful the student complainants were, especially as regards calling on Westmont College to live up to its stated commitments. More than this, these students were simply and rightly pointing out the ways in which “whiteness” remains the default position not only at Westmont, but within white evangelicalism (and not only white evangelicalism!) in the United States.

But what to do about the stained glass window? We acknowledged the fact that it is the job of college administrators to keep the institution afloat; given that many of the parents and donors supporting Westmont (and supporting other evangelical colleges) are conservative evangelicals/fundamentalists, it would be financially risky (without the savviest of rhetorical campaigns) to replace or alter the chapel window. That said, what about adding – in the chapel and/or other central locations on campus – a variety of ethnically diverse portrayals of Jesus? Why not add a black or brown Jesus in the chapel?

But that leads to a final point that I don’t think we made in our meeting. Evangelical colleges are forever trying to thread the needle, moving to become more progressive (or, better put, more Gospel-oriented) while at the same time not alienating their fundamentalist constituency. Will there be an evangelical college that simply decides to quit “looking over the right shoulder” and instead remake itself in the hopes of creating a new constituency?

Given the rapidly changing demographics of white evangelicalism in the US, this seems to us to be a crucial 21st-century question for evangelical colleges and universities.

Deciphering Glacial Change on the Tibetan Plateau during the Holocene

by Shuang-Ye Wu

And now, some actual science on global warming.

Dr. Shuang-Ye Wu is a climatologist working in the Department of Geology at University of Dayton.  Her research focuses on how climate change alters the hydrologic cycle and the consequent precipitation patterns. In particular, she is interested in changes in extreme events such as extreme storms, floods and droughts.  Dr. Wu has published 36 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and obtained grants from NSF, EPA and other funding agencies. Dr. Wu obtained her Master and PhD degrees from Cambridge University in UK, majoring in environmental geography. She is currently teaching courses in the Earth system science, climate change, and geographic information systems at UD.

This post summarizes work she and colleagues at Nanjing University (where she is affiliated as a visiting professor) will be doing over the next four years thanks to a $552,620 grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China. 

The Tibetan Plateau (Figure 1) is often referred to as the “water tower of Asia,” because of the large number of high mountain glaciers that form the headwaters of major river systems (e.g., Yangtze, the Yellow River, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Ganga, Indus, and Tarim) which supply water for irrigation, power and drinking water for over 1.4 billion people. These glaciers act as an important reservoir and buffer against drought in the world’s most populated region. During the past few decades, most of the Tibetan glaciers have experienced reduction in length, surface area and volume due to increasing temperature in this region. Recession of the Tibetan glaciers varies spatially, with the most significant retreat in the Himalayas, while there is a slight mass gain in the Karakoramglaciers in the northwest.

World Topographic Map, 2001. Wikimedia Commons.

The state of a glacier is controlled by its mass balance, i.e., the difference in ice input from snowfall and ice output from melt. If the input is consistently greater than the output over a period of time, a glacier will get bigger (i.e. advance); otherwise, it will get smaller (retreat). Mass balance of a glacier is largely controlled by climate factors, in particular temperature (which affects the output) and precipitation (which affects the input).  Although climatic change could affect the glacial mass balance instantly, the glacier extent (i.e. size) responds to changes in mass balance with a delay of decades to centuries depending on such factors as glacier size, surface slope, direction and debris cover. This delayed response makes it difficult to attribute an observed glacier change to any specific change in the climate, particularly when long-term glacial change data are lacking. Most of the observation data for glacial change are based on satellite images and in-situ measurements obtained during the past several decades, and little is known for glacial change on the Tibetan Plateau on the long time scales (e.g., millennial or longer).

Past glacial advances can often be reconstructed from mapping and dating sediments deposited by past glaciers (moraines) and from proglacial lakes. However, past glacial retreats are more difficult to detect because traces of minimum extents are now buried underneath modern glaciers. Recently, a new approach was developed to assess minimal glacier extent by determining the glacier basal ice age, which is interpreted as indicative of ice-free conditions at the time. In a recent project funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China, we propose to apply this approach to establish past glacial retreats on the Tibetan Plateau. Combined with previous data of glacial advances, this new information will allow us to examine how glaciers respond to climate change during the Holocene (~ 11000 calendar years ago to the present).

In this study, we propose to drill ice cores to bedrock and collect sediment samples at various locations on four glaciers over the Tibetan Plateau, in order to explore changes of glacial extent during the Holocene. They include: Cho Oyu in the Himalayas, Zangser Kangri in the central Tibetan Plateau, Shule Nanshan in the Qilian Mountains, and Chongce in the western Kunlun Mountains (Figure 2). After field samples are collected, we will determine accurately the ages of the sub-glacial sediment samples, terminal and periglacial sediment samples, as well as the bottom age of the ice cores drilled from the glaciers. These bottom ages suggest previous smaller than present glacial extents at various times during the Holocene because of the absence of older ice at the studied sites. Based on this assumption, we will estimate the glacier reduction by applying GIS and spatial statistics methods during the bottom ages (which are estimated to be around 6000-9000 years ago based on previous studies). Together with the time series of the quaternary glacial advance events, we will re-examine the previously suggested asynchronous glaciation on Milankovitch timescales over the Tibetan Plateau. We will also update the Holocene climate reconstruction over the study region, and decipher the glacial responses to the past climatic conditions on the long time scale that extends far beyond the instrumental period. Our results will have important implications for the prediction of the glacier fluctuations over the Tibetan Plateau in the near future with anthropogenic global warming.

Tibetan Plateau: Modern topographical map of the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding region showing areas of low (green) to high (red and white) elevation. Credit: Darekk2, GLOBE, and ETOPO1, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Past is the Present: Henry Ford’s Campaign Against the Jews

by William Trollinger

Near the end of Black Reconstruction, that brilliant 1935 historical study that was decades ahead of books written by white historians, W. E. B. DuBois eloquently observed that

nations reel and stagger on their way; they make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things . . . And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as the truth is ascertainable? (714)

But the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan would beg to differ with DuBois.

100 years ago, in January 1919, automobile mogul and world-famous celebrity Henry Ford purchased the Dearborn Independent. Within a few months, and as heralded with the headline, “The International Jew: The World’s Problem,” Ford turned this little paper over to the most vicious sort of anti-Semitism. Over the next few years, articles in the Independent blamed the “Jewish menace” for any and all problems in American life (even problems in major league baseball), and again and again attacked an alleged Jewish cabal for its manipulation of the world’s finances and culture for its own nefarious purposes. In this vein Ford also publicized The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery which purported to provide the details of how, since the time of Christ, a covert Jewish conspiracy was at work in an effort to control the globe.

It turns out that there was an audience for anti-Semitic hate speech, as the Dearborn Independent soon had nearly one million subscribers. More than this, Ford’s publishing company took many of these articles, reprinted them in four books (collectively known as The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem), and sold them across the globe.

None of this is news to historians. But it is also true that dark stories from America’s past are all-too-conveniently forgotten, and so they must be retold. So on the 100th anniversary of Henry Ford purchasing the Dearborn Independent, esteemed Michigan journalist Bill McGraw told the above story in The Dearborn Historian, a tiny quarterly magazine published by the city’s historical commission and co-edited by McGraw.

Or, I should say, McGraw was going to tell the story in The Dearborn Historian, of which he was the co-editor. The mayor squelched the issue and had McGraw removed from his post, explaining that

We want Dearborn to be understood as it is today – a community that works hard at fostering positive relationships . . . This edition of The Historian could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect.

Fostering inclusion and respect requires pretending that exclusion and hate never happened? It seems likely that Dearborn’s mayor was much more concerned about protecting the image of Dearborn’s favorite son. (Of course, the mayor failed to take into account that squelching the article meant it would come out elsewhere).

As suggested by the Dearborn Independent’s circulation numbers, Henry Ford’s campaign of anti-Semitism had a significant impact here in the United States. For one thing, it is thanks to Ford’s newspaper and books that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion became very popular in certain corners of American culture. To give just one example, in the early 1930s William Bell Riley – the organizing genius behind American fundamentalism – turned to the Protocols for his guide to world affairs. As I noted in God’s Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism, Riley (who was not alone among American fundamentalists in his vicious anti-Semitism) found in the Protocols the evidence that Jews were determined to establish a “king despot of Zion” who

would have absolute control of the world’s finances, education, press, and courts, and would establish a uniform atheistic religion to which all people would be required to adhere. (72)

But Ford’s campaign of anti-Semitism also had a horrific global impact. The International Jew – which was first published in German in 1922 – was very popular in Germany, and proved to be an ideological inspiration for the Nazi Party. In 1931 Adolf Hitler gave an interview to a Detroit News reporter from his office, which had on the wall a huge portrait of Henry Ford. Asked about the portrait, Hitler replied that “I owe my inspiration to Henry Ford.” Ford was rewarded in 1938 – just after the German Army invaded Austria – with the Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle, the highest award given to foreigners by the Third Reich.

And Ford’s legacy continues to this day, as Bill McGraw discovered in his research on The Dearborn Independent. As journalist Anna Clark noted in her Columbia Journalism Review article on the squelching of McGraw’s article,

McGraw ties Ford’s legacy to the present-day hate that has been exposed in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and beyond. “I was totally blown away by how active Ford is” in online white supremacist forums, Mc Graw says. The industrialist is mentioned “hundreds of thousands of times.” McGraw noticed that people who appeared to be “new to the movement” were encouraged by Ford’s status, which they saw as giving legitimacy to their views. “Hey, look at this incredible American, this global celebrity: he thinks like us,” is how McGraw summarizes the posts.

Pretending that “hideous mistakes” and “frightful wrongs” did not happen does not eliminate the hideous and frightful from our past. Especially when it turns out that the past is not even past.

(Thanks to my colleague and friend John Inglis for pointing me to the Dearborn story.)

Creationists Deny Global Warming (or, Deny that Global Warming Matters); The Bible Tells Them So

by William Trollinger

“station fire – residents evacuate briggs terrace” by Anthony Citrano is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It sounds as if it comes straight from the Exxon public relations machine, except for the bizarre biblical twist.

According to the young Earth creationists at Answers in Genesis (AiG), anti-Christian leftists are fueling a global warming panic, calling for expensive and un-American regulations on energy companies that will ruin our economy while also harming the poor. All this while there is little evidence for global warming, and all this while significant global warming – if actually true –  would improve life on the planet.

These assertions are in keeping with the Koch brothers, and in keeping with the longstanding commitment of many or most evangelicals to unfettered capitalism.

But because the folks at AiG are young Earth creationists, they go beyond standard right-wing fare to claim that global warming denial is grounded in biblical truth. To be specific, they argue that to deny global warming is in keeping with reading the first eleven chapters of Genesis as literally true, and in keeping with the ongoing battle of true Christians v. mainstream biology and geology. As one AiG contributor put it,

Global warming is an arena where the battle between biblical truth and evolutionary truths is currently raging.

According to AiG, climate history is the story of dramatic, sometimes horrific, changes. The most dramatic example is the global Flood, which is described in Genesis 6-8, which took place 3400 years ago or so, and which may have killed 20 billion people. This particular massive climate change was – so the young Earth creationists claim – almost immediately followed by other deadly climate changes, in the form of the (one and only) Ice Age and then (when things warmed up) massive flooding.

In short, climate history is the history of catastrophes. In an article entitled “Global Warming — Normal in an Abnormal World,” Ken Ham argues that “the earth’s climate has gone through major periods of change, and a fifth change is coming [and] in every case, humans did not produce the change directly.” Echoing the language of dispensational premillennialism, in which history is divided into separate dispensations (each of which ends with God’s judgment), Ken Ham argues that we can divide climate history into the pre-Flood Earth, the Flood, the Ice Age, and the Warming Earth (our contemporary age). As regards the future, and borrowing explicitly from dispensational premillennialism:

A fifth period of major climate change is coming – the final and most dramatic change: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). After this time Christians will live in new heavens and a new earth that will remain perfect forever.

As another AiG contributor has observed,

These climate variations should not surprise us or cause undue alarm. We know that God is holding the earth together until the day of His final judgment, and nothing can destroy it until He dissolves it Himself.

No need to fret about global warming. Divine destruction is nigh. Time to chill.

And thanks to Joe Arrendale, my graduate assistant and a doctoral student at the University of Dayton, for his work of gathering and summarizing the AiG climate change articles.

Creationists Deny Global Warming (or, Deny that Global Warming Matters): Part 3

by William Trollinger

“station fire – residents evacuate briggs terrace” by Anthony Citrano is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As Ken Ham proclaims again and again, the crisis facing Western civilization is the  “gender revolution” :

The West has increasingly abandoned God’s Word – and the truth that we’re created male and female that is abundantly clear in Scripture (Genesis 1:27) as well as biologically obvious – and the results are more chaos and an environment where evil can flourish.

We need to be alarmed – even frightened – by the “gender revolution.”

But when it comes to global warming, Answers in Genesis (AiG) has a message for us: it’s time to chill. There is no conclusive evidence that the Earth is warming; even if it is warming it is not because of us and it is not significant; but even if the Earth is warming significantly, that may very well be a good thing (given the possible bumper crops in northern Canada and – with the melting of the ice — the increased Arctic shipping).

So, if global warming is not happening or it is not happening much or it is really happening but that’s a good thing, why all the global warming alarmism?

That’s simple. It is the product of an anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-capitalist political correctness promoted by folks (like Al Gore) who also want to make lots of money from the global warming scare.

But that is not the whole story. According to AiG, not only is global warming alarmism politically and economically driven, it also – and here’s argument #5 on behalf of denying that we should do anything about global warming – badly hurts the poor. Placing restrictions on energy corporations not only limits the freedom of corporations to do what they want to do, but it also means  “increased costs of producing food, powering vehicles, and heating and cooling homes”  such that “lower-income families, especially in less-developed countries, would be hit especially hard.” According to one AiG author, carbon regulation “could actually cause suffering in some nations where resources would be better spent feeding the poor.”

In making this argument that efforts to combat global warming actually hurts those at the bottom of the economic ladder, the folks at AiG draw upon Calvin Beisner. Beisner is the head of the Cornwall Alliance, an organization that spreads the message of global-warming denial among evangelicals. As quoted by AiG, Beisner (“a respected environmental expert”) has pronounced that “the policies that are being promoted to fight global warming not only will not make a difference . . . but also will have a great harmful impact on the world’s poor.”

For all of Beisner’s concern for the poor, he fails to mention that much of the funding for his Cornwall Alliance has come from the Donor’s Trust (an organization with close ties to the Koch brothers) as well as from the Exxon-Mobil corporation. Is Beisner more concerned with the poor, or his fossil fuel funders?

And what about AiG? What is its investment in denying global warming? And how does their global warming denial square with their theology? That’s the topic of the next post.

And thanks to Joe Arrendale, my graduate assistant and a doctoral student at the University of Dayton, for his work of gathering and summarizing the AiG climate change articles.

Is the Creation Museum Changing Its Story?

by Patrick Thomas

Last week I had the great fortune of visiting the Creation Museum for the third time.  As I’m currently on sabbatical, I was eager to visit the museum now that I finally have the time to explore some new writing projects, one of which stems from a post I’d written a few years ago for the Righting America blog on a particular part of the Creation Museum, the Wonders Room.  I’m especially interested in the role this room plays at the museum as a kind of antechamber to the Creation Museum’s pièce de résistance, the starting point for the museum’s 7 C’s – the garden of Eden. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to see the Wonders Room on this visit. In fact, I’m not entirely sure the Wonders Room still exists.  This is because the Creation Museum is doing some major renovations to, by my estimation, approximately 25% of the museum displays (half of the displays on the first floor). 

Some of the changes are subtle and would be unremarkable for new visitors.  For instance, in the Main Hall, the museum previously housed a series of six displays depicting scientific evidence for biblical creation, including live finches (used to make a creationist case for speciation), chameleons (used as evidence for intelligent design), poison dart frogs (used to show how the fall of creation introduced harm into the world), and various plants, fungi, and fossils. All of these are gone.  

In a space with so much artifice – historical replicas, mannequins, animatronics, fake plants, etc., it’s sad to see the museum lose some of the more natural displays, although removing them doesn’t seem like a major change. 

More remarkable is that all of the rooms leading to the Garden of Eden are no longer accessible, including the Paleontologist Dig Site display, the Starting Points room, Graffiti Alley, Culture in Crisis, the Six Days Theater, and the Wonders Room. Instead, visitors follow a narrow hallway leading directly from the Main Hall to the Garden of Eden. Along the hall, the left wall features some placards from the Starting Points room, and the right wall features small, temporary signs affirming the authority of the Bible in rendering Earth’s history.

Certainly, it’s not uncommon for a museum to change displays.  Museums of all kinds have rotating or visiting exhibitions. The Creation Museum also has items on loan from the Museum of the Bible. But that’s not the kind of work the Creation Museum is doing now. And it’s more than one exhibit – the first eight rooms of the Creation Museum are under reconstruction. Talk about different starting points!

Some of the changes at the Creation Museum (for instance, the newer $5 parking charge) are negligible to the experience at the museum, the changes underway raise an important question about the legitimacy of the Creation Museum’s claim about offering a literal reading of Genesis: if the reading of the Bible that the Creation Museum offers is literally true, if the message of the Creation Museum presents a perspicuous teaching of God’s Word, why revise it? What divinely inspired purpose would such revisions fulfill? And whose agenda is served by augmenting or otherwise refashioning the museum?  

Okay – that’s three questions. 

But to my mind, these questions require answers. The Creation Museum is, purportedly, a museum of earthly history – the history of a young Earth.  Are the revisions of the Creation Museum an indication that this history has changed? Or, perhaps, is Answers in Genesis in need of a new story to tell at the Creation Museum?

We’ll have to wait for a few more months to see the changes at the Creation Museum, but for now AiG is raising more questions than answers.

Creationists Deny Global Warming (or, Deny that Global Warming Matters): Part 2

by William Trollinger

Last week Climate Central – a group of scientists and journalists that research and publicize facts about and impacts of climate change – put out a report entitled “Climate Pile-Up: Global Warming’s Compounding Dangers.” According to this report, there are a variety of ways in which global warming produces “compounding threats”:

Greenhouse gas emissions increase atmospheric temperature, in turn boosting the capacity of the air to hold moisture. Combined with the heat, that enhances the evaporation of water from soil. In drier areas, these processes can result in drought, boost heat waves, and ripen the conditions for wildfires. In places that are commonly wet, on the other hand, heightened water evaporation results in excess rain – which can fall on saturated soil and lead to floods. In the oceans, meanwhile, warmer water evaporates faster, potentially increasing wind speeds and boosting the downpours released by hurricanes, whose surges can be aggravated by sea level rise.

And given the warming trajectory, things are going to get much worse, and soon, unless humans make “deep cuts to warming emissions.”

So comes the word from actual climate scientists. Then there’s Ken Ham and his band of young Earth creationists at Answers in Genesis (AiG), who confidently report that global warming is not a calamitous crisis, or even a significant problem worth addressing.

As I noted in part 1 of this series, “Ken Ham and AiG approach global warming . . . with a cascade of arguments that often seem to conflict with each other.” Having worked through 35 AiG articles on the topic, I have been able to identify seven basic arguments, and I have organized them from what seems less important to them (i.e., matters of science) to what seems more important (i.e., matters related to politics and the Bible).

As discussed in the last blog post, the first three arguments are as follows:

  1. There is no conclusive evidence that the Earth is warming.
  2. But if the Earth is warming, it is not significant, and it is not because of us.
  3. But if the Earth is warming and it is significant, that may very well be a good thing.

Evidence provided to support argument #3 includes easier shipping in the Arctic as the ice melts (what about New Orleans?), increased agricultural production in northern Canada (what about Nebraska?), and the fact that more people die of cold than heat (the hotter it is, the better for human longevity?)

And there is the argument that the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will result in “increased crop yields and enhanced forest growth.” It turns out that this argument is also a favorite of William Happer, who apparently has just been appointed to head Trump’s panel on climate change and national security (even though he has no expertise in climate science). According to Happer, “the demonization of carbon dioxide . . . [is] just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

Trivializing the Holocaust should be beyond anyone’s moral pale. But the suggestion that folks concerned about global warming are driven by a Nazi-like political correctness is actually in keeping with one of AiG’s favorite arguments:

4. Anti-global warming activists are driven by politics and greed.

Anti-global warming activists believe Big Government “is responsible for [our] salvation,” even though their proposed governmental regulations would be very “cost[ly] to individuals and businesses,” and even though – in the end – a full-scale attack on global warming “is more likely to ruin the economies of first-world nations than make any significant impact.”  But these hysterically uninformed activists are driven by a “desire to change our way of life, and in particular, the Christian worldview that has guided the Western Hemisphere,” and they are supported by liberal journalists and celebrities who promote their global warming propaganda. The anti-global warming activists want to muzzle all those who “are uncomfortable with the politically correct version of the man-made global warming crisis,” to the point of wanting to criminalize dissent. All the while “there is big money in climate change issues” for climate change scientists and businesses, and especially for climate change cheerleader Al Gore.

In the 35 AiG articles I examined there is nary a word about the “big money” made by fossil fuel corporations, and nary a word about the millions of dollars these corporations are spending to persuade us that the earth is not warming. Whether or not any of their money is going to AiG, the Koch brothers et al. certainly have to love AiG’s message. More on this in the next post.      

And thanks to Joe Arrendale, my graduate assistant and a doctoral student at the University of Dayton, for his work of gathering and summarizing the AiG climate change articles.

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