Starting with the secret Muslim socialist Kenyan Birtherism, conservatives have gotten so terrified and so paranoid that I’m afraid they will respond in the most human way imaginable. That they will inevitably resort to hysterical violence. Each of their conspiracies are more crazy than the one before. At this moment, we have such a huge swath of Texas believing they’re about to be invaded by our own military for some obscure reason. So many believe this so strongly, they’ve convinced their governor and a leading presidential contender/actual senator to treat them seriously. This is after Michelle Bachmann said with a straight face and in all seriousness that Barack Obama will bring about the apocalypse. These are the same people who pointed weapons at federal law enforcement officers at the Bundy Ranch. (Thank god the government stood down. The Bundy Ranch Massacre would not have made a good headline.) and shortly after those same nutters shot several cops. Somehow I don’t see the Tea Party taking themselves out like Jones Town. I see them needing to exercise their demons using high caliber weapons. If you listen to gun rights advocates, the number one reason they will tell that they need all these guns is to protect themselves from an overreaching government. This is a uniquely American phenomena. No other government on the planet would allow people to stockpile weapons for the express purpose of destroying or resisting the government. But in these uncertain times, this is what is necessary for them to feel safe. And there in lies the key.
If you look at history we’re in the middle of a transition. For thousands of years men have invented myths and religions to help explain the world and provide a sense of order and direction. And religion is really good at coming up with feel good bullshit about how the world was made and how it works.
Eventually, sometime around the late Iron Age-early medieval period, government began to compete with religion in what it can tell people to do, and how it made sense of the world. The clash was long and horribly bloody with no clear winner. Religion and government more or less agreed to a compromise and thus began The Enlightenment. Since then there have been successive industrial and scientific revolutions that have gradually displaced religion and government from people’s lives. People have more freedom now than ever before. People are healthier and wealthier than at any point in human history and the twin institutions that we’re used to relying on, have proven themselves completely inadequate –if not thoroughly corrupt.
The problem is science is, by definition, uncertain. In fact, it’s uncertain with a very high degree of precision. The government certainly can’t provide a comforting narrative. I think people beginning to realize there’s no quick fix, no handy ideology for the economy. Terrorism can’t be fixed with a strong military or shadowy police state. Environmental problems now have a global reach and global problems aren’t as simple as locking delegates in the same room in New York’s most architecturally boring building. It means talking to the “bad guys” because ignoring them or blowing them up simply won’t work. Even long standing traditions are under assault because they’re terribly oppressive and that’s no longer acceptable. If you chart the progress of freedom during the last 100 years here has been tremendous growth. But it hasn’t been easy And there are no guarantees. Obama isn’t the first President to promise change. They all do that. But he embodies that change by virtue of his skin color, his personal narrative, and his view of the world. It’s this combination of racism and generalized anxiety that is causing such an extreme reaction to his relatively banal politics.
Humanity has yet to embrace this new found power. It’s still looking towards institutions for meaning and direction. It’s still rejecting that meaning, freedom, and liberty because they don’t have the strength to resurrect them as internal constructs. So many are afraid. This latest conspiracy theory is just a focused outpouring of fear and uncertainty. Change is hard and we have the duty and obligation of ensuring that change comes to all. The more we resist change the harder it goes for us. The less control we have. It’s time to seize control of our own emotions, our will, and abandon the need religion and governments to provide meaning and direction. I don’t expect this to happen. I fully expect that people will grow old and die clinging to their outdated beliefs. But where there are children, there is hope.
For those of you unaware, I was raised an Adventist. Though, the 3 or 4 of you who read this blog are probably doing so out of a sense of loyalty and, in that case, you probably already know me well enough to already know that. Currently, the Adventist church is embroiled in a controversy about whether or not women can be ordained pastors. And by controversy, I mean that 80% of Adventists in North America are very much in favor of the idea; about about another 10% like the idea but value “church unity” over the issue; and about another 5 or 10% adamantly oppose the idea for reasons that make sense only to them. If the polls reflect such a huge difference in approval, how is there even enough support to make it an issue? The answer lies in two places. The biggest lies in Adventist demographics. The bulk of Adventist membership lies in developing countries where female leadership is an anathema. The other part lies in how Adventists define “ordained minister”. Women can be pastors all they like. We have many and they contain all the moral and spiritual authority as male pastors (in so much as pastor’s have moral or spiritual authority). What Ordination means in practice is there is a solid glass ceiling within the church hierarchy.
Quick background. Individual churches belong to a regional Conference. Conferences, in turn, belong to a Union. For example, Boston, where I live, is part of the “Northeastern Conference” which is part of the “Atlantic Union” and the Atlantic union contains all the Conferences from all of New England to New York State. WA DC, Virginia and Maryland are part of the Columbia Union and the southern states east of the Mississippi are part of the Southern Union. Above Unions are Divisions. The North American Division includes the US and Canada (sorry Mexico). All the Divisions comprise the General Conference (GC).
Women not being ordained ministers can never rise above Pastor. They can’t be Senior Pastors if a church is large enough to have more than one pastor. This is directly due to the opinion of conservatives that women should never hold positions of leadership or authority. I should point out that conservatives feel that these opinions are divinely inspired so good luck talking them out of it. Women can’t work up the ranks of conferences, unions, divisions let alone be part of the GC. The end result is that the senior leadership of the SDA General Conference tends to draw from it’s conservative base and they are all men which facilitates a mono-perspective that is in no way healthy. But here’s the rub, the appointing and ordaining of ministers does not happen at the GC level. It happens at the Union level. These are self-same unions where female ordination is polling at 80%. So now you have a schism between the local churches and the senior church hierarchy, thus the controversy.
Feminism makes only a single statement. That men are equal to women. That’s not to say every individual is just as proficient as every other individual at all skills and tasks, but only that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men. For the conservative and religiously minded, this represents a staggering change. Yes there are isolated examples of women throughout history wielding enormous power and influence. But, for the most part, serious attempts at equality are extremely recent and not just within the Adventist church. We’ve never had concerted attempts at egalitarianism before. When we look at social and political structures outside the Adventist church, we’re drawing from the same pool of individuals that the Adventist church is drawing from. The Church is a microcosm of the world around us. Entrenched male hierarchies that are probably not hostile to women (though some are) so much as too self-involved to really consider alternatives. Power drawn from a conservative base which by its very definition loathes change.
Feminism will destroy the Adventist church without question. By its very existence Feminism represent change and progress. The old church will fade away as its members die and replaced. Old ideas will die and be replaced. But the the ideas of equality, progress, change, are too powerful. They will continue to “corrupt” the old and replace it with something new. Something awesome.