Friday, June 20, 2014

Truth Can Lie Beyond Targeted Talk

I listen to former vice president Dick Cheney, a guy who who helped orchestrate America's invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, inaccurately blame Iraq's current ISIS insurgency on Barak Obama's incompetence.

I read about New York City's ultra-liberal Union Seminary divesting itself of fossil fuel revenue, claiming that not doing so would be a sin.

And I realize now, more than ever, that it doesn't matter if you're a conservative or a liberal; people feel entitled to believe their version of truth really is truth.  Not what truth really is.

Of course, there's no surprise in this.  I'm not saying I'm seeing such revisionism for the first time.  But it's not every day that, from two opposite ends of the spectrum, two popular institutions within their particular spheres of influence each blatantly prove the point.  Especially if what they prove goes beyond petty self-aggrandizement to blatantly contradict why they claim to have authority in their respective fields.

In Cheney's case, it's as simple as historical fact that while President Obama has indeed mismanaged the Iraq war, it is a war he inherited from his predecessor.  And his predecessor, who was fed misleading information by Cheney and other war hawks, invaded a sovereign nation without proof of his claims for doing so.  Cheney says that most of Washington and the free world consented to the invasion, but everybody was operating on the same biased information Cheney's band of warriors were disseminating.

Pick apart the Obama administration's foibles in Iraq all you want, but the very reason he had to deal with that war lies with you, Mr. Cheney, for whom it could far more factually be stated that rarely has a U.S. vice president "been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

Union Seminary's petulant self-righteousness over fossil fuels is similarly audacious, even if it's not making the big headlines Cheney is.  Founded in 1836, Union Seminary seems to have always taken pride in its ability to flout orthodox Christianity, and it has produced some of the most liberal preachers America has ever known.  So having it take a stand through its finances against a perceived social ill is not what's surprising about their statement about fossil fuels.  In fact, it would be more surprising if Union Seminary wasn't on the left wing's ecological bandwagon, demonizing mankind for its reliance on natural resources that have pollutive byproducts.

But claiming fossil fuels are a "sin"?

"As a seminary we are familiar with the scriptural warning that 'the wages of sin is death,'" writes Serene Jones, Union Seminary's president.  "And this could not be more literally true than it is in the case of fossil fuels."

Jones goes on to explain her definition of sin as "anything that prevents us from having a faithful relationship with God, with each other, with ourselves, and with creation."

Which is not the orthodox definition of salvation taught in the Bible.  Biblically, sin is "anything that prevents us from having a faithful relationship with God," full stop.  And what is a faithful relationship with God, but acting in accordance with God's honor and glory?  We can mar that relationship with God in the way we treat other people, ourselves, and the environment, but God does not hold us to the same standard when it comes to the Created as He does when it comes to the Creator, Himself.

This may sound like a nuanced technicality, but it's an example of how flawed theology can sound more plausible than heretical.  But then again, this is the kind of stuff Union Seminary has become famous for fabricating.  Usually, however, they're creating their own interpretations of theology, not trying to twist basic logic.

Presumably, Union Seminary is making this change in their finances because they have decided that mankind's use of fossil fuels significantly contributes to the theory of global warming.  Yet for all of the logic science insists it needs for its own credibility, global warming is still a theory, even though a lot of dramatic evidence appears to support the idea that global warming is happening.  Nevertheless, we still don't have answers to whether or not global warming - and cooling - could be naturally cyclical.  Nor do we know the extent to which mankind's introduction of processed chemicals into the environment may contribute to the planet's temperature fluctuations.  Nor do we know whether the relatively short timespan in which accurate temperatures have been recorded around the world represents a sufficient data sample to judge whether any current "warming" is unprecedented or should be of particular concern.  After all, even when I was in school, I learned about the Ice Age, and our planet has obviously warmed up considerably since then, and all that warming took place without any nasty automobiles or coal-fired power stations.

I'm not smart enough to know whether or not a global warming phenomenon of the destructive scale many scientists allege is truly taking place.  And if it is, I'm not smart enough to know the extent to which mankind has a role to play in such a phenomenon.  But the thing is - nobody is smart enough to know these things!  That's why we don't have definitive proof.  We can pretty much prove that something called gravity exists, or that wind exists, and maybe we can deduce from measuring glaciers and sea levels that something is heating up somewhere on our globe.  But global warming isn't the same as gravity and wind.  And assigning blame for it certainly is open for much continued debate.

About all we know to be true about global warming is that it may be taking place, and human activity may be a contributing factor.  We already know that pollution exists - just one look at Beijing's air can confirm it.  But are fossil fuels sinful?

Sure, fossil fuels produce pollution when used in specific ways, but the ecology God created actually has built-in mechanisms to help clean away some of that pollution.  Besides, part of the pollution-making process is determining when benefits outweigh drawbacks.  For example, fossil fuels are used to make the plastics used in cutting-edge healthcare to save lives.  Union Seminary thinks that's sinful?  I preach a lot about not letting the ends justify the means, but if we can release the harmful byproducts of things created with fossil fuels in doses our environment can satisfactorily absorb, does that make fossil fuels themselves "sinful"?

Or is it the reckless ways mankind exploits fossil fuels that becomes sinful?

In other words, is it really Exxon's fault when we purchase gas-guzzling vehicles we don't need?  Is it Exxon's fault when people don't fix their vehicle's muffler?  Why do we blame coal miners when electric power stations don't install sophisticated pollution control devices on their smokestacks?

I suspect that if the leaders at Union Seminary were actually honest about their opinions regarding fossil fuels, they wouldn't call such naturally-created fuel "sin", but rather the cavalier way many of us use those fuels.  After all, despite their grand profession of Earth-love, I don't think Union is going off the grid, which is what they'd have to do to realistically "divest" themselves of such immorality as fossil fuel.  They couldn't take the subway, or ride bicycles with rubber tires.  I mean, isn't it silly to make such a blatantly unfounded and unsupportable statement about an industry that provides both positives and negatives to societies around the world?

Yes, faith is often confused as being unfounded and unsupportable, and many of the ways God expects us to honor him seem illogical to people who do not love Him.  What's ironic here, however, is that Union Seminary has spent over 100 years actively trying to wring some humanistic logic out of the Bible, and here they go, willfully beseeching their god of morality to illogically blame creation itself for something mankind abuses.

If they really wanted to advocate for sustainable, environmentally-responsible energy use, perhaps they should re-invest their endowment in ventures that seek to minimize energy waste and byproduct emissions.  They could have quietly instructed the committee administering their endowment to transfer funds from low-risk, high-yield conventional energy companies to high-risk, low-yield ecology firms.  But why waste an opportunity for self-promotion, especially since most of the people to whom your erroneous spin is directed won't bother to take it in context, or parse the fact from fiction in it?

Actually, it's the same reason Dick Cheney and his daughter wrote what they did for the Wall Street Journal.  They figured their fan base won't bother to think back and wonder why one of the guys who crafted the initial misguided invasion of Iraq has any credibility when it comes to blaming somebody else for why the whole thing has turned into such a deplorable mess.

At least, I hope that's why the Cheneys wrote what they did.  I hope they don't actually believe, deep down in their souls, what they wrote.  Because considering how unGodly Union Seminary has been for all these years, I've no doubt that plenty of post-Christians think what President Jones wrote actually makes sense.  And look at how rapidly America's mainline churches, the primary consumers of Union's relativistic dogma, are eroding.

Pilate famously asks Christ, "what is truth?" during his interrogation of the Messiah.  What is truth?  In the case of the Cheneys and Union Seminary, the truth is more than they want to admit.

Funny, though, how both examples involve oil, with Iraq being the world's second-biggest producer of that black gold.

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