Our Ultimate Fate May Depend Upon It
by Glynn Wilson
The very fate of our human species, yes, and your state too — as well as this country and the earth — may well depend on a compromise between science and religion.
Yes, you read that correctly. Not that I ever wanted to admit it before.
This will be a precarious journey with no guarantee of success like the fate of all life itself, from the beginning into the infinite future.
A top American scientist from Alabama writes that religion and science “are the two most powerful forces in the world today, including especially the United States.” That is from Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s book The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, which he wrote to Southern Baptist preachers who hold sway over millions of votes that could have a positive, or negative, impact on all kinds of government policies.
Those votes are also powerful actions that could result in the consequence of sending the world over the edge of the abyss in a self-fulling doomsday prophesy. What if in doing so, the false prophets of Jesus, tea and no taxes send us all to hell, including themselves?
Hell on earth, that is…
Wilson wrote an entire book for these voters, which they could even read free online thanks to Google. He makes the point this way.
“I think existence is what we make of it as individuals,” Wilson wrote. “There is no guarantee of life after death, and heaven and hell are what we create for ourselves, on this planet. There is no other home.”
But he appealed to the pastors for help.
“Paster, we need your help,” Wilson writes. “The Creation — living Nature — is in deep trouble.”
“You have the power to help solve a great problem…,” Wilson says to the preachers who have an ear and can hear. “I suggest we set aside our differences in order to save the creation. The defense of living Nature is a universal value. It doesn’t rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity.”
In a wide-ranging interview with the head of the Alabama Baptist Convention, I found the reach of Wilson’s appeal has yet to trickle down very far in our native state. Pelham First Baptist Church Rev. Mike Shaw, my first basketball couch when I was 10 years old in 1968, had never heard of E.O. Wilson, or his book, when I caught up with him on a dog-hot August day.
But he was in agreement with the message about the environment, and even disagreed with part of Alabama’s unconstitutional and unenforceable immigration law. It probably won’t be enough to change the pattern of voting for other social issues that get in the way of a Great Compromise between Science and Religion, however.
You see, it is not enough to agree on a policy these days. If you aren’t willing to vote on that basis, rather than your racism, your religion or other partisan prejudices, then nothing will be accomplished and the gridlock in Washington will continue. The abyss draws closer.
Mr. Wilson did not deal with voting explicitly in his book. In fact, he avoided the question of politics altogether. But his mission will never be accomplished without it. Which is why we take the question head on here.
The exact same argument is as true for the debt problem and the deficit as it is for the environment.
“We can no longer let partisan brinksmanship get in our way — the idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right,” President Barack Obama says.
On that much Mr. Obama, Mr. Shaw and I can agree.
As for Alabama’s unconstitutional and unenforceable immigration law? There’s even agreement there.
In this followup to my recent Interview with Wayne Flynt, we have a frank discussion of those issues — and more.
If you missed that story, you might want to read it first and watch the video at this link. It contains critical background.
Auburn History Professor Wayne Flynt Answers the Central Political Question of Our Time
Rev. Mike Shaw Heads the Alabama Baptist Convention
Mike Shaw is a very nice man. A caring man. A man who took the trouble in 1968 to teach the sport of basketball to some kids from the suburbs of Birmingham, and to help build their self-esteem. He and I agree that about the most important thing any teacher or councilor can do for a young person is to help build their self-esteem. He called me “Cowboy,” a nickname he picked up from the Rev. Ralph Fields and another full reverend today, the Rev. Gerald Hallmark of the First Baptist Church of Alexander City, who I knew as “Shorty” in those days. Not because he was short.
I was raised in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama during the Wallace era in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church. But I had ambition, and got out and went on to obtain an education and a more enlightened point of view about the world.
Shaw is now the head of the Alabama Baptist Convention, one of the most conservative religious organizations in the country and even in the South. He’s potentially up for one more term in November, when they hold their annual convention in Mobile. He admits to being a “fundamentalist,” one who believes the Bible story literally, and in the end he admits to being a “conservative Republican,” who can’t vote for Democrats because of one or more planks in their platform.
“I respect other people’s opinions,” Shaw said. “I don’t have any trouble sitting down talking to a Buddhist, a Mormon or an atheist. They have their right to their opinion, and I have my right to my opinion. For me to force my opinion on some people is un-American. Not every fundamentalist, unfortunately, is that way,” he said with a smile and a slight twinkle in his eye. “They’re going to beat you over the head with the Bible if you don’t see it their way. I’m not going to do that.”
When asked what kind of leadership he thought it was going to take to solve our environmental and economic problems and compromise, Shaw talked about a “servant-like” style of leadership, “like Jesus.”
“I think that’s the kind of leadership we need in this country. We’re desperate for it,” Shaw said. “I don’t dislike President Obama. I’ve got a lot of friends that hate him, and I’ve got some church members that probably hate him.”
When people fight against the president, however, and in doing so harm the country just because he is an African-American, he said, “That’s racism at its worst.”
Shaw admitted being a racist growing up among Southern Baptists in Birmingham during the era of race riots and even later during the fights over school integration.
“There was a lot of prejudice in Southern Baptist churches when I grew up,” he said. “I was a racist for many years. I didn’t realize it. I had to go to Promise Keepers to realize I was a racist, and I confessed and asked God to forgive me. In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention repented of our racism back in the 1990s. Yeah, we admitted we were wrong.”
Now there are between 1 million and 1.5 million Baptists in Alabama, nearly one forth the population in a state of 4.7 million people.
While not all Baptists are conservative Republicans, no one disputes that they make up a vast majority. When people from other parts of the country and other faiths and intellectual schools of thought see the kinds of leaders and policies the Southern Baptists support, they often wonder how they can call themselves Christians, when Jesus ministered to all kinds of people and didn’t discriminate.
The immigration bill passed in the Alabama legislature that is being called the “toughest in the nation” would charge even Baptists with a crime if they fed, housed or gave a ride to an illegal immigrant from Latin America.
“That’s the part of the law I spoke out against,” he said. “There’s some language in this law that would hinder religious freedom.”
It is amazing this has not gotten more attention from the national political media, considering Alabama’s new Republican governor Robert Bentley, who pushed the bill, is a Southern Baptist himself. He got elected with the help of Southern Baptist preacher and former presidential candidate from Arkansas Mike Huckabee’s son-in-law.
This truly should have Alabama Baptists confused, but will it be enough to change their votes or keep them home on election day?
Probably not. They are a forgiving lot, or at least forgetful, when it comes to their own. And by god they vote.
As for E.O. Wilson’s message, Shaw said he agrees “wholeheartedly.”
“We need to be good stewards. Our country needs to be good stewards. We have the greatest natural resources, I believe, of any country in the world, and a lot of them are being squandered,” Shaw said. “We didn’t use to have a clean water problem. We do now. You look out in the west with the drought going on there. We’re fixing to have some major problems if we have places like Dallas Texas that can’t get drinking water.
“We’re faced with all these Armageddon type possibilities around us,” he added. “Here you have one part of the country in a drought, and another being washed away by a flood.”
That’s evidence of climate change due to human induced global warming, according to a consensus in the scientific community, and the anti-tax, anti-government regulation Republican Party is largely responsible for blocking any government policies to address the issue. The Democrats have not pushed hard enough, because of the overwhelming need to deal with other issues such as the economy and health care, not to mention the two Bush wars still in progress in the Middle East.
What’s the answer?
“First of all, we’ve got to work together, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims,” Shaw said. “These are our problems, problems of the United States of America. We need to be concerned about ecology. What are our children and grandchildren going to have?”
The same is true of the national debt and deficit, he said.
But if the Obama administration had just forced the issue of allowing the Bush tax cuts for the rich and corporations to expire as they were written in 2010, or if the tea party Republicans would have been willing to compromise on that issue, that problem would not have dominated the debate in Washington and the national news for much of the past few months, forcing other issues, such as energy policy, a jobs bill and climate change legislation onto the back burner.
“It’s not just the rich,” Shaw said. “It’s the corporations, the oil companies, making banner profits, and the American people are paying more for gas, just about, than we’ve ever paid.”
In the end, he said, it takes a crisis.
“You are going to keep on doing what you’ve always done until you come to a place where, number one, you can’t do it anymore,” Shaw concluded. “Or if you do it, it’s going to bring more problems. We’re pretty much to that place right now. Again, whether you are liberal or conservative, it doesn’t make any difference. All of us are going to be impacted by this.”
If only that message could trickle down to the masses over the Internet somehow, perhaps a Great Compromise between Science and Religion could be reached.
© 2011 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.