Thursday, May 19, 2005

This Is My Side Of The Street, Dammit

... he warn't only just a farmer, he was a preacher, too, and had a little one-horse log church down back of the plantation, which he built it himself at his own expense, for a church and schoolhouse, and never charged nothing for his preaching, and it was worth it, too. There was plenty other farmer-preachers like that, and done the same way, down South.
-- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chap. XXXIII
This is a topic that deserves a more thorough analysis than the brief post and couple links I plan on giving it here, but I find this Biblical peak oil site (thanks to not a little amusing because of its connection to one of peak oil's bigger showmen, Jim Kunstler. Kunstler has lately found it meet to lift the jargon of the worst elements of evangelical Christianity for his own ends. The irony, of course, is that he professes his hate of the people from whom he steals his similes; his is merely the Green version of rapture theology.

It is a theology without much history, according to a recent Kansas City Star article (registration required, or Wilburn T. Stancil, associate professor of theology and religious studies at Rockhurst University, says that rapture theology often stems from the writings of one Cyrus I. Scofield, who published a biblical reference in 1909. Espousing a tenet known as "premillenial dispensationalism", he claimed that at the moment of judgement, true believers would be taken to Jesus before the troubles happen, while nonbelievers would be left behind to, well, deal.

Although Stancil says a belief in a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on Earth can be found in the writings of some early church fathers, Scofield's ideas are rooted in the thinking of John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century Church of England cleric who founded the Plymouth Brethren. Darby, who spent considerable time in America, may, in turn, have been amplifying the 1830 end-times visions of a 15-year-old girl in Scotland.

Stancil says premillennial dispensationalism has shown great “resiliency and adaptability” in the face of changing world events that premillennialists such as Lindsey interpret in light of their theology. Lindsey's 1970 book, The Late Great Planet Earth, did much to popularize this theology.

Premillennial dispensationalism may seem “rigid and inflexible,” Stancil says, but, in fact, it is “capable of almost endless mutations.” Dispensationalists, he says, insist the Bible must be read literally, “though ironically, it's the symbolic ... interpretation of the Bible that fosters the adaptability” found in Lindsey's view of the end times.

Rapture-based theology is misguided, Rossing says, because “God saves us not by snatching us out of the world, but by coming into the world to be with us.” She calls the rapture “an invented idea.” Theologian and author R.C. Sproul, founder of Ligonier Ministries of Orlando, Fla., holds a similar opinion, calling a rapture of the church at the start of seven years of tribulation “pure fiction” based on “manifestly flawed” theology.

The real world tends to be messier than historical determinists would like; large scale planning is hard enough to do for big companies, let alone entire nations. It's a fact the Soviets came hard against and failed to overcome, acknowledged late in the game by the Soviet planner Nikolai Fedorenko when he said it would take 30,000 years to come up with an adequate one-year plan. That experience doesn't take Kunstler down any notches; he's got a plan for everybody and an apocalyptic vision to herd them where he wants them to go. So his public venom directed at the religious right is better understood when taken in context; he absorbs and regurgitates their liturgy, translating it to a different audience. No wonder, then, that he hates them so: if there's one thing a carnie can't stand, it's another carnie working the same side of the street.