Seeds of Idiocy

Christ the Redeemer statue, RioThis story from Antarctica, where I fully anticipate every visitor is well educated on the need for biological isolation of the place they are visiting, leaves me bemused and struggling to understand. Read it and weep.

To summarise for those who’d prefer to avoid both:  Two religious nutjobs, claiming to be from a “gospel group”, were caught intentionally spreading seeds of an invasive non-native species while visiting Antarctica. Having entered places like Australia and New Zealand myself and seen the strict, clearly explained controls over biological contamination, this wilful and calculated act in an even more sensitive environment is inexcusable.

That would be bad enough, but it seems it’s happened before. The previous nutjob to attempt this eco-vandalism even attempted to justify her sociopathy:

A similar act nine years ago on the same island was described by an American evangelist, Mary Craig. ”We scattered and released the seeds of the harvest of souls to be saved”, she wrote on her website. ”We understood that we were planting seeds that would sprout as others came to water and plant the church of Christ.”

Despite having a pretty good understanding of Christianity, I really struggle to understand the behaviour here. How can someone who’s clearly well-educated and wealthy enough to take one of these trips have such a weak grasp of the difference between metaphor and reality that they engage in an action so profoundly and clearly wrong? It’s even wrong within their own worldview; Craig herself says:

“It is said that Antarctica changes you; it is so pristine. Hopefully, people won’t ruin it while they take its beauty into their souls.”

Is there a (polite) name for the inability to distinguish metaphor and reality? One friend suggested that the right word is “psychosis“, but I ‘m not sure that’s correct. I think the people involved here are fully-functioning in all areas of their lives and neither generally delusional nor dangerously detached from general reality. The condition on display is more subtle and at the same time potentially more dangerous. Another friend suggested “fundamentalist”, and while that is likely to be a decent label for the people involved in both incidents, I don’t think the term fits perfectly. The terms “fundamentalist” and “creationist” (also suggested) describe other expressions of the same thought patterns.

This does dovetail into a book I’ve recently read and enjoyed enough to recommend – Marcus Borg‘s “Speaking Christian[Amazon UK | US]. He suggests that the problem is with an overall interpretive framework – he calls it “Heaven & Hell Christianity” – which provides a strong tool for interpreting metaphor and leads to cognitive failures by encouraging “force-fitting with the framework” rather than subjecting an action to wider critical analysis. I think that’s what’s happening here, and I fear it can’t be prevented all the time that dominant interpretive framework is so strongly reinforced by Christian teachers.

5 Responses

  1. I reposted this article to LinkedIn with the following comment:

    Despoiling a pristine environment in the name of “christianity”? Outrageous.

    “Standing in a church on Sunday doesn’t make you a christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”

  2. I’m actually not sure I object to the idea in principle of sowing seed on uncultivated land, be it inside the Arctic Circle or wherever. “Fill the earth and subdue it” was God’s first command to mankind. However, in this case, the land did not belong to the people concerned and so they had no right to be doing anything on it that the landowner didn’t permit. (In this slightly unusual case, I guess that the landowner would be the signatories to the Antarctic Treaty System.) So it’s quite right that they should be shown the door.

  3. Sometimes, the conclusion of individuals look all wrong when I read a story!

    * “previous nutjob… The terms ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘creationist’… describe other expressions of the same thought patterns”

    Fundamentalist is a term indicating an individual adhere to the fundamentals of “something”. Without indicating what that “something” is – the term is meaningless.

    To suggest Mary (and her group) is adhering to particular fundamentals of Christianity may be mistaken. I don’t recall a particular Christian denomination, or even a cult, which believes such an action results in what was hoped for. To suggest they are adhering to particular fundamentals of The Bible may be mistaken. No where in The Bible is there a command to do such with that result. The behavior, was indeed, strange. I would be curious of the origin.

    The interpretation to throw seed for her suggested purpose was an excessively liberal “interpretation” (liberating itself from the text, the antithesis of conservative adherence to the text) of various Bible passages. The context of those passages did indicate it was something someone needed to do in order to achieve the desired goal, which led her to a very odd and mistaken action!

    Perhaps, they did not read such texts, herself, and they was following the instructions of another. From the citation provided, the statement “… Mary Craig Ministries…” indicates that her actions were her own, not necessarily associated with another.

    The following statement (in bold), read from the cited web site, clarifies the situation entirely, “What I received from the Holy Spirit was this…” She was clearly not adhering to the fundamentals of anything, rather her actions were an expression of the liberty she felt she had within the sphere of her spirituality. Personal spirituality, outside a rigorous framework of organized religion, can clearly be a very erratic thing.

    We do live in a liberal society. Liberals of all kinds bring both good and bad aspects to society. We have to take the good with the bad – expressing tolerance toward them… and try not to act too intolerant towards them, when they need to be gently corrected.

    * “inability to distinguish metaphor and reality?”

    This is a very interesting question. Having not read the work cited, the following assessment about to be provided may or may not accurately reflect the author’s intentions.

    Statements like “a strong tool for interpreting metaphor and leads to cognitive failures” and “subjecting an action to wider critical analysis” both fall short of reading any work, modern or ancient. The proper framework for interpretation, in any work, is immediate context, context in the greater work, context of other writers in a similar time frame, etc. – each, decreasing with levels of authority.

    A case by case study of the paraphrases she used, of the contexts of those original passages, would be interesting to work through to ultimately uncover her cognitive failures.

    * “leads to cognitive failures by encouraging ‘force-fitting with the framework'”

    Some might point this problem directly back to the teaching methods related to literature, experienced by students in higher institutions of modern Western educational systems. The guilty party is “deconstructionism”. It is a construct of the “Post-Modern” society, which we now live.

    When an individual can take any text they desire (in this case, something from The Bible), interpret that text (varied texts from different authors) in the framework that they choose, denying the history that surrounds those texts (the varied passages were separated by decades), not firmly grounding the interpretation (there was no command she followed), and performing a preferred concrete experience (of spreading seed in Antarctica) to help interpret an abstract idea (metaphor), while not following the teaching of another or requiring the action of others (denying the role of centralized governance) – an educated observer, who had taken university based literature classes can easily see how this is not the result of fundamentalism, but rather the failure of deconstructionism.

    The liberal reader in the modern world has little use for the rigors involved in the intense study required to understand the meaning of words in ancient languages, encapsulated in ancient books, written in ancient cultures, surrounded by other contemporary ancient authors – never mind in common metaphors or figures of speech used at that time. (Biblical Fundamentalists live their lives by such minutia, which I can not claim to have the rigor for, while I do dabble in it, to understand the concepts.)

    I am more “modern” in my thought, trying to take everything observed into captivity, to understand the contexts. Throwing incorrect labels at something [clearly not understood by the aggressor] is paramount to the “name calling” used by children on a play ground, whether or not the [derogatory] name really reflects reality. Sometimes, I am reminded we are less civilized than we allow ourselves to believe, less tolerant of individual thought, and far less tolerant of individual spirituality [not bound to organized religion], bound to the personal experience as taught in Western liberal educational institutions.

    In The West, much more emphasis is placed upon the value of experience of the individual, than on the academic studies of such fundamentals of faith. This has it’s good points and bad points. Within the broad-scope of the thing referred to as “Christianity” in “The West”, the liberal perspective can be seen from this example to have it’s bad points.

  4. Clearly planting barley makes souls, and anal anything ruins your clade on the tree of life, if you liked John at all. What I’m unclear on (so no, not fannish) is how a completely remediated thing (one nation, one windproof Roomba) was going to either a) work (enabling b) or b) wreck local biomes and genomes more than having people visit.

    Watching SQL barf flames as I assert _seeedscatter .or. _seedrelease instead of .and. is special, though, as is declaring (explicit destructors) untilSoulsSaved.harvest.seed for the console message it brings.

    Title s.b. Southern Passage Sow of Nitrous Loam Stock, Yanqui No!

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