This 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.