Unfortunately, religion and politics do mix. A story on POLITICO.com announced on Wednesday that the House Energy and Commerce Committee chair hopeful, Rep. John Shimkus has declared Genesis on the side of conservatives. Stating that the Noah myth (not his exact words) promises God won’t flood the earth again, Shimkus claims we have nothing to fear from global warming. In a twist that makes some of his fellow conservatives squirm, Shimkus admits global warming is a reality but suggests that we really don’t need to worry about it because “the Bible tells me so.” Time for Shimkus to go back to Sunday School.
Part of the problem lies in the concept of Bible itself. The Hebrew Bible isn’t too much of a self-referential work, claiming to be pure words of divine gold. Paul, on the other hand, found the Hebrew Bible useful to cite against enemies, and his admirer who wrote letters to Timothy in his name took the idea even further. For all that, the Bible wasn’t finally settled on for a couple more centuries. Once the concept took hold, however, the world could never be the same. A book written by humans had become direct revelation from the word of God himself. The Bible makes few such lofty boasts about itself, but its less conscientious followers are not nearly so shy. As I demonstrate repeatedly in my classes, the Bible has become a magic book.
Politicians now feel comfortable claiming God as their ally because “he said so.” Without having ever critically engaged Scripture, or even having read it in its original languages, those in positions of public trust know enough to flaunt it. And it always scores points with Americans. Liberals fear the ramifications of using the Bible while Neo-Cons charge bravely ahead to places Noah himself would fear to go. Maybe it’s time to put the Bible back in the schools. Only this time it should be taught by people who realize that the Enlightenment has taken place and that we can’t rely on magic to save us from dangerous situations we ourselves have created.