President Apocalypse and Other Biblical Mischief
America’s forty-fifth (and possibly final) president said in Poland on July 6, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.” The answer is maybe not, considering we handed the nuclear launch codes to Mr. Apocalypse, who thinks it smart to threaten North Korea.
While our president is busy laying traps for his domestic enemies on Twitter, we have lots of space left to examine other uplifting stories.
First stop, the Vatican. Late last month, with His Holiness already embarrassed by Cardinal George Pell being charged with child sexual abuse, police raided the Holy Office apartment of another cardinal’s secretary and found a drug-fueled gay orgy. The secretary was sent to detox, the purgatory of the privileged. Cardinal Raymond Burke blames these things on feminism, claiming that the increased presence of women in the Church undermines “manly discipline.” Seriously. I only hope the partiers played safe, despite Rome’s revilement of gay sex and condoms. As long as they are modeling hypocrisy, they might as well have their raincoats on.
More Christian piety can be found in state legislation. Texas’s HB 3859 allows child welfare service providers to discriminate against LGBT youth based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Mississippi’s HB 1523 allows anyone invoking their conscience to deny marriage licenses or goods and services to same-sex couples, or to establish anti-transgender bathrooms. It may be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, assuming Justice Anthony Kennedy is still around when it gets there.
Florida’s HB 989 allows any county resident to trigger a hearing by objecting to instructional materials in the public schools. As Florida Citizens for Science has noticed, affidavits already filed by supporters of the law suggest the targeting of science education. Deniers of climate science may be rewarded by the gradual return of The Flood.
Staying on biblical themes, we turn to Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green and his more-righteous-than-thou family. This time the subject is not allowing private employers to invoke religion to deny employees health insurance that includes birth control. No, today we (or rather they) are dealing in looted Iraqi “conflict antiquities.”
In 2010, Hobby Lobby, ignoring warnings from experts, bought 5,500 ancient Sumerian and Babylonian artifacts, including cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. These treasures were intended for Green’s Museum of the Bible near the National Mall. The museum is easy to spot with its glass ark on top. Now Green must pay a $3 million fine and relinquish the items to the Department of Justice.
The plundering of antiquities is nothing new. Amateur archaeologists and their customers have enhanced their collections with stolen items from such far-flung places as the Pre-Columbian Americas and Cambodia. Perhaps most notorious are the Parthenon Marbles by ancient Athenian sculptor Phidias, which were “acquired” two centuries ago by Lord Elgin and are now displayed at the British Museum.
As for the Hobby Lobby loot, there is no word yet on whether it includes a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette from Malta. I am hoping for a tour guide to tell me all about the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a dinosaur.
I hasten to point out that Mr. Green, however foolish his views, has every right to operate his shrine to bad biblical scholarship on private property using private funds. In 2014, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out (which recently shut down) urged D.C. government officials to block the museum from opening at its chosen site, claiming that its proximity to the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums would give it legitimacy and mislead tourists. I responded with Ben Franklin’s maxim that a fool and his money are soon parted.
The museum wants to install an exhibit in a nearby Metro station. If this ever makes it past the quasi-governmental Metro board, it will run into lawyers from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Fret not. There is life in this old republic yet.
You need not let these vexing matters ruin a fine summer day. Happy hour is approaching, and if The Bomb does not arrive first, refreshing lime coladas are being served nearby.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. Email Richard