Friday, March 11, 2005

Christ's Love:
The Only Renewable Resource You Need

Yesterday, I noodled a bit about the seeming incongruity between Alaska's performance as a traditionally Western political space and its membership in (as the famous post-2K4 election map put it) "Jesusland." I mused about the Alaska Republican Party platform and its vocal commitment to "Creation Science" as an alternative to, you know, reality. And I wondered why the state, which depends so much on the fossil-fuels left behind by, uh, dinosaurs, would put itself on the straight line of scientific ignorance that connects anti-evolutionary trailer parks like Texas and Georgia. Historically, there have been important political differences between the resource-driven, "extractive" cultures of the Trans-Mississippi West and the heavy-duty Protestant evangelical regions of the so-called "Bible Belt." While they share certain features -- for example, the Bible Belt has always relied on "extractive industries" of its own (cotton and wheat farming, for example, or iron in Alabama and Virginia) that produce "Western"-like dumbells of wealth distribution -- the South and the West have always maintained unique and distinctive political cultures. Historically, they have often shared little more than a mutual resentment toward the "Northeastern elites" who rule them from afar. Sometimes they join hands, but the union is wider than it is deep, which is why those idiotic "Red Nation" maps disguise more than they reveal. Usually.

The presence of oil in Alaska, I would argue, complicates this big time. Since the 1973 embargo, a certain segment of the Christian Evangelical movement in the US has become utterly obsessed with the relationship between the oil-rich resources of the Middle East and the End Times as prophesied in Daniel, Ezekiel, Thessalonians I and II, and Revelation. Just check out any of your favorite nutbag prophecy and current events websites and see for yourself. On the basis of NO CONCRETE EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER, I am willing to hypothesize that there now exists a "political unconscious" in the US that grants the oil fields of Alaska a certain theological status -- and I mean that quite literally. This goes beyond the obvious free-market genuflections and sacramental displays of nationalism that have always defined our peculiar civil religion. Now that we're about to fuck the caribou in ANWR (and I mean that quite figuratively), the traditional secular view of natural resources is perhaps ready to get all scrambled James Watt style.

So if Jesus is coming soon, why fear the environmental damage that inevitably follows the extractive industries of the West? And if Jesus is coming soon, why bother to teach a biological perspective that suggests a natural world loping ever-onward, bearing and adapting to the vicissitudes of human action and undesigned circumstance? Marginalizing evolutionary science, ripping up the Arctic? It all brings us Closer to Thee, my Lord.