Counterpunchin’ preacher cries foul on Pontiff’s #FakeNews
In his Feb. 2 (Groundhog Day of all days…) ‘Take a Bite and See the Light’ Rev. William Alberts, he might be calling out Papal Bull, if you don’t mind a bit of a pun. But he also calls BS on the Genesis ‘Garden of Eden’ story as well. I’ll not bring the chapters and verses, you can read it all if you care to track them here (in Francis’s document copyrighted epistle© [what a way to get that Good News out there, dude! not Creative Commons?], “The truth will set you free”; Fake news and journalism for peace, or at Rev. Albert’s essay linked above.
“According to Pope Francis, fake news, rather than a recent phenomenon, has plagued society since the beginning of the human race. In a World Communications Day message on “Fake news and journalism for peace,” Francis states that “the first fake news” was “employed by the ‘crafty serpent’ in the Book of Genesis . . . at the dawn of humanity . . . marking the beginning of “the tragic history of human sin . . . against God, neighbor, society and creation.”
In the Genesis creation story, the first human being, Adam, had a good deal in the Garden of Eden paradise God created for him.. He was provided with “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food,” with a flowing river to water the Garden. God also made “every animal of the field and every bird of the air,” and even allowed Adam to name “every living creature.” And to top it off: so that Adam would not be alone, God made a woman – from Adam’s own rib – as a partner, and also allowed Adam to name her, which he did, calling her “Woman, because she was taken out of “Man.” There was only one catch: God told Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
From Pope Francis:
‘In the account of the first sin, the tempter approaches the woman by pretending to be her friend, concerned only for her welfare, and begins by saying something only partly true: “Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Gen 3:1). In fact, God never told Adam not to eat from any tree, but only from the one tree: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat”. The woman corrects the serpent, but lets herself be taken in by his provocation: “Of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it nor touch it, under pain of death” Her answer is couched in legalistic and negative terms; after listening to the deceiver and letting herself be taken in by his version of the facts, the woman is misled. So she heeds his words of reassurance: “You will not die!”
The tempter’s “deconstruction” then takes on an appearance of truth: “God knows that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil”. God’s paternal command, meant for their good, is discredited by the seductive enticement of the enemy: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye and desirable” This biblical episode brings to light an essential element for our reflection: there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.’
Rev. Albert again:
“Pope Francis automatically gives credence to the Genesis creation story’s lesson on disobedience as the cardinal sin of humankind. He moralizes: “God’s paternal command, meant for their good, is discredited by the seductive enticement of the enemy: ‘The woman saw the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye and desirable.’ Francis omits the Genesis story’s next phrase: ‘…and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise’. Instead, he continues to moralize: “This biblical episode brings to light an essential element for our reflection: there is no such thing as harmless disinformation; on the contrary, trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences.” (Ibid)
How, as Pope Francis presumes, is “God’s paternal command meant for their good” and why is “the seductive enticement” of the serpent bad? What is so sinful about wanting to take a bite and see the light? Where is the falsehood in desiring to open one’s eyes and become wise, knowing the difference between good and evil, like God? What is wrong about the wish to move from a womb-like-Garden-of-Eden- dependency on God — or Church or State — to moral clarity and self-determination and solidarity with others? What is so evil about saying no to obedience to a religious or political status quo and yes to inquisitiveness, which is the avenue of self-development and the inspiration for community building? Adam and Eve model the rise, not the fall, of humankind. Any questioning that enables people to open their eyes and become wise enough to know the difference between good and evil is to be encouraged, not moralized as evil. Desperately needed today is moral clarity, not conformity to biblically-interpreted beliefs.”
He says that Franicis flirts with Fake News by conflating ‘the truth’ with the ‘living God’ and the Bible, and by extension, Christianity. He then equates truth with the Bible, and again asserts that Christ’s ‘I am the truth’ equates to Francis ‘The truth will set you free’ (Jn 8: 32), so that’s what Rev. Albert sees as the Pope’s message, which the church preserves and perpetuates.
He’s seriously vexed that Francis treats the Genesis story as the truth, when he ardently believes that Christians use it to spread Fake News, as in ‘all humans are born in sin due to the fact that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of good and evil so that they might become wise, like God, and be able to discern good from evil for themselves.
He further contends that the story brings more Christian falsehood: the belief that ‘God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world and allowed him to be crucified on the cross as atonement for sinful humanity’, and that the only way for people to be secure from eternal damnation is to accept that fact, and confess him as their Savior. This must seem logical to most Christians, but it took me a few reads to kina see where they’re heading:
“Consider the spiritual catch 22 facing Christians in certain denominations. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” puts it this way: “389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the ‘reverse side’ of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ.” And, “The Church, which has the mind of Christ, knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.”
Here the truth is a matter of divine revelation that is surrounded by “mystery” and not to be “tampered with.”
Next he brings a few paragraphs on various churches’ statements on sinfulness and salvation, all babies are born in sin, etc.: United Methodist, Anglican/Episcopal, Episcopal, Assembly of God, Baptist, Presbyterian and Lutheran Churches; he provides a link to Mary Fairchild’s ‘Compare the belief’s of Christian Dominations’, then notes and deconstructs:
“These Christian denominations’ repeated use of the word “man” in referencing the Bible’s creation story betrays an embedded patriarchy, which is an insidious form of fake news that makes women and girls invisible – and vulnerable.
Being punished for wanting to become wise and know the difference between good and evil. The Christian interpretation of the creation story is about right belief, not just behavior. It is about the exclusivity of faith, not the inclusivity of love. It is about evangelism, not empathy. It is about obedience to the biblical Word of God as interpreted by priests, pastors and evangelists. Foremost, it is about gaining power over and controlling believers.”
After writing on some New Rules as to how and the many ‘why’s’ that Trump gets a mulligan’ on his sexist deeds by Christian Evangelical leaders, he blasts back:
“Babies are contaminated with sin?” All children are born human, predisposed to respond to nurture and love with trust and love in return. What is sinful is a gospel of self-hatred that makes them feel unworthy and in need of a church’s biblical dispensation to alleviate their guilt and make them feel acceptable. Babies can, however, be contaminated by religious belief.
While countless people find security in believing that Christ died for their sins, countless others live life and face death fearing that divine retribution hangs over their heads.”
He then shares a longish vignette about visiting a terminally ill black man in his capacity as a hospital chaplain, and which of Rev Albert’s messages to him proved the most…soothing and reassuring to him. Spoiler alert: that he would not be alone, wherever he was after his demise, but that the good Rev would search for him. It caused me to think once again of John Truell’s poignant line: ‘They’re trying to isolate us in a dimension called loneliness’.
‘To god: we hope you don’t mind but we would like to talk to you; there are some things we need to straighten out, it’s about these christians they claim to be from your nation but man you should see the things they do all the time blaming it on you: manifest destiny, genocide, maximized profit, sterilization, raping the earth, lying taking more than they need in all the forms of the greed. we ask them why, they say it’s god’s will.
Damn god they make it so hard. Remember jesus? Would you send him back to them, tell them how to kill him, rather they should listen stop abusing his name and yours.
We do not mean to be disrespectful but you know how it is, our people have their own ways we never even heard of you until not long ago, your representatives spoke magnificent things of you which we were willing to believe, but from the way they acted we know we and you were being deceived.
We do not mean you and your christian children any bad, but you all came to take all we had we have not seen you but we have heard so much it is time for you to decide what life is worth we already remember but maybe you forgot.’
Rev Albert winds up:
“Actually, in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve cut the “umbiblical” cord of a god created in the image of man and gave birth to themselves. They represent, not a theology of self-hatred, but one of self-empowerment and moral sensitivity.
What is the difference between good and evil? Good is whatever makes life more human for people. Evil is whatever diminishes and destroys people’s lives. Good is recognizing that people themselves have the capacity and the right to decide what makes life more human [I’ll assume he mean ‘humane’, rather] for them. Evil is sitting in the shade of one’s own tree of the knowledge of good and evil and deciding what is right and wrong for everyone else. Good is being secure enough in one’s own identity to affirm and protect the right of others to be different. Evil is the failure to recognize that to be different is not to be evil but merely to be different. Good is the attempt to use democracy to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people. Evil is the attempt to capitalize on democracy to secure more power, privilege and profit at the expense of the common good of all people.
Living in community and in peace with others depends on knowing the difference between good and evil – and acting on the basis of that difference. Take a bite and see the light.”
Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away), with a forward ‘Drawing the Line’, written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair.
(cross-posted from Café Babylon) (Feel free to come over and knock on the door if I don't answer comments soon enough; I get spoiled by my home site emailing me all comments.)