Saturday, February 17, 2018

#1966: Pat McElraft

Pat McElraft is the Republican representative for the 13th district in the North Carolina House of Representatives, having served since 2006, and currently one of the Deputy Majority Whips. McElraft is a climate change denialist, and largely responsible for the 2012 law banning the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise due to climate change, a move that drew international attention and scorn.

McElraft herself called the law a “breather”, allowing the state to “step back” and continue studying sea-level rise for the next several years without doing anything, so that they can achieve more accurate prediction models. (We hope we don’t need to point out the problem with that kind of reasoning.) In her defense, and in a characteristically Orwellian fashion, McElraft, although admitting that “the environmental side say we’re ignoring science,” pointed out that “the bill actually asks for more science.” As McElraft saw things: “We’re not ignoring science, we’re asking for the best science possible, the best extrapolation possible, looking at the historical data also. We just need to make sure that we’re getting the proper answers.” Or, put differently, we’ll continue to ask for new and “improved” scientific results until we find someone who tells us what we want to hear.

In 1974, the alarmists were talking about the ice age coming in,” said McElraft: “What has happened, has the ice age come in?” Scientists did not say in 1974 that the ice age was coming, but the myth that they did is admittedly popular on pseudoscience and conspiracy theory websites.

In elections, McElraft has occasionally been challenged by sensible people who realize how deranged and delusional she is, but McElraft has won with safe margins every time. This is because the majority of people of Carteret and Jones Counties are stupid and/or have short-term stakes in seaside properties, the value of which would decline if sea-levels rose. “You can believe whatever you want about global warming,” said McElraft, “but when you go to make planning policies here for our residents and protecting their property values and insurance rates, it’s a very serious thing to us on the coast.” Climate change should therefore not be the basis for such policies.

Diagnosis: Utter madness. Complete, undiluted insanity.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

#1965: Joel McDurmon

More theocrats. Joel McDurmon is the current Director of Research for Gary DeMar’s Reconstructionist, dominionist organization American Vision (more here), taking over the steering wheel after DeMar stepped down in 2015.

Now, even McDurmon is a bit alarmed by the increasing influence of the even more extreme New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Of course, the difference between NAR and his own group is primarily one of strategy, not goals (and don’t be fooled: both groups present genuine danger). As McDurmon puts it, although Reconstructionists like himself aim to “properly recriminalize sodomy, adultery, and abortion,” they seek to implement such policies through evangelism, not by seizing control – the Seven Mountains advocates of the NAR, by contrast, seek to seize control in order to institute a theocracy.

And make no mistake: McDurmon is a theocrat. McDurmon wishes, for instance, to criminalize blasphemy, and in a strikingly broad manner that would include any utterance or behavior that are not pleasing in the eyes of McDurmon. “Unless men first revere God and honor an ultimate allegiance to the divine origin of mankind, and protect these beliefs by legal consequence, they shall denigrate everything glorious that man can be, and then protect their perversions and obscenity by recourse to legal force (as we have begun to see now),” says McDurmon; in other words, he God should have such legal protections to stem the tide of those who disagree with him on e.g. gay rights secular atheism, the proponents of which wish to ban Christianity. After all, criticizing and calling out bigotry is the same as banning Christianity, so either Christianity must be banned, or its critics must be. To understand McDurmon, it is helpful to remember that distinctions are not his strong suit: his version of Christianity should not be banned; therefore it must be made legally mandatory for everyone.

Of course, a ban on blasphemy is part and parcel of dominionism, and American Vision subscribes to the central tenets of dominionism, such as the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, exclusion of non-Christians from voting and citizenship, and application of Biblical law, including – as mentioned –  a ban on homosexual acts, adultery, witchcraft, propagation of idolatry and blasphemy. McDurmon himself has said that “God revealed that the homosexual act is a civil crime, and it just so happens that He revealed that the homosexual act as a civil crime deserves the death penalty.” He has also said that a proposal in Uganda to impose the death penalty for homosexuality didn’t go far enough because it should also impose “Old Testament law” and make adultery a capital crime as well. He later backpedaled and emphasized that he doesn’t officially demand that the state should necessarily require the death penalty for homosexuality in general, but merely for “the ‘act’ of sodomy.” For claiming that the state doesn’t necessarily have to impose the death penalty on such offenses, McDurmon has in turn been criticized by other theocrats, such as J.D. Hall, who have argued that abandoning Mosaic penologies such as the death penalty means that McDurmon and others who hold similar positions cannot be said to hold to Christian dominionism (or theonomy) in any meaningful way. So it goes.

American Vision, however, is an influential group, and several important political candidates (including presidential candidates) have lent them their ears, for instance at their Freedom 2015 National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, which was put on by Kevin Swanson. Apart from conferences (such as their annual “Worldview Conference”), the group publishes books “primarily for use in Christian schools and for home schoolers” (obviously), newsletters and podcast, and is deeply involved in the creation “science” movement.

Apparently Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt is a fan of McDurmon’s attempts to rewrite the history of the US.

Diagnosis: Deranged madman, and as evil as he is delusional – just like the pair in the previous entry. It’s a widespread condition, and we should be seriously worried.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#1964: Stephen McDowell & Mark Beliles

You may not have heard of them, but Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles are two of the scariest people alive in the US today, and – at least arguably – vastly more influential than you’d ever expect unless you had intimate knowledge of the inner circles of those powerful, wealthy, tireless and frighteningly big American Dominionist groups that make the Taliban look like defenders of reason, freedom and tolerance – this, despite the fact that McDowell and Beliles so abjectly delusional that we wouldn’t trust them to add the numbers two and four together without injuring themselves.

McDowell and Beliles are, for instance, the authors of the (apparently) popular homeschooling textbook America’s Providential History, which outlines the Seven Mountains strategy, combines the legalistic fire-and-brimstone Biblical framework of the Reconstructionists with the zeal of the New Apostolic Reformation, and provides a list of “Christ Guidelines for Resistance to Tyranny” with the explicit warning that there “may come a time when we must resist lawful tyranny.” Basically, the book espouses the thoroughly paranoid, conspiracy-theory-fuelled anti-government sentiment familiar from today’s extreme wingnuttery, but fueled by religious, Satanic Panic-style fervor.

A recurring theme of the book (described in more detail here and here) is that the whole notion of scarcity of resources is a communist myth, and that any shortage is due simply to people not having sufficient faith: “A secular society will lack faith in God's providence and consequently men will find fewer natural resources ... The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality […] In contrast, the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth.  The resource are waiting to be tapped." This is clearly borne out by the data, which demonstrates that the poverty of a region is inversely correlated with its inhabitants levels of faith; history is for instance clear about what happens to your crops when you neglect to make the proper sacrifices –just look at the Aztecs; they got the point. And “[w]hile many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large, with plenty of resources to accommodate all the people He knew would come into existence. […] All the five billion people on the earth could live in the state of Texas in single family homes with front and back yards and be fed by production in the rest of the United States. Present world agriculture areas, if developed by present technology, could feed 31 billion people.” And if you wonder on what data their conclusion is based, it just shows your lack of faith. The thing is, of course, that the data the rest of us are currently using are collected by secular, and therefore don’t correct for the inherent laziness of secularists: “Those with a secular world-view will lack a God-inspired strength and work ethic.” In fact, it’s not only a matter of effort: “In a Christian economy people will earn more with less work,” which means, for instance, that crime will disappear and people will start to respect the Ten Commandments. And the most important measure to take to reach this situation, is to abolish Government in favor of Christian control of the economy.

Their chapter on the Civil War and Reconstruction also gives a useful illustration of some contemporary wingnuts’ view of the Confederacy (more on that here). In fact, it is primarily concerned with the religious revival they think they can find among the Conferedate Army (“While the Confederate Army was enjoying revival (up to 150,000 Southern troops were saved during the war), it also enjoyed phenomenal success in almost every major battle”) and detailing the admirable religious faith of the Confederacy’s heroic generals. The Reconstruction era, meanwhile, is described as an unholy attack on Christianity: “After the war an ungodly radical Republican element gained control of the Congress. They wanted to centralize power and shape the nation according to their philosophy. […] They used their post-war control of Congress to reconstruct the South, pass the Fourteenth Amendment, and in many ways accomplish their goals.” Then McDowell and Beliles go on to criticize the evil of the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments and suggest that separation of church and state was a consequence of the more godly South being defeated. As for slavery, McDowell does elsewhere (on the Wallbuilders website, in fact) describes slavery as “America’s original sin,” but then states that “In light of the Scriptures we cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin.” Jesus means you can have it both ways.

Along the way, they also repeat plenty of religious fundamentalist myths about American history, such as the Aitken Bible myth.

Their chapter “The American Apostasy and Decline” claims that the decline of America is due to the abdication of authority by Christians to the “conspiracies of men,” which includes “the humanists, the ACLU, the big bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the New Age Movement, the World Council of Churches, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists, the Democrats, the Pope, etc.”

McDowell and Beliles are also the founders of the Providence Foundation, an organization seeking to “disciple the seven areas of culture.” The foundation’s “National Transformation Network” also offers courses by Paul Jehle and David Barton. McDowell and Beliles themselves have conducted training in dominion-style politics since the 1980s, including courses on “biblical economics”, which is basically Ayn Rand-style economic theory founded on judiciously selected quotes from the Old Testament. Much of their activities have taken place abroad, and they have accordingly also written an international textbook, Liberating the Nations. It’s pretty scary stuff.

Many of their strategies and ideas were apparently developed during their association with the militant fundamentalist group Maranatha Campus Ministries in the 1980s.

McDowell also appeared in the “documentary” “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty”, one the religious right’s many propaganda pieces promoting their persecution myth, and which was lauded by Rick Santorum and the Heritage Foundation.

Diagnosis: Deranged madmen, utterly and completely out of touch with anything resembling reality or accuracy, and as evil as they are delusional. But they’ve also enjoyed more than their share of influence. Dangerous.

Hat-tip: Talk2Action.