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January Smithsonian Magazine to Anger the TheoCons

First it was National Geographic in November 2004, and now it’s the Smithsonian‘s turn.

Conservative Christians must be tearing their hair out at the January issue of Smithsonian. The cover story is on “Evotourism” — touring major sites central to the study of human evolution — and the link above goes to a Smithsonian site that shares much more than what’s in the print magazine:

Whether it’s a city museum or suburban fossil trove, a historic scientific site overseas or a rare creature in your own backyard, we’ll direct you to places and discoveries that figure in the science of evolution or offer eye-opening evidence of the process of natural selection. Evotourism will present original articles by scientists and accomplished journalists offering expert background and practical advice.

The articles in the print magazine are deft explanations of the importance of the highlighted sites, and are sure to drive Creationists nuts.

As an extra cherry on top, the magazine also has a story about their recent (re-)publication of “The Jefferson Bible” in which Thomas Jefferson editorially revised and harmonized the four gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, to create what he termed the”life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth”:

Jefferson produced the 84-page volume in 1820—six years before he died at age 83—bound it in red leather and titled it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He had pored over six copies of the New Testament, in Greek, Latin, French and King James English. “He had a classic education at [the College of] William & Mary,” Rubenstein says, “so he could compare the different translations. He cut out passages with some sort of very sharp blade and, using blank paper, glued down lines from each of the Gospels in four columns, Greek and Latin on one side of the pages, and French and English on the other.”

Much of the material Jefferson elected to not include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he eschewed anything that he perceived as “contrary to reason.” His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection. He kept Jesus’ own teachings, such as the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.” The Jefferson Bible, as it’s known, is “scripture by subtraction,” writes Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University.

As much as the TheoCons love to claim that the founders were devout Christians, phrases like “scripture by subtraction” will not sit well with folks on the far right. The book itself it literally a cut-and-paste job — anathema to the TheoCons.

Me, I find them both delightful.

Contrary to right wing TheoCons, I find evolution to be completely consistent with my religious beliefs. The fact that the world is more complex than we thought before, is more diverse, and continues to grow and change reinforces to me the beauty of God’s handiwork.

Contrary to the right wing TheoCons, I find anyone who wrestles with scripture in its original languages and who attempts to see how scripture can inform his own life to be a person with whom I’d love to converse.

Just once, I’d love to see TheoCons apply their literalism to Matthew 19:16-22. I don’t see many TheoCons calling on Lloyd “I’m doing God’s work” Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the other MOTUs to follow Jesus’ clear and unmistakable command to the rich to sell all their possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. TheoCon Literalism is apparently reserved for defending creationism, not demanding economic justice. But I that’s a subject for another day . . .

Whatever your religious beliefs, on this Christmas Eve I wish you peace.

[photo: Richard Mann/]

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.