Monday, March 20, 2006

Good Christian hate

Did you know that the theory of evolution was cooked up -- probably by Jews -- as part of a New World conspiracy to enslave mankind? No?

Well, the people agitating for teaching "creation science" in the schools at Dover, Pa., will tell you that if you talk to them long enough.

Not that it came out publicly this week, when Michael Marcavage's Repent America outfit -- whose work in Dover I recently discussed -- sponsored an appearance at Dover Area High School by none other than "Doctor Dino" himself, Kent Hovind. They're much too clever for that -- instead, they keep the banter to a steady stream of trite rhetorical bombs:
Much of creationist speaker Kent Hovind's seminar felt more like a clean stand-up comic show than a religious lecture. Hovind, a creation science evangelist, used terms including "American Communist Lawyers' Union" when referring to the ACLU. He called the Big Bang Theory a "cosmic burp," and said "Charlie Darwin's" lies should be removed from textbooks.

He joked about his former experience as a science teacher for 15 years and said students taught him that "There's not much intelligent life on this planet."

He went on to call evolution the "dumbest and the most dangerous religion in the history of the earth."

You see, Hovind and his ilk save the "serious stuff" for later.

As earlier coverage of the Hovind seminars noted, Hovind is actually a right-wing extremist with a penchant for promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And of course, Marcavage denied the charges, in imitable fashion:
Michael Marcavage, whose Philadelphia-based organization Repent America is sponsoring Hovind's visit, said the accusations of anti-Semitism and extremism are unfair.

"He believes that people are from one race, the human race," Marcavage said.

He said some Jewish organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union, are targeting Christians because of their faith.

"Those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh are under the spirit of anti-christ," Marcavage added, a reference to 1 John 4:2-3.

Yes, you see: Jews can't help being under the spirit of the anti-Christ. Well, they could if they converted. But otherwise, it's just in their nature. And defending themselves against anti-Semitic smears is of course how they "target Christians."

Actually, Marcavage and Hovind are birds of a feather: far-right extremists trying to pose as nominally normal, mainstream folks. The Southern Poverty Law Center report on Hovind's "Dinosaur Adventure Land" -- a creationist theme park for kiddies -- makes clear that this isn't just generic fundamentalism:
Opened in 2001, Dinosaur Adventure Land sprung from Hovind's Creation Science Evangelism ministry, which began to evolve in the late '80s. CSE sells videos and audiotapes of Hovind's lectures and his debates with evolutionary scientists, along with books on "Evolution and the New World Order." (At least one of them, Fourth Reich of the Rich, alleges a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.)

Hovind also points his followers to Citizens Rule Book, popular among antigovernment "Patriots"; Media Bypass, an antigovernment magazine with strong anti-Semitic leanings; and titles by America's leading authority on tax-dodging, Irwin Schiff, who was indicted on criminal tax evasion charges in March ... Two years ago, Hovind's "fine Christian friend," Joseph Sweet of the Joy Foundation, ran into similar trouble, sued by the feds for allegedly teaching folks how to evade income taxes.

An earlier SPLC report detailed just what comprises Hovind's theological approach:
Do you think the theory of evolution is a Satanic plot to bring about the New World Order? Are you worried that Darwin's idea produced "Communism, Socialism, Naziism, abortion, liberalism and the New Age Movement?" Then Dr. Kent Hovind is for you.

Hovind, who runs the Creation Science Evangelism ministry from Pensacola, Fla., says the whole Bible is literally true and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. While that may seem par for the creationist course, Hovind also sells anti-Semitic books like Fourth Reich of the Rich and has recommended The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book blaming the world's problems on a Jewish conspiracy.

Environmentalism and income taxes, Hovind says, are designed to destroy the United States and "bring it under Communism." "Democracy," he says, "is evil and contrary to God's law."

So the response he received in Dover, at least according to the local news report, was problematic:
On Friday, he found a receptive audience in Dover.

According to several in the crowd of more than 600, Hovind's charisma and humor got his message across: "The universe was created by God."

"Everybody's fighting over it," Frysinger, a 13-year-old who attends Dover's intermediate school, said of evolution versus creation.

"Actually, what he's saying is true," his brother, Chris Frysinger, 15, said of Hovind's lecture. "He knows what he's talking about. You can hear it in his voice."

Myriah Hartzell, 11, recently stopped attending a Christian school and enrolled in Dover Area School District's North Salem Elementary School because she wanted to be in a larger school that has a football team. She came to Hovind's seminar with her parents and younger brother and said she brought a book along expecting to be bored by the lecture. But she said Hovind was very funny and held her attention.

Most of those who attended, of course, were probably predisposed to listen to Hovind's message favorably -- even if they didn't previously share his views on the New World Order. And thus the far right continues to exert its gravitational pull on mainstream America.

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