Recently I had an  interaction with an acquaintance that went something like this:

Him: The weather’s been crazy lately, hasn’t it?

Me: Yeah.

Him: In the 60s one day, the 20s the next, snow, ice, then warm again…”

Me: Yeah, hitting the hot days in the middle of winter is pretty crazy,  then jumping back down throws everyone off.

Him: Hotter this year than ever, right?

Me: Yeah, apparently it was the hottest year on record with some of the most expensive damage and repair costs associated with natural disasters in history.

Him: Yeah, climate change.

Me: Yeah.

Him: Well, if you read your Bible you know this is what’s supposed to happen, right?

*

This, as the generic wording hopefully tells you, was not an academic or “officially religious” interaction. This was a quick small talk interaction with an acquaintance. What’s interesting is the use of scripture by this person, this conflation of the text leading to an unlikely (if errant in arrival and analysis of) agreement with the scientific community on an environmental issue from a conservative religious perspective. Religiously speaking, we can say that many have always seen current events as signifying Biblical prophecy; Culturally speaking we can say that it has always been typical for a generation to see the unfolding of their following generation as the worst of all time. But scripturally  there are obvious holes in this particular analysis. If we look at what actually is in the biblical text, there are passages which speak of the end, the apocalypse, as being marked by signs–signs consisting of earthquakes, wars, and rumors of wars. [“And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”-Matt. 24:6-7] Personally, the meaning of this passage for me, for what a believing community could potentially take from it, is that these are things that continually happen in a fragile world–earthquakes have occurred throughout history and wars are sadly persistent. The take away, the way in which these recurrent events are signifiers for apocalypse is personal–any day could be your last, your own end could very well be nigh, thus make sure you are making the right choices now; don’t put them off until tomorrow (and of course this passage can be deconstructed historically-critically as pointing to the destruction of the Temple, etc. but those are all other issues than what we’re dealing with here). But of note also is that scientifically, data shows that non-ecological disasters are not more prevalent today than in the past–the number of earthquakes has remained steady for all of recorded history. What have increased in frequency and intensity are ecological disasters, “weather” events like hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc., which practically every member of the scientific community links to carbon use, the burning of fossil fuels, which hasresulted in global warming (a topic I’ve addressed repeatedly here and am not deeply re-visiting for this particular foray). The danger in the use of scripture to accidentally arrive at a similar position as a secular scientific position is certainly not that the two meet in the middle (for that is good and possible)–the danger is in the take away. For a scientist, human caused climate change can entail human patterns of change to avoid or repair some of the damage; for a conservative Christian who may wish for the end so that something divine and better may come, the current state is a fatalistic realized Prophecy that one should not–and would not be able to, anyway–attempt to correct.

That’s all I have to say in this introductory piece; this is the start of a thread which examines the ways in which people actively engage with and use scripture, positively and negatively, to inform their opinions and guide their actions.

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Work as a Virtue?

February 8, 2013

I will never regain the hours I have spent working in the retail and service fields. 

Certainly I have been fortunate to have a job and to be paid for my labor, to be able to pay for my education (and take out those loans), to pay rent and insurance, etc. I don’t denigrate that;  but for a very long time now I’ve wanted to write something that directly addresses the mistaken notion that work in and of itself is always a virtue or good. Something that addresses the plight of all those stuck in soul-crushing work–work that requires they spend 3/4 of their waking hours doing difficult, unrewarding, disrespected work, often surrounded by hostile and unappreciative customers and even coworkers. There are very few things that can hurt a soul and rob a person of their creative energies and dreams in quite the same way that a really bad job can. String together a series of those jobs and the cumulative weight can be pretty overwhelming.

So yes, this post is a bit of a downer and it may sound a bit too much like personal ranting compared to what I usually attempt with this blog. Perhaps the seeds of this will someday produce more weighty, intellectual fruit–because the ideas are certainly here from which to address larger concepts of economics, personal freedoms, societal structures, poverty, classism, education, etc. 

The timing for this brief and scattered prolegomena to such a topic is a result of–(a) personally being in the midst of a second year in another such profession myself while juggling reentry into post-grad studies to finally wrap up my own education and (hopefully) belatedly enter my chosen field, the job made extra-disheartening by a 2-year break from an otherwise decade full of similar vocations; (b) the recent Applebees PR nightmare and the wealth of news and analysis prompted by it; and (c) conversations with friends from foreign countries who view the retail/service field in the US as horrid and peculiar, different from anything they had experienced in their own countries.

So I will leave this first post of a series sparse and whiny for now. Vent session over, deeper discussion to follow.