1 11 2008

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Back in August a hurricane came through here and knocked out most of the city’s power–-mine was off for a week. This left me desperate for diversion, and I found it one night in the radio meanderings of the spouse and son of Jimmy Swaggert.

Yes…THAT Jimmy Swaggert. Remember him? He had built a “ministry” largely on charisma, and then pooped away his and its bright future back in the 1980s by consorting with a hooker.

A crippled remnant of the Swaggert empire still exists in Baton Rouge, minus most of the cash flow of the good old days. Broadcasting daily from the Swaggert “campus” are a round robin of monologues by Jimmy himself, his wife, and Donny, their son.

That night after the hurricane I listened to Donny and Mom hold forth:

First was the perversity of eco-freaks in trying to keep oil drilling out of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWAR). Mom opined how wasteful this was, when all that nice oil was there, and Donny chimed in with the money shot: “I’ve seen pictures of that place and it’s A DESOLATION!”

You be the judge. Please compare Donny’s opinion with the information on ANWAR to be found here:

US Fish and Wildlife Service ANWAR site

Next, Mrs. Swaggert touched upon the subject of Muslims. Of course, they were very, very bad. Further, she explained, “It’s not like Christianity. “Of course, ‘The poor you have always with you.’ But still we’re always giving to the poor. These churches in town have outreach all the time. I don’t believe the Muslims do that. Maybe they give to terrorists.”

Oh yeah, Mrs. Swaggert? Take this!

The Five Pillars of Islam

To add my own little mite, I remember reading about how upset some American Muslims were when they couldn’t fulfill their duty to give alms back in the early 2000s because the government was paralyzing their charities. Apparently they really want to give! The details of their obligation from Wikipedia will suggest as much:

“Zakaat, or alms-giving, is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality.[6] Zakaat consists of spending a fixed portion of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travelers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), in order to achieve additional divine reward

There are two main types of Zakaat. First, there is the kajj, which is a fixed amount based on the cost of food that is paid during the month of Ramadan by the head of a family for himself and his dependents. Second, there is the zakaat on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, and so on.[8] In current usage zakaat is treated as a 2.5% levy on most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year, as long as the total value is more than a basic minimum known as nisab (three ounces or 87.48g of gold). As of 20 September 2008, nisab is approximately US$2,640 or an equivalent amount in any other currency.[9] Many Shi’ites are expected to pay an additional amount in the form of a khums tax, which they consider to be a separate ritual practice.[10]“

Mother Swaggert and Donny then proceeded to offer their uninformed opinions on several other subjects. Did they have a right to hold forth on those subjects? Yep! Are their opinions on those subjects to be given any weight? What do you think, given the fact that Donny and Mom apparently know nothing whatever about them?

Mrs. Swaggert and Donny probably know their Bible cold. I doubt that I know any subject so well. But the unfortunate thing is that, in Southern society, their Bible knowledge is taken by many as giving them the right to speak authoritatively on pretty much everything under the sun. And given the vast river of anti-intellectualism that sweeps through the US, there’s no one with ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE on the subjects in question who is likely to be given as much authority as our often self-appointed religious leaders.

Presumptuous, I think. Even the Pope, with all the Church’s history and knowledge behind him, only speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith.