Robert Jeffress, toxic Christian Zionist, pastor of the 13,000-strong megachurch First Baptist Dallas, and Trump toady extraordinaire, has a solid record when it comes to taking the Bible literally. The prominent Southern Baptist leader has never shied away from such straight-shooting statements as, “We know from the Bible that in fact, we do have a common father and mother, Adam and Eve, who are not the result of ‘tadpole mutations’ but rather of Divine Creation. And we know that all life is the result not of a ‘Big Bang,’ but of a big God.”
Sure, the phrasing might be tacky “as fuck,” as the kids like to say–much like Pastor Jeffress, he of “Make America Great Again” hymn infamy, himself. But Jeffress would like to make clear that his evangelical tackiness is, naturally, of the respectable variety.
Here’s Jeffress again: “As Christians, we don’t depend on science to prove the Bible. Science can’t prove the Bible any more than I can prove that I had a banana for breakfast this morning.” Perfectly reasonable, right? Science and religion are distinct enterprises. There is no conflict between science and the Bible. When faced with what appears to be such a conflict, one should just accept the Bible over science without any proof.
Of course, there is the minor matter that science could, in fact, have tested for whether or not the good pastor had consumed a banana on the morning in question. But then, as Gwendolen observes in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” Meanwhile, all I really want to know is whether Jeffress obtained the banana in question from Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s pool boy.
But let us move on from such metaphysical questions. We are here to draw attention to a serious error the good pastor recently made when, like other responsible Trump-loving adults, he made the reasoned decision to attack a brilliant and inspiring teenage activist because he’s jealous that she’s more famous, better liked, and, well, far less tacky, than he is.
Now, in this enlightened era, who could blame Jeffress for viciously and opportunistically attacking a child who supports science over the Bible because she would like to grow up in a better world? And far be it from me to question the judgment of a man who has said, “This president is brilliant.” Yes, of Donald Trump. No, really. In any case, let he who has never publicly mocked a disabled person cast the first stone.
After all, there is nothing more important than civility. We will thus criticize Jeffress, politely, on what matters most in the context of #EpicChristianFails: his careless disregard for his own biblical literalism. Can we indeed trust a man who is not firm in his own convictions? And this will bring us to Jeffress’s offense:
Now, as everyone who is anyone knows–and certainly anyone who has ever visited Answers in Genesis’s Creation Museum, that fine institution of impeccable anti-science repute–the literal interpretation of the biblical story of Noah’s flood is a deadly serious matter. It is therefore a serious embarrassment for Jeffress to have been caught saying the following:
I tell people all the time, ‘This president is brilliant.’ He decides to skip attending a session on an imaginary crisis—climate change—and instead he chooses to lead his own conference on a very real problem, global persecution…
This Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old, she was warning today about the mass extinction of humanity. Somebody needs to read poor Greta Genesis chapter 9 and tell her the next time she worries about global warming, just look at a rainbow; that’s God’s promise that the polar ice caps aren’t going to melt and flood the world again.
Clearly, the contention that climate change is an “imaginary crisis” is a perfectly reasonable position to take, at least if we are to judge by the false equivalence running rampant through America’s compromised information ecosystem. To what other standard could we turn when, after all, men of upstanding character like Rudolph Giuliani sagely inform us that “Truth isn’t truth.” Someone please get this most wise man to play Yoda in the forthcoming Star Wars movies. Unless, of course,
Republican Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is available.
No, no, in this day and age, no one should criticize a man for reasonably and respectably refusing to accept well-established science, to the detriment of the entire planet. Where it is fair to criticize Jeffress, however, is in the dizzying carelessness with which he suggested that God would not flood the world by letting the polar ice caps melt again, a statement that clearly implies that the polar ice caps have melted before.
Indeed, this phrasing implies that the melting of the polar ice caps caused Noah’s flood itself, which, as we all know, began precisely on October 23, 2348 BC, at least according to my tenth-grade Christian school Bible teacher. He took the date from Bishop James Ussher, a seventeenth-century theologian whose obvious respectability precludes us from questioning his judgment. And herein lies the rub. Robert Jeffress’s statement about alleged polar ice caps in the antediluvian world clearly contradicts a literal reading of Genesis.
Surely, if I learned flood geology in Christian high school, pastor Jeffress simply must have, at some point in his pursuit of a doctorate of divinity from the esteemed Dallas Baptist University, learned that the waters of Noah’s flood came from “the fountains of the great deep” and the opening of “the windows of heaven,” that is, “the waters which were above the firmament” (Genesis 1:7, 7:11, King James Version).
Far be it from me to make any unkind remarks about the educational standards in Texas, but…
There are no polar ice caps in Genesis, my dear “Dr.” Jeffress, whom I now take the liberty of addressing directly. It is my sincere hope that in response to this gentle correction you will issue a retraction forthwith. Should you fail to do so, rank-and-file evangelicals will simply be at a loss with regard to what to believe about biblical literalism. How are we to know what to make of a rainbow we may see in the sky if it is possible to question anything about the creation and flood accounts in Genesis?
If we can simply throw polar ice caps willy-nilly into a story where there is clearly no mention of polar ice caps, how are we to be sure that the rainbow is a promise from God at all? If, after all, the Bible proves to be incorrect in even one seemingly minor detail, literalist readings and the doctrine of biblical inerrancy fly out the window–slippery slopes and all that.
Therefore, if we can question such matters as the sources of water for Noah’s flood, literally anything is now on the epistemological table. Perhaps it is correct that we are all the results of “tadpole mutations” after all. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might even be forced to admit that climate change is not a hoax. And where do you suppose that might lead? I look forward to your response. Good day to you, sir.