FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Faith-Based National Parks

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, smogged up as it is these days, still retains the power to prompt even the most secular of visitors into transcendentalist reveries as they cast theirs eyes toward Shiva’s Temple and Wotan’s Throne. Now tourists at the federal park in northern Arizona will be greeted with scriptural passages affixed to park signs to help interpret the religious experience of gazing into God’s mighty chasm.

This autumn Donald Murphy, deputy director of the National Park Service, ordered three bronze plaques featuring quotes from Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 placed on viewing platforms on the south rim of the Canyon. The plaques were made and donated by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix, who live in a convent called Cannan in the Desert. The convent was founded in 1963 by Mother Basilea, who visited the Sinai where said said she conversed with the Supreme Diety about the moral decline of the western world.

The nuns’ website warns that “avalanche of moral decay is upon us… our society is disintegrating.” As evidence, the nuns point to the removal of Judge Roy Moore’s monument to the 10 Commandments in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court and to the appearance of the Dalai Lama at the National Cathedral-“another illustration of how God’s commandments are pushed aside, step by step. May Jesus help us and guard our hearts!”

At the urging of the sisters, Murphy overturned a decision to ban the plaques by the Park’s superintendent, who contended the religious messages violated the US Constitution.

That’s not all. Now, after soaking in the grandeur of the canyon, visitors can retire to the Park bookstore where they can broze through the diaries of John Wesley Powell, Edward Abbey’s Down the River, historian Stephen Pyne’s excellent How the Canyon Became Grand and numerous volumes on the geology of the canyon. After all, the Grand Canyon has long been viewed as a kind of living encyclopedia of geological forces, a layered history of the Earth that debunked fundamentalist dogma on the age of the earth. “Nowhere on the earth’s surface, so far as we know, are the secrets of its structure revealed as here,” wrote the great American geologist John Strong Newberry.

But startng this summer the Park’s bookstore began offering a volume titled The Grand Canyon: a Different View. The view is indeed different. This book of lavish photographs and essays presents the creationist account of the origins of the great canyon of the Colorado River. The book is edited by Tom Vail, a river guide, who offers Christian float trips through the canyon. “For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years,” Vail writes in the introduction to the book. “Then I met the Lord. Now, I have “a different view” of the Canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can’t possibly be more than about a few thousand years old.”

One of the contributors is creation “scientist” Dr. Gary Parker who observes: “Where did the Grand Canyon itself come from? The Flood may have stacked the rock like a giant layer cake, but what cut the cake? One thing is sure: the Colorado River did not do it.”

Earlier this year, the Bush administration prevented park rangers from publishing a rebuttal to the book for use by interpretive staff and seasonal employees who are often confronted during tours by creationist zealots.

In southern California, a similar battle is raging over a Latin cross erected on the Sunrise Rocks in the Mojave National Preserve. Apparently, the cross was erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and has since become a site for sunrise Easter services and a meeting ground for Wise-Use ranchers associated with the Christian Identity movement.

In December 2000, Park Service managers agreed to remove the cross based on advice from the Justice Department that the icon violated the Constitution and Park Service regulations. But the Park Service backed down after Congressman Jerry Lewis, the right wing firebrand from San Diego, intervened. The ACLU sued the Park Service in March of 2001 and won an injunction. The Bush Administration appealed and the case remains pending before the Ninth Circuit.

Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital the Park Service has bowed to pressure from the religious right to rewrite the history of protests on the national mall. Since 1995, the interpretive center at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington has shown an 8-minute long film depicting various demonstrations and gatherings at the monument, including anti-war protests, concerts and Martin Luther King’s most famous speech. Last month, the Park Service bowed to demands from Christian groups to edit out footage of anti-Vietnam War protests and images of gay rights and pro-choice demonstrations. In a letter to the Park Service, the Christian groups charged that the film implied that “Lincoln would have supported homosexual and abortion ‘rights’ as well as feminism.”

The Park Service HQ responded that they would edit the film to present a “more balanced” version. The new film will included footage of rallies by anti-abortion and Christian groups, such as the Promisekeepers, and shots of a pro-Gulf War demonstration. Neither of these events took place at the Lincoln Memorial.

“The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups,” says Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of Faith-Based Parks.”

What’s next? Live reenactments of the witchtrials at Salem National Historical Park, presided over by John Ashcroft?

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail