Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Prof. Paul Harvey on Colorado Fires: Anything but a Natural Disaster

I blogged last week about how the horrific Colorado fires have particularly ravaged Colorado Springs, a bastion of religious conservatism sometimes called the "Protestant Vatican" because of its high concentration of right-wing evangelicals and right-wing evangelical institutions, including the rabidly anti-gay group Focus on the Family.  

And today, here's Paul Harvey of the University of Colorado writing about the Colorado fires and Colorado Springs at Religion Dispatches:

Nowhere is that more true [i.e., the "apocalyptic" dimensions of the recent fires] than in Colorado Springs, which marries an activist grassroots religious conservatism, faith in (and reliance on) the military-industrial complex, and a historic western libertarian hatred of “big government”—combined with an economic reliance on big government. In a city sometimes referred to as the “Protestant Vatican” for its profusion of religiously conservative activist groups, unregulated housing developments into Wildland-Urban Interface zones have proliferated over the last generation, such that foothills and obvious fire zones boast some of the region’s most geographically attractive housing.

As Harvey points out, though the Colorado fires are being called a natural disaster, the susceptibility of some areas (including Colorado Springs) to fires that have long been part of a regular ecological cycle of the Southwest is enhanced by unrestricted market-driven developments that have paid little attention to safeguarding houses against fires like this summer's Colorado fires.  Harvey concludes that, if God is sending us a message through this summer's fires, it may not be the message that many of us who have deified the free market and equated anti-government libertarianism with the gospels want to hear:

Maybe God is sending us a message after all; it's just not one that comports with our national religious mythologies, nor one that free market conservatives, Christian and otherwise, can hear.

And it goes without saying that I am not in any shape, form, or fashion delighting in the suffering the Colorado fires are causing to anyone, liberal or conservative or anything else.  I'm merely pointing to the often bizarre ways in which we very selectively use religious themes and religious terminology to promote ideologies that may not have much at all to do with the religious labels we apply to those ideologies.

I'm hard-pressed to identify Adam Smith's hidden hand with God, as many American neoconservatives like to do, for instance . . . . 

The photo, from the website of KATU.com in Portland, Oregon, shows a swath of suburban houses burned by the recent Colorado Springs fires.

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