A new feature in response to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, for that blessed day of rest, Sunday. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy a day of rest.
A minor skirmish in the culture wars occurred last week in Polk County, Florida. A year before, the Christian Churches of Polk County, spearheaded by the elite god-bothering division, Polk Under Prayer, blessed Highway 98 with “holy oil” (olive oil) and prayer. They were, according to PUP director, Richard Geringswald, “praying for that entryway into the city, that God would protect us from evildoers, mainly the drug crowd, that they would be dissuaded to come in to the county.” Pastor Frank Smith had more to say in his blog.
It’s objective is to place Holy Angels at all roads that lead into or out of Polk County. A strip of anointed oil has been placed over all lanes of highway at the county line and a prayer has been given at each location asking God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county and to bring under conviction to those who seek evil and we asked God to bring them to a state of submission and repentance. If they will not submit to God’s way of living, then the prayer is to have them incarcerated or removed from the county.
Given that the fundamentalist Christian definition of “evil” is considerably broader than most people’s, I am not encouraged by this. It sounds like, “We only want good, Christian folk here (as defined by us) in Polk County, and if you disagree then you’re not welcome.” Quite. This is a local county for local people.
So when the Humanists of Florida Association heard of this, they and a few friends decided to rattle the PUP’s cage a bit. They “unblessed” Highway 98 with “unholy water,” yard brooms, and some elbow grease. Here’s the Huffington Post article, with an embedded video of the faux ritual.
As you will see from the video, there’s an unhealthy collaboration between some of Polk County’s elected officials and Polk Under Prayer. The School Board tried to introduce alternative theories to evolution in science classes in 2007, but were seen off by the mighty Flying Spaghetti Monster, whose proponents argued for the inclusion of their own Pastafarian creation myth. Ramen! These spats might seem like a farce, but never underestimate the Dominionist tendency in fundamentalist Christianity. Democracy and civil liberties come second to dogma.
Polk Under Prayer has, of course, retaliated with another magical act – burying bricks inscribed with biblical verses at the side of 12 roads leading into Polk County.