Thursday, May 24, 2007

My father knew no science.

My Dad knew no science. Not that I find that surprising; he trained as a high-school math teacher around the time of the Depression, and later became a CPA. From his late 20s on, he worked in Christian missionary endeavours, as accountant, general manager and eventually as founder of his own mission agency. On weekends, he preached.

So science wasn't a topic he needed to deal with.

However, he did have an interest in it. It could be used to "prove" the truth of the Bible. I remember how he took us kids several times to see the Moody Bible Institute "Sermons from Science" and the man who let millions of volts of electricity run through his body and turn his fingers into spark plugs. (Now run by Whittier Christian Schools.) The object? To show us how important it is to connect to the power of God.

In the 1980s, he was supporting ICR, the Institute for Creation Research, and passing on their newsletters. I never heard him discuss any of the "sciencey" articles; it wasn't his cup of tea. But he told anyone who would listen how they showed the errors and outright dishonesty of "the evolutionists". And, of course, proved that the Bible had been inerrant all along.

In his final years, half-blind and increasingly frail, he discovered Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. And their Niagara of books, pamphlets, tapes, tracts, magazines, articles and videos. Everything in bright, beautiful covers, easily readable fonts, with clear illustrations and simple language. Simple enough even for Dad to understand. He began to read "science" for the first time in his life. Wonderful information, he thought; he repeated choice bits to me when I visited. (And was disappointed when I wasn't impressed, deaf when I tried to explain the basic concepts and point out fallacies.)

He began using AIG materials as gifts. He passed them out to new converts and to prospective converts. He stocked the church library with them.

He was on a limited budget; in his missionary years, he had made no provision for the future. "God will provide," he always said. And in his 80s, scrimping on the basic senior's pension, he made no complaints; what God had provided must necessarily be all he needed.

But AIG was doing a great work for God, and needed the money. So Dad put an automatic payment to them into his budget. And continued to buy books and tapes. (This was on top of his tithe to the church.)

He needed more care, himself, but there was no money left to pay for a homemaker, or even a cleaning woman. I went out weekly and did as much as I could; church people mended his clothes and brought food, neighbours checked on him. But there was always a shortfall.

When he died, at 92, and I picked up the reins of his finances, I found that month's bill from AIG: $70. For DVDs. To give away, of course; Dad had no TV, no DVD player, no video player: he was almost blind.

And he had, stacked by the door to hand out to visitors, a pile of new, expensive AIG books.

I must confess that I destroyed them. With prejudice.

And I won't be sending a donation for Ham's new Creation Museum. Dad would have. He knew no science.


  1. What a sad story. It makes me angry that these "Christians" knowingly take advantage of these people. I hope that I've managed to put the fear of these people into my mother. She's been warned (by me) to be wary of Christians asking for money.

    My heart goes out to you.


  2. Thank you for sharing your father's story. My own father is heading in that same direction, though he is in a much better position to afford his expenditures on right-wing tracts and religious nonsense. He marvels at my immunity to rigorous "proofs" of Bible nonsense (esp. the one where "complexity" disproves evolution) and laments to my mother and other family members that I am beyond reach. Naturally I say the same thing about him.

  3. This is a sweet little essay, with a subdued anger that's actually quite powerful. You've found a tone that's entirely different from any of the other contributors to the Creation Museum Carnival. Very nice writing.

  4. Anonymous8:44 pm

    Just have to say, this is wonderful.

  5. Thank you all for your encouragement. I was reluctant to hang out family laundry in public, but I realize that the story is being repeated over and over. Exposure may help towards stopping it. I hope.

    Exterminator: I hadn't realized how angry I still am until I was re-reading what I had written.

  6. One of my cousins is a con artist. Not in a clever way- hes just so pathetic (druggie, loser in general) that people give him money.
    He had no problem taking advantage of my grandmother, who could barely afford her medications and pimiento cheese sandwiches, taking everything of hers of any value (wedding ring, silver flatware, the usual).
    So here are the Creationists, doing the same things as a 38 year old meth-head leech.

    Theyre professional con artists. Professional leeches.

    Not that this is news to you, Weeta, but like you said, if saying it out loud can save someone else some pain...

  7. As a doctor I am the first to hold my hand up and say yes, we make mistakes sometimes. Our knowledge is incomplete, and sometimes people suffer as a result. Science isn't perfect, and possibly never will be. But the wilful selfishness of these people - they don't care if they are taking away what little someone has. They certainly made no effort to find out. Did no one from his church intervene when they saw all the books and DVDs? They must have known he was on a minimal income. A decent priest or pastor should have been able to sort this out.

    I wonder what Ham's weekly food budget is? Do you think he even shops or cooks for himself? Or does he employ servants (after all, the bible says he can) to do the menial stuff he doesn't fancy. Your father's $70 was peanuts to him, and that makes me furious.

    I really hope there is a God, because one day He's going to demand some answers.

    Being angry is right and normal. But the real way to fight back is through decency and kindness, and debunking this crud at every opportunity.

    (And by the way, I work in the UK where healthcare is free to all, lest anyone take offence at the doctor bit above)

  8. ERV;
    At least the meth head has a (faint) excuse; he's in trouble himself. These religious con men seem to be doing just fine.

    Now that you mention it, it's odd that the pastor didn't put his foot down. He visited often enough; he knew the situation.

  9. My dad worked in Papua New Guinnea for a long time. When I went to visit him, a bunch of American Evangelists had flown in to give a revival.
    It was predicted to get a huge turnout.
    People had to pay for admission.
    In PNG, most people are lucky if they get to see a handful of Kina a month. Most people still live in small villages and subsist on palm root. And these Evangelists were going to preach Hell and brimstone for a few hours, fake some healings, and then go home in their private jets!
    That's what differentiates these "new" religions from the old ones. The Anglicans, Catholics, and Presbeterians at least build a hospital or school before they go home. Not just a church.

  10. J. Johnston;

    And then this money-grubbing evangelist will have gone back to where he came from to tell about his amazing success in PNG among the "poor, Godless heathen", and rake in another potload of donations to "further the good work."


  11. Anonymous12:30 pm

    Weeta. You should be proud of your father. He was concerned for the souls of other people, knowing that soon he would be going home to be with Jesus. He was faithful until the end.

    As far as AIG being con artists. I can't think of one organization that personally analyzes the lives of their customers to make sure it is in their best interest to do business with them. You cannot hold them responsible.

    Although I didn't know him your father sounds like a wonderful Christian man.

    God Bless his soul.

    I just pray that one day you too will come to see the truth that he knew in his heart.

  12. Anonymous;

    (Aside: why is it that Christians who Pray For Me usually sign themselves as Anonymous?)

    "You should be proud of your father. He was concerned for the souls of other people,..."

    Not really. He was more concerned with "being right".

    "As far as AIG being con artists. I can't think of one organization that personally analyzes the lives of their customers to make sure it is in their best interest to do business with them. You cannot hold them responsible."

    I can. Because they were knowingly lying to him, time and again. And because when they were notified of the situation, they refused to cancel his automatic payments to them.

    "I just pray that one day you too will come to see the truth that he knew in his heart."

    I knew it once. And then I found out that it wasn't truth, after all.

  13. Ms. Weeta,

    May I say without a hint of glibness that I am sorry your father's death was so painful. I know what it is like to love a family member with whom communication is complicated by vastly differing points of view.

    I hope it is not too impertinent for me to respond to one of your guests' posts. Please excuse me if this is out of goes:

    k johnston,

    You seem to have a pretty serious concern with the way this group of evangelists handled themselves in PNG. I think there is some merit to these concerns, however some friends of mine are Christian missionaries in PNG and given my limited knowledge of their mission, it seems uncharacteristic that their organization would charge these abjectly poor people for admission to a revival. As I understand it, my friends are there to learn from the locals (language, culture, religion), care for the locals (through friendship, sharing, and charity), and teach the locals (PNG language preservation, English language acquisition, and religion to those interested). We usually get a spectacular email from them once a month chronicling their latest escapades. Last month we learned they were living in a tree and bathing in a bin in front of all the village children; not to mention having to get very creative with their personal hygiene habits. We should all be so lucky to learn to appreciate that lifestyle.

    My wife is more familiar with their work in PNG than I, but I can say neither of us has ever seen anything unseemly. Perhaps you and your dad witnessed another group.

    -- Do you recall their name?
    -- The year you visited?
    -- Also, I'm curious to know if everyone was _charged_, or if some simply chose to give, perhaps as a charity to other PNG communities. Any idea?

    I obviously can't comment on any purported healings or the content of any sermon, but I may have some clue into the jet situation. Our friend (the husband) is a jet mechanic on PNG and, as he tells it, the terrain makes inter-island travel pretty unnavigable without airborne transportation. At any rate, I flew in the Cessna propeller planes he works on and I can assure you they were no luxury liners!

    As I said, you may be talking about a completely different group, but I would be disappointed to learn if our friends' group was fleecing the villagers for unnecessary luxuries. Please respond to the questions above if you can.


  14. Sean;

    Thanks for commenting. Time has gone by; I am not sure that K. Johnston will see you questions.

    However, I have a question for you; are your friends by any chance with MAF?

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Thanks Weeta. It has been a while but I consider K Johnston's concern both generally important and personally relevant, so I thought I would give it a shot.

    Our friends are with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I google'd MAF just now and "Mission Aviation Fellowship" does appear to have worked with Wycliffe in some areas. I'm not sure how much if any involvement our friends have had with them.

    -- Sean

  17. I know how you feel. I have parents that have worked on one salary with five kids. My father was in the military for 20 years, and growing up, there wasn't a Sunday morning or night that we didn't show up. (Oh, and Wednesday nights, too.) My parents tithed every paycheck, while we were hungry at home and could not afford the tiny house we all lived in. My dad had to still find a job after he was retired but could only find odd jobs and contract work. He lost his home to foreclosure but yet he tithed religiously to a church that has a budget in the millions and owns many buildings of our city downtown. It's sad how far this goes and when they're in the dumps, they repeat to themselve, "God is going to bless me. Just have faith."

    When it all comes down to it, these churches and institutions are all businesses and they are legitimized by their book so as to not evoke cognitive disonance in their loyal, sometimes well-meaning, yet misguided followers.

  18. Jadedconformist;

    "When it all comes down to it, these churches and institutions are all businesses..."

    They are run like businesses, for sure. Did you know that some of the church management people refer to members as "giving units"?

  19. Powerful and moving. Thanks for sharing.


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