CHRISTIANITY FRICASSEE (Comments on California Wildfires)

California Wildfire The Latest

The fires in California are to be expected, just as the fires in parts of Australia are to be expected. Forest fires are part of each respective ecology. Trees in both places evolved to resist and in some cases take advantage of fires, and in both places the indigenous people conducted “controlled burns” to attempt to keep the naturally-occurring forest fires smaller and less terrifying than they might otherwise be. Conservationists, (as opposed to environmentalists), tend to agree with the idea of controlled burns, and of clearing brush and trees away from houses. These are sensible steps that can be taken, if people insist upon living in outrageously beautiful but dangerous landscapes.

I do not mean to be divisive, by separating conservationists from environmentalists. But I do think there is a difference between sensible reactions and emotional reactions. While it may be true that the original white settlers in California had no idea of the fiery ecology they were moving into, they did eventually learn, often the hard way, (and seldom by listening to the indigenous people). People’s learned responses are either pragmatic and practical, or else are yet another mistake, which will yet again have to be learned-from the hard way.

What I call “environmentalists” differ from conservationists by being far too quick to leap to a conclusion, and far too eager to put a single issue ahead of all others, and all too likely to have priorities all out of whack. Perhaps everyone is in some ways an environmentalist when young, and becomes a conservationist as they get older. “Once burnt, twice shy”.

To me California seems to be retarded in its development of the more level-headed conservationist thinking. My views are perhaps tainted, for, despite beautiful landscapes and people, the nineteen months I spent there were among the most miserable of my life. I always felt like a square peg in a round hole, but will not recuse myself from discussion, because observations have value even when they are negative.

The people I met largely lacked roots, for a number of reasons. What heritage California had (or was developing) was washed away by constant floods of newcomers. When I lived there in the early 1980’s it was rare to meet anyone over thirty who was born there. Few seemed to come there to “settle” as much as they came to “get rich quick”, like the original ’49ers seeking gold in the hills.   Many who fled there seemed to desire to avoid responsibility more than to embrace it. All Californians seemed to be runaways, (at which point I took a hard look in the mirror and wondered how much I was projecting).

Much of California’s immature thinking seemed to crystallize into the influence of Hollywood. I did not approve, especially as I was still in my late twenties and thought I was still a Democrat, and Hollywood had just given me a Republican president.

It is likely a fine example of how confused and disjointed my thinking was at that time that I initially distrusted liberal Hollywood because of a conservative. But the simple fact of the matter is I found myself distrusting most TV and most movies (and all commercials) because they all seemed dishonest. They were sly rather than straightforward, appealing to emotion rather than common sense, rabble-rousing rather than speaking to the higher instincts. Worst was the fact many people would be frank about their tactics, using words like “subliminal” with an amazing (to me) unawareness that they were confessing to owning the ethics of a snake-oil salesman. They felt they had the power to manipulated money from the wallets of others into their own greedy paws, and could “control the masses.”

Some seemingly felt they had historical proof audiences could be emotionally influenced to an irrational degree. For example, in a 1934 movie Clark Gable removed his shirt to reveal he wore no undershirt, and it was said undershirt sales then crashed nation-wide. In actual fact, however, men nation-wide may have stopped wearing undershirts because the mid-1930’s had blazing hot summers, and also the Great Depression economy was so bad men cut back on buying all but the most necessary items of clothing. Perhaps Clark Gable reflected the common man, rather than vice versa. But people in Hollywood prefer to believe they lead and others follow.

For another example, some say the movie “Bambi” turned Americans against hunting deer. In actual fact,  hundreds of thousands of farms were foreclosed-upon in the Great Depression, and millions left rural landscapes where they could hunt deer. Even if they did not move to a factory in a city, and were perhaps of the 250,000 refugees who became agricultural workers in the California countryside, their new boss was about as likely to approve of an “Okie” walking about his farm with a rifle as he would later be to see a “Wetback” with a rifle. Therefore perhaps “Bambi” is given more power than a cartoon deserves, and Walt Disney perhaps should not be seen as a founding father of the modern vegan movement. And perhaps people in Hollywood are a bit presumptive, and think they have more power and influence than they actually have. Perhaps some of them are actually more like followers of fads, than the fad’s creators. Rather than seekers of a Truth that causes emotional youths to becoming mature elders, perhaps stars and starlets are merely seekers of popularity, and are themselves somewhat juvenile.

Socialists have a great belief in the power of propaganda, even to the point of trusting in it more than they trust in the Truth. Their favorite motto, “The ends justify the means”, allows one to lie, if it is for a good cause. Of course, the “good cause” for a snake-oil salesman is his own income, at your expense. Another way to say “the ends justify the means”  is to state “My good intentions justify my unethical behavior”, but life tends to teach us otherwise.

The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is roughly a thousand years old, and Virgil’s “The path to hell is easy” dates from the time of Christ. But even if you don’t hear these old truths, life will teach you the same thing. If you tell a lie, and another gets burned, you are going to face an angry person.

As an environmentalist your intentions may have been good, when you forbid controlled burns and allowed the deadwood to build on the forest floor to levels that never occur in nature, and your intentions may have been good when you forbid cutting the brush back from houses. But you will have to face an angry home-owner when your good intentions result in their home looking like this:

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At this point you are going to be in the position of scrambling for excuses. After all, you obviously had the power, for otherwise you could not have kept them from clearing the deadwood or cutting back the underbrush. As you have the power, you collect the taxes, and this likely involved reassuring blandishments such as, “Your taxes will fund the best fire fighters in the nation. You can buy this property with no worry.” Now you face a problem. How are you going to talk yourself out of this one? I have an idea! You can propose raising taxes even higher to fund better firefighters! The only problem is that this particular taxpayer will be paying no more taxes. I have another idea! You could learn from your mistake! But no, no, no! That would involve admitting a mistake, and the last Californian politician to do that was Ronald Reagan, when he confessed he once was a Democrat. Now it seems confessing-a-mistake is deemed a fate worse than death. Instead politicians scramble to dream up increasingly ludicrous excuses.

Perhaps it is for this reason that California’s governor recently made absurd statements about the current fires, stating the the cause was not deadwood, underbrush close to houses, and the fact it is natural for California’s forests to burn,  but rather the cause was weather being the hottest since the dawn of civilization. How foolish he looks. All it takes is a quick check of records to show it was hotter just a three years ago.  The old man must be getting feeble to come up with such a lame excuse. It’s in some ways sad; he was so much better at telling lies when younger. But they say, “there is no fool like an old fool”, and there is a tragedy worth weeping over when we witness a man living his entire life and never gaining wisdom.

Every cloud has its silver lining, and the upside to the poor governor’s sadly troubled mind is that his  emotional hyperbole clearly demonstrates what I see as the difference between environmentalism and conservationism. It is the difference between emotion and common sense.

This also irks me, for the governor is giving emotion a bad name. As an artist I am big on emotion, whereas the “common sense” of a miserly banker repels me. This suggests a further distinction must be made, a difference between matter and spirit. One must differentiate between emotion all about materialism, and emotion about higher things that sacrifice materialism. In other words, we are not talking about a difference between heart and head, but rather of a proper balance between the two. A heart is no good if it’s greedy, and a head is no good if its irrational. The “common sense” I’m talking about recognizes this distinction.

It is a distinction accentuated  in a time of crisis. When wildfires burn out of control some ordinary individuals are heroic, and some not so heroic.

The fire fighters are forced by the urgency of the situation to fly hot-dogging dives unbelievably close to trees, and to use fire retardants which might be less than advantageous to the endangered woolly tufted caterpillar.

Carr fire continues to rage
Because of the refusal to have controlled burns, and the outlawing of cutting brush back where it would be wise, these fires have huge amounts of fuel to burn and can leap right over the barrier created by roads. Therefore fire fighters start fires by the sides of roads, and allow these backfires to burn slowly upwind to the major fires,  so the major fire has no fuel to jump the road with, but the firefighters must work hard to keep their backfires under control and keep them from jumping the road.
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And as all these heroic efforts are occurring, there are, of course, some who behave less heroicly
APTOPIX California Wildfires
It is a bit embarrassing to admit, but, as a man attempting to follow the Christ, I find that some of the best examples of less-than-heroic behavior involve snide comments made by people who, at least in some cases, profess to be Christians, about other Christians facing the fire. As this behavior is difficult to describe, allow me to give you a snippet of the chatter on “Twitter”, as the city of Redding was threatened by raging fires and a particular church called “The Bethel Church” was also threatened:

I’ve seen a number of Reformed folks on Twitter rejoicing over the fire going on in Redding Ca. claiming it as a judgement of God over Bethel church while simultaneously mocking them. If that’s Christianity, count me out. Thankfully it’s not.

  1. So, does anyone else find it interesting that Bethel Redding hasn’t been able to stop this Carr fire that is burning out of control in their city? Maybe one of their Holy Spirit fire tunnels got out of control?

  2. Bethel church is literally asking their brainwashed worldwide followers to give money to them for their relief in the fire ???? Like what has bethel done in the last week to aid its citizens? Not open their massive cult doors that’s for sure

  3. My alma mater has opened its doors as an evacuation center for the Carr fire in Redding, but Bethel Church directly across the street hasn’t. I just have to wonder why.

  4. …38 years. As long as the Bethel cult members don’t repent and allow Jenn and her supporters to continue cursing and committing sexual perversion, they will add fuel to the fire and kill more than 2 people.

  5. It’s awful about the Carr Fire, for the people, their homes, lives, &animals. I mourn the lost firefighters. But, Bethel Redding Church is a horrific affront to a holy God &especially to His spirit. I hope no injuries,but I do hope the fire causes a dispersal of all its adherents

  6. PLEASE PRAY: Fires are burning near Redding, CA. Many of our Bethel friends have had to evacuate & more are now preparing to leave their homes. PRAY for winds to change, for RAIN, for fires to be contained & extinguished, and for God’s protection over the area & firefighters.

    Yikes.

    For what it’s worth, I did my best to do a bit of fact-checking on the Bethel Church, and apparently they did offer to open their doors to the refugees from the fire, but “authorities” (I gather the Red Cross) felt the offer could be dangerous. Their sanctuary had a single entrance and single exit, and was surrounded by brush, and the fire was drawing close. Rather than a refuge, the place might turn into a big crematory. Therefore the church switched its efforts to other ways of helping their stricken community.

    To me not-opening-the-church’s-doors seems a sane and pragmatic response, by people dealing with a somewhat insane reality. Most of us cannot imagine having such a fire raging on the borders of our community, burning up homes at the edge of town. Therefore it seems, at the very least, unhelpful, to criticize the Bethel church for closing its doors to people in need.

    (By the way, the disapproval towards this particular church seems to be because some feel its members have a faith in Jesus which is too “radical”.)

    Earlier I stated that what separates a conservationist from an environmentalist is that the latter are “far too quick to leap to a conclusion, and far too eager to put a single issue ahead of all others, and all too likely to have priorities all out of whack”. Are we not seeing the same thing in a different form, when Christians add the flames of criticism to the flames from wildfires fellow Christians already face? How is this helpful? (Especially when no fact-checking is involved, and what is involved is largely gut-level dislike.)

    Criticism is only truly helpful if it has Love and Truth at its core. A heart does no good when it’s hateful. Therefore, before I criticize California any further, I think I might be wise to go take a hard look in my own mirror.

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LOCAL VIEW –The Drumbeats Of Drought In New Hampshire–(With Postscript)

In the past I have posted about (or perhaps bragged) about how people in New England do not know what a drought is, nowadays, because, when I was a boy, we had a drought that went on year after year, until Boston was talking about the need for a second reservoir to supplement Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts, because Quabbin was nearly dry, and vanished towns had reappeared on its dry edges. (I’ll skip repeating tales from my boyhood, of illegally fishing and swimming in the Stony Brook Reservoir, except to say they are fond memories.)

I may have to eat my words, for this summer’s drought is becoming the worst single-year drought I can remember, here in Southern New Hampshire. Even the hurricane milling about to our south last week only gave us east winds with a mist in it, and when a front came through and dropped the temperature from 82°F to 72°F with only the slightest sprinkle of rain, I began to wonder if this might be an autumn of fires. They are rare in New England, but have happened.

New England is a fairly wet place, and there are not that many species that are adapted to fires, as there are out west. However I have noticed even the larger lakes are lower. Here is a picture of the shore of Lake Massabesic, which supplies the City of Manchester its water.drought2-6-img_3824

That is about an hour east of my Farm-childcare. Twenty minutes west in Peterborough is Noone Falls on the Contoocook River, with a bare trickle flowing over it.

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At the Weatherbell Site Joseph D’Aleo has been keeping an eye on the drought, and I lifted these maps from two of his posts.

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In actual fact I think there should be a small spot of red further west on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border to mark my Farm-childcare, because it seems every passing shower has missed us. I have a customer with a rain gauge, and though he only lives a mile and a half away, on several occasions he has received a half inch from a thunder shower, as I got only a trace. This is a bit unusual, as I’m on the east slopes of a hill, and usually get more.

As a consequence a mountain stream that tumbles down from the hill has been reduced to a tiny trickle. I have never seen the likes of it. Here is the amount of water flowing from the flood-control reservoir that blocks that stream. drought2-5-img_3825

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(The sticks at the bottom right of the picture are cut by beavers, who are at war with the State Of New Hampshire and constantly attempt to block the pipe.  A man from the State constantly clears it.  My tax dollars at work.)

I worry about the native brook trout that live in the stream. There cannot be much oxygen in the water, with such a slight trickle flowing, and the water is likely getting warm, in the few remaining pools.

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What impresses me most is the farm pond, which was bulldozed eight feet deep in clay back in 1967 (before laws about wetlands) so my stepmother’s cows could get their own water even when the hand-dug well went dry. It is spring-fed, and even on dry summers, when the intermittent stream that feeds into the pond goes dry, there usually is a trickle flowing out. The water was clear and clean, and we swum in it. Not this year. drought2-8-img_3925

A heron has grown fat, stalking around the shore, for the frogs have no place to hide.  But now children can see what became of their fish hooks, when they ignored me and cast out on the east side. (Those trees came down in the 2008 ice storm, which doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but was before they were born.) (Water usually completely covers the snags.)

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This drought has been going on a long time, locally. It even showed in last winter’s precipitation maps. One month the rain would be north of us, and the next south of us. Or east of us, and then west of us. The lawns have gotten crunchy, and last week’s mist only nourished the crabgrass, which sucked up the surface damp and already is dry.

When I scuff through the crispy woods I wonder if this might be the year we see what people in New England saw in 1947, when entire towns burned in southern Maine.

http://www.pressherald.com/2012/10/07/the-week-that-maine-burned_2012-10-07/

POSTSCRIPT:

I should have mentioned there is one thing that is relishing the drought. It is a small sort of ant that builds nests in impractical places (even the handlebars of bikes) and likely loses a lot of colonies each time it rains, due to floods. This year they have thrived, and last week sudden swarms appeared in all sorts of unlikely places, as some unknown trigger, perhaps the length of the day, brought them out to perform their mating flights.

They have absurdly oversized wings, three times as long as their small bodies, and are rather lousy fliers. It seems to me that rather than attempting to avoid preditors their strategy is to overwhelm with their sheer numbers. They seem to float about, rather than fly, and I can’t say having a cloud of them in your face makes a drought any better. Within an hour or two they are all gone, with only some anthills of dirt remaining to show they were more than an odd dream.

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(The last two ant pictures by Marlowe Gautreau).

                 DROUGHT SONNET

Flowers turn their faces from their old friend
And bluest skies seem soured by broken trust.
Balmy breezes fail to heal; What’s mild won’t mend
And even crabgrass yellows in the dust.

The dewless dawn comes begging for a cloud
But once again what’s fair does not seem fair.
What swelled our pride no longer seems so proud
And carefree sunbeams stress our noons with care.

And so it seems all things upon our earth:
Our wealth; our fame; our friends; and our powers
Are dry, and soon are deemed of little worth
If You don’t spill Your mercy on our flowers.

Only the busy ants buzz, and don’t complain,
So come again to thirsty earth, and reign.