I have what I believe, in all humility, is a brilliant idea: a Ripley’s Believe It or Not dedicated entirely to right-wing craziness. The first two exhibits both come from the same source, Andrew Schlafly, son on Phyllis, the woman who spearheaded the defeat of the ERA and laid the groundwork for the religious right. This apple has not fallen far from the tree.
The first project is Conservapedia.com. This is, as the name suggests, the conservatives’ answer to Wikipedia.com. Wikipedia does, in a way, promote a populist agenda, one that you would think would appeal to conservatives who are often complaining about liberal elites. But, in another sense, by viewing knowledge as something essentially democratic, it is easy to see how Wikipedia suggests a relativistic view of knowledge to some people. At the end of the day, you always need an editor and some agreed upon rules to govern how you verify information. In our culture, that verification is likely to be determined by Cartesian rules. I have my issues with the Cogito and its progeny, but I want my encyclopedia to reflect those standards.
Schlafly and his colleagues at Conservapedia have come to understand what Auntie Mame taught us all a long time ago: "Knowledge is power, Mr. Babcock!" And power is to be put at the service of an ideological agenda. And so, the front page of Conservapedia, which shows some 105 million page views, features articles on the problems with Evolutionary theory, an essay on the best new conservative words and, my favorite, a painting of the Battle of Tours in 732 when Charles Martel turned back the invading Muslims.
A related project of Schlafly’s warrants a Rpiley’s exhibit all its own. This is the Conservative Bible Project which aims to succeed where Thomas Jefferson failed, producing an up-to-date, ideologically satisfying, translation of the Good Book. Jefferson, you will recall, re-wrote the New Testament, removing miracles and other passages that did not pass scientific muster, as he understood science in that pre-Darwinian era. The effort was not among Jefferson’s finest. Undeterred, Schlafly has out his red and gold pens and is busily erasing those parts of Scripture he doesn’t like and altering translations to better suit his ideology.
First on the chopping block is a passage from the Gospel of John, originally questioned by liberal scholars in the nineteenth century when the earliest manuscripts did not have these passages. For Schlafly, removing these verses is a good thing because it gets rid of the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery with Jesus’ admonition against judgmentalism, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The passage that has bothered capitalists for a long time, about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven, is happily updated by Schlafly so that the "rich man" becomes "a man who cares only for money." Indeed, one of the ten "guidelines" the website lists for editing the Bible is: "Express Free Market Parables: explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free market meaning." And, no doubt mindful of his target audience, in Schlafly’s bible, Jesus warns against putting "fresh grape juice into old bottles" instead of "old wine into new wineskins." The story of the Master who sent his servants to the vineyard is changed so that the Master now sends employees. And so on.
Ya know, you couldn’t make this stuff up.