Our local newspaper has been relatively quiet since the furor over an editorial bashing teachers as lazy in mid-September. It has largely functioned as a provincial newspaper should, sticking to reporting on local events, weather, Friday's football game highlights, etc. Unfortunately, the holiday season brings out the religiously inane, and the staff at the Lassen County Times cannot keep away from their pompous proselytizing for too long. So in last week's paper we have a full page article on the missionary exploits of a local pastor to the Ukraine. Of course this is not enough, and the byline indicates that this is only the first of two-part series to which we will be treated. I can hardly wait!
Three things really bother me about this article. First, everyone who reads my blog knows that have a serious disdain for most missionaries and the concept of missionary work. I don't see a lot of difference between the "missionary" work of Fernando Cortez in the 16th century and the goals of today's missionary cadre. More subtle perhaps, but the goal (destruction of native or traditional culture) is still the same. Second, the local pastor responsible for this Susanville-Ukraine connection, Mike Cornelison, gives us the usual "God wants me to do it" excuse for just about everything: God planned his family moves, God picked the poor people of the Ukraine for Cornelison to minister to, God "has been planning" the Susanville-Ukraine connection for years (apparently omnipotent deities have to operate within the same planning timeframes as us poor Homo sapiens) - I'll bet Cornelison thinks it's God and not his bladder that forces him to the bathroom every once in a while. But all of this isn't really the issue. If anything, the article once again proves to the thinking individual that missionary work is only possible among those at the lowest levels of the economic and educational ladder. But what I'd really like to explore is why the good taxpaying people of California are being forced to pay for Cornelison's playtime. According to the paper, Cornelison "retired" from the California Correctional Center (one of our local prisons) because of an injured back. Now, I often hesitate to criticize correctional center officers (and I recognize that the CCC is different from the adjacent High Desert State Prison) in public, in large part because I know several good officers who clearly have a difficult job (one that you couldn't pay me enough to do!) and I don't wish to lump them into a generalization. But enough is enough and the majority of prison guards generally have some common behavioral baggage. The fact is that I can't think of another job on the earth that gives someone such a high salary for so little education as a prison guard. I also don't know a group of people who express as much arrogance and disdain for almost everyone else in society without considering that their own societal "worth" is not too many rungs above the people on the other side of the bars. We academics might be arrogant from time to time, but at least we have something to back it up. And no one has a disability program like correctional officers. I personally think it borders on fraud as every "disabled" officer I know is getting loads of money from the State of California (at taxpayer expense) and has questionable injuries. At minimum they could be doing some other kind of work within the correctional system. And they have the gall to complain that public school systems are too expensive! Unfortunately the correctional officers union is too large for the assembly to tackle, although I understand there have been attempts. Because it is fraud, wasteful and we're paying for it. In picture accompanying the article in the paper, Cornelison is sitting on table, smiling happily after one of his many excursions to the Ukraine since his "back injury". I wonder if God directed him to fleece the rest of us here in California in order to carry out his mission?