CHRISTIANS AND GLOBAL WARMING  (April 2006)

 

Status Quo, or a look inside the American Christian Mind?


    I saw a report on CNN not that long ago, March 14Th to be precise, about a disagreement within the evangelical community regarding Global Warming. It seems Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Don Wildman and a host of others are not happy with the attention Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is giving to environmental issues. Richard Cizik is the NAE’s vice president for governmental relations in Washington, D.C.

    On March 1, 2007 they sent a letter to Dr. L. Roy Taylor, current Chairman of the Board of the NAE, asking him to rein in Cizik. They claim that he is using the global warming controversy to shift emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time. These issues are the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.

    Now I agree that these are indeed very important issues, and we should be teaching them to our children. Please take note of the word we in that last sentence. Morality, sexual or otherwise is something that is handed down from parent to child. It is not something the government should be in the business of enforcing. Parents have not been doing their job. We have not been talking to our children about these things nor have we been setting the right examples. The divorce rate among Christian families is just as high as among non Christian families. Our neglect over the last, I’d say fifty years has made it necessary for someone to try to fill that gap.

    We have failed to teach our children how important marriage is, why they should wait to have sex, and how to take responsibility for their actions. That is why abortion rates are so high, why our sons and daughters have no respect for themselves or each other. It is also why marriages fail at such a high rate. Not top condone them, but it is not the gay couple that lives up the street.

    Parents dropped the ball, so the government had to pick it up. Schools had to start teaching sex ed classes in increasingly earlier grades because girls kept getting pregnant at younger and younger ages. The schools had to include birth control in these classes because guess what?... Kids leave school and go home to empty houses. These kids kept producing kids of their own. We all know this isn’t just an inner city problem, nor is it limited to broken homes or homes where both parents work.

    Abortion clinics are the natural progression of all of this. The schools taught our kids how sex works, gave them condoms and sent them on their merry little way. We the parents were so busy keeping up with the Jones or so worried about bruising their precious little egos that we failed to give them any real moral center from which to make decisions.

    The moral mess that America is in is our fault and no amount of legislation is going to fix it. If you want to fix the problem, then start at home. If you give your children a moral center based on scripture, they in turn will give it to their children and so on down the line. That is the way it works. If your children leave your home armed with your morals and a Bible, they have a far better chance. If we were truly setting the example for our children in the home, then we would not have to worry so much about what they see and hear out in the world. If you are setting a good example for them, then for the love of all that’s holy, have some faith in God to protect them.

    Yet the Christian Right keeps focusing our attention outward. They keep pushing for the government to make sure that everyone outside our homes is leaving up to our standard of morality.  Government has become their refuge and their strength!

  • "If we can just over turn Roe V. Wade, every thing will be ok".

  • "If we can stop homosexuals from getting married, that will save the American family".

  • "If we can get one more conservative judge on the Supreme Court then the world will be just ducky again and we will be able to reclaim the country for Christ".

    Yet we miss the most important thing we are supposed to be doing… setting the example.

    Now along comes someone within the Christian Right who suggests that we lobby the government for something that is within the scope of its authority, (protecting the environment). Specifically, global warming, and what do the bulk of our religious leaders want? They want him to be quiet! And the reason they give is just insulting. They admit that the Earth is warming, but of course they say we can’t be sure why. "We can’t even be sure", they claim, "If man is contributing to the problem, or if man is even capable of having that kind of an effect on the environment".

    Does that sound like something we have heard before? Maybe from the Republican Party/Big oil/Big business? Even they are beginning to understand just how hollow that sounds. Do we as Christians, really want to be seen as having our heads in the sand? 

 

Two things I would like to point out here.
 


    First... global warming is caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other green house gases in the atmosphere. Man has been pumping this stuff into the air like it was candy since the start of the "Industrial Age". To be fair, no one could have known a hundred years ago where this would lead.

    Second... does anyone know how many thousands of years the American Indians lived in complete harmony with the environment? Never taking more then they needed, always making full use of the resource whatever it was. How long did it take for the White man to hunt the Buffalo to brink of extinction?

    I think it is safe to conclude that mans actions can, and often does effect the environment.

    The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA) in an open letter to evangelicals, who are concerned about global warming, actually seems to suggest that the world is ours to do with as we please. Stating that because God gave us dominion over the Earth and the job of caring for the Garden there must be no way we could
be responsible for climate change. The author of the letter quotes Wayne Grudem...
 

"The stewardship God gave to human beings over the earth–to cultivate and guard the garden (Genesis 2:15) and to fill, subdue, and rule the whole earth."


    (Genesis 1:28)–strongly suggests that caring for human needs is compatible with caring for the earth. As theologian Wayne Grudem put it...

“It does not seem likely to me that God would set up the world to work in such a way that human beings would eventually destroy the earth by doing such ordinary and morally good and necessary things as breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, burning fuel to travel, or using energy for a refrigerator to preserve food.”  

(taken from page 2 of the letter)


    Imagine you gave your son a toy for his birthday, something you knew he would really enjoy. Now imagine you found it outside six months later, dirty and broken. When you asked your son about it he just shrugged his shoulders and the only answer for the poor way he took care of the toy was. “You gave it to me, it’s mine. What are you mad about?”

    I am not a theologian, but it seems to me that the world of Genesis chapter 1 and 2 is very different from the world we live in today. If we were living in a world without sin, in the manner that God intended, then I would agree with what Grudem is saying. We are not living in a world without sin, nor does the world work the way God intended it to. What Was God talking about in this verse...

Revelation 11:18  And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.


    I am not suggesting the use of oil is a sin. It is not a sin to travel from one place to another, nor is it a sin to heat your home. The sin is not in the use of the resource, the sin is in the greed that leads to its misuse.

    We have known since at least the 70’s that an alternative energy source was going to be needed. Humans are pretty smart. why don’t we have a working alternative yet? Greed is the answer, greed and complacency. The 70’s oil crunch could have been the push we needed to honestly look for that alternative. It would have been, except the companies that owned the oil (Arab and American) saw that alternative as a threat to their profits. In response, they boosted production and spent money supporting politicians that would support them. Oil prices came down and the rest of us went back to our lives.

    As a result Big oil/Big business in this country has made a lot of money. They have in turn pumped a lot of money into the GOP which over the years have shrugged of warnings about global warming with the same tired excuses the Christian Right is using now. The GOP by the way has been supporting the "Christian Right" through lip service to its list of conservative values and more recently with money for its "faith based incentives". It’s more than happy to get its funding from Big oil/Big business and it’s voter base from the Christian Right. It’s a nice neat little package that has worked well for the Republicans and their contributors, but not so well for the voters.
 


What have the voters gotten in the deal? Nothing... zero!
 


    We have had a Republican president for eighteen of the last twenty-six years, with a large Republican majority for the last six years. Has abortion gone away? Has the question of gay marriage gone away? How about evolution, have they done anything real about that being taught as fact instead of a theory? Is it likely that Biblical Creation will be taught along side evolution anytime soon? (Not that I want to see public school teachers teaching from the Bible. I can just imagine what kind of ideas they would be putting into kids’ heads). The list of conservative issues they have promised to address is long, while the list of achievements is very short.

    The Christian population has all but abandoned its faith in Christ, in order to continue supporting the party that it has transferred its faith to. When our Christian leaders can continue to support a war, even after all the evidence we’ve had that it was at best a mistake, is it really a surprise when that same leadership continues to embrace the idea that global warming is just so much "tree hugger" propaganda?

    I have to ask what this is really about. Why do some of the leaders of the Christian Right think that a concern about global warming is a threat to the great moral issues of our time? Why do they consider Richard Cizik too divisive and dangerous? Why does the ISA continue to tell us that human contribution to
global warming, if it even exists, is small and insignificant?

    I think they are a little concerned that the voters in the aforementioned relationship might get interested in something that does not benefit the rest of the family. The GOP is more than happy to let Christians have their pet issues, ("the great moral issues of our time"). Those are safe. The politicians can talk about them, use them to get elected, throw faith based money at the problem and even hide behind the separation of Church and State. None of this interrupts the relationship. Republicans still get elected and money still flows to Big oil/Big business.

    Global warming, now that is a different story. The ISA is right about one thing. Government mandated caps on emissions, or the Cap and Trade options are going to affect the economy. In the short term, gas prices and the price of other manufactured goods would go up. In the long term travel would be reduced. The Auto industry would continue to take hits. Companies would lose money, companies that contribute to the Republican Party. That is only if the government does something about global warming.

    If Christian voters did get active in environmental issues and the Republican Party continued to ignore the problem, well those voters might take their vote elsewhere. Don’t forget, the same people within the Christian Right that want to do something about global warming also want to do things like fed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. It would be a very dark day indeed for the rich and powerful in this country if the voters they relied on to keep them rich and powerful, actually started acting like the Christians they claim to be.

    To be clear, I don’t know what is in the heart of men like Tony Perkins and James Dobson. I don’t know why they do the things they do. I also don’t care. I have come to realize something. It is not about the leaders of the Christian Right, it is about the voters of the Christian Right. They can’t lead if no one follows. What type of Christian do you want people to see when they look at you?

  • Do you want them to see someone who blindly supports an administration that spends billions of dollars every day in Iraq, while doing almost nothing in Darfur?

  • Do you want them to hear you repeating old tired "party lines" that no one believes any more?

  • Do you think a Christian should be more concerned with gay marriage than the hungry and homeless that live right there in town?


    That is what the world sees when it looks at Christians today. They see a bunch of self absorbed people convinced in their own righteousness. That is what the Christian Right has done for us. Are you going to let these people continue to be your voice, or are you going to speak out and be your own voice?

    If we continue to let the leaders of the Christian Right define Christianity for the rest of the world, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when the rest of the world starts calling for our heads. Take your voice back. By that I don’t mean get a sign and go march around on the street. That is a waste of time. Live you’re live as a Christian. Live it right out in the open. Open your Bible and study for yourself what Christ taught. Be prepared though, because if you do that, you will find that Christ and the Christian Right don’t have a whole lot in common. The rest of the world sees that, why don’t we?

    That’s really what this is about. It’s not about global warming so much as it is about not letting the Tony Perkins and James Dobson’s of the world make us look like fools again. I don’t know why they seem to want our heads buried in the sand. Maybe they are afraid of losing their faith based money. Maybe they really believe that we will be raptured before global warming catches up with us. Maybe they really believe that God is ok with our raping the planet he gave us to take care of. Either way, they have made a big mistake.

    I don’t know what the solution is for global warming, but let’s at least talk about it. This is a discussion that we as Christians should be having. We should be looking at the data the scientific community has been collecting. We should be listening to what they have to say, looking for a consensus and asking our government why we are still not really doing anything. As long as we are talking about that, do you think we could look at those other problems the Christian Right has put on the back burner. You remember those?... hunger, poverty and the salvation of lost souls?
 

 

 

In Christ, Eric D. Smith

 

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