Sunday, May 27, 2007

Is it hot in here?

Global warming. No good Christian believes in it. I mean, how could they? That would require rubbing shoulders with some shady characters - liberals, environmentalists, tree-huggers, pagans, scientists, and Al Gore. And since we know none of those people are Christians, they must have an ungodly agenda and nothing noteworthy to say. As I allude to in my post about Christians and Republicans, there is an unwritten rule on whom we associate with, and who we don’t, no matter what the situation.

The second reason we don’t believe in global warming is an inherent distrust with the field of science. Science, by its very nature, requires a natural explanation for the world we live in. Things that cannot be explained via hands-on experimentation, or more specifically, the scientific method, are pretty much dismissed. This, of course, is of great concern to those who believe the world is under the control of a Higher Power.

The third reason conservatives struggle with global warming, I believe, is a very strict, and possibly misguided, understanding of our mandate in this world, or at least in American culture. We believe we have a mandate to make our nation Christian again, and to do that requires a set of cultural behaviors to be eliminated or reversed. Issues that do not fall inside this set of mandates are met with suspicion.

A perfect example of this type of thinking is what happened recently within the National Association of Evangelicals, the loosely organized umbrella group for evangelical organizations in the country. 24 prominent evangelicals recently sent a letter to the NEA asking for the resignation of Richard Cizik, the vice president for governmental affairs for the NEA. The letter claims, in part, "Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time. In their place has come a preoccupation with climate concerns that extend beyond the NAE's mandate and its own statement of purpose."

Notice how the letter paints concern and work in the area of global warming as mutually exclusive with current evangelical initiatives. The unstated implication in the letter, then, is that evangelicals can only be involved in a limited number of issues. And those issues must fall within the narrow scope of traditional evangelical endeavors, otherwise they have no merit.

Now, it’s not as if we’ve used up all the resources available to us evangelicals and conservatives. From where I sit, I don’t see every church-going person being totally tapped out in their efforts to advance God’s kingdom and mandates in our culture. My point being, it’s not an either/or proposition. If God has placed a large burden for the preservation of the environment on the hearts of some Christians (and I would suggest we should all feel that burden to some extent), then we should thank God for their desire to follow through with God’s leading.

Not only that, it seems to me that Cizik’s actions fall completely in line with part of the NEA mandate. I quote from their web page: “We pledge our cooperation to any responsible effort to solve critical environmental problems, and our willingness to support all proven solutions developed by competent authorities. We call upon our constituency to do the same, even at the cost of personal discomfort or inconvenience” However, the mandate also mentions, “…some groups and organizations have reacted with a zeal that has not always been according to knowledge…” The implication here is very clear – evangelical leaders simply do not believe the data currently being postulated by the scientific establishment and reported by the mainstream media.

Now, do they have reason to be cautious? Sure. I certainly am no fan of mainstream media. I believe much of it to be biased, arrogant, and often anti-religious, if not downright wrong. Ditto with the scientific establishment, which has gone out of its way to paint itself as the bastion of truth and knowledge for our society.

But, I personally fail to see how these traditional tensions between Christianity and Science abdicate us of our mandate to protect and shepherd God’s creation. Now, most evangelicals would say I am misrepresenting them, that we obviously do have such a mandate. But often their attitudes (and letters like the one to the NEA) belie their words.

Whether the cause of global warming is the result of our behavior, or is simply due to normal cyclical changes of the earth’s climate over thousands of years, I think the evidence that the climate is changing for the worse is at least worth considering. And herein lies the lynchpin for me. Unlike other areas where we are in conflict with society, such as abortion and homosexuality, the actions we can take to help are not in conflict with God-given instructions, but in my opinion actually may fall right in line with them.

For instance, is it a bad thing to consider gas mileage as a major factor when purchasing a car? Is it really wrong to buy energy-saving light bulbs? Is it wild-eyed liberalism to actually suggest a gas-guzzling 4x4 that is only driven on pavement is a misuse of resources? (Yeah, I just stepped on some toes, didn’t I). Am I out of line with God’s directives if I recycle? Is it inappropriate to suggest drinking milk that isn’t tainted with BST? Would it be bad if I moved closer to my work/church/family to cut down on drive times and increase the opportunity to, say, ride a bicycle or walk (and shed a few pounds in the process)?

I could go on, but I think you see my point. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be cautious when evaluating the claims of secular institutions. And I’m certainly not suggesting we buy into the gloom-and-doom, catastrophic, and bleak future propagated by the media (who always love a good scare story). I’m simply suggesting that global warming is perhaps not an issue that we really need to be “against,” and that helping our earth by some small changes in our daily behaviors fit in nicely with some of the things God asked his children to do in Genesis 1 and 2.


Anonymous said...

Jerry, I'm glad you posted this. I think a lot of us Christians should start thinking critically about this topic more and not just line up blindly with our conserative leaders.

Global warming may well be an alarmist campaign to clean up polluting industries, or it might be the real deal. Either way, being good stewards of the planet is akin to being good stewards of our own bodies. Even if global warming is not occurring due to mankind's industrialization, pollution IS occurring. We know that.

I don't necessarily believe companies should monitor and change their activities to prevent global warming, but I do believe that if those same measures lessen their hazardous waste and pollution, I'm all for it.

Clean air and water and lessened reliance on Middle Eastern oil (not to mention expensive) is enough to get me on the "green" bandwagon. I really don't mind if Michigan warms up a little in the winter. :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tom. Good analogy with being stewards of our bodies.