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Saturday, June 09, 2007
(9:38 AM) | Stephen:
Global Warming And Religion*

On Thursday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on religious views of global warming. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called witnesses from Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Christian traditions. James Inhofe (R-OK) of course representing not only his home state but the conspiracy contingency, adding to his idea of a worldwide cabal of scientists intentionally misinforming the rest of us on global warming, the possibility of a liberal plot to "divide and conquer the evangelical community and get people (moving) away from the core values issues."

Sometimes I do wish we liberals were capable of such planning, cooperation and organization.

What I really don't understand is how this can be such a divisive issue within Christianity. I can understand why evolution is such a hot topic: Creationists are able to point to the first chapters of Genesis, at least, for evidence of their point of view, even if they are wrong. But there's nothing in the Bible about this at all. Neither Moses nor Jesus ever said that if the "world becometh warmer, let it be unto you a sign to build bigger chariots and to feedeth yon beasts of burden beans and cheese."

People can certainly dispute the idea that the world is getting warmer. As I said, that means you also have to believe that thousands of scientists are cooperating with one another to deceive the Earth's population, but it is possible to take the word of an extremely small minority on this issue over that of the overwhelming majority. One can also dispute the idea that human beings are to blame for rising temperatures, though that's hardly an argument against taking action to reduce carbon emissions and other types of pollution, about which I have written before.

But you can't base those ideas on the Bible. Inhofe closed his remarks to the committee by quoting Romans 1:25 - "They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God’s creation instead of God who will be praised forever. Amen." It's probably no surprise that Inhofe didn't include the verses immediately preceding that quote, which explain what exactly Paul was saying:
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23, NLT)
The closest that any Christian could possibly get to a biblical basis for opposition to the global warming consensus is the idea that environmentalism - excuse me, "secular" environmentalism - places the perceived needs of the environment above those of human beings. Inhofe referenced the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, which is based upon this criticism of the wider environmental movement. And while it is necessary to factor human costs into any strategy we might take, Inhofe and the signers of the Cornwall Declaration completely ignore how the current concern over global warming is based upon the fear that millions of desperately poor people living on the world's coastlines will at best lose their homes in the coming years, if not their lives. Or the worry that many of the world's poorer areas will find it even harder to produce the food necessary for their residents to survive. Or that our children and grandchildren, even in this advanced country, will not have clean water to drink or air to breathe. The concerns of the environment are the ones not usually addressed when people decide it's time to clearcut the rainforest or drill new oil wells, or use dangerous chemicals as pesticides or fertilizers.

All of this, of course, doesn't address the fact that there's no compelling reason for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to invite a bunch of theologians to come in and discuss global warming - with the possible exception of Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefforts Schori, who holds a Ph.D in oceanography from from Oregon State University. (She also has an M.Div, speaks Spanish fluently and is an instrument-rated pilot. That's my Presiding Bishop, woot!)

*By religion, I of course refer only to Christianity and Judaism. At least, those are the only religions that count in this discussion, according to the witness list for the committee hearings.

Cross-posted at Ezra's place

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