Saturday, April 20, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day

“The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Many of us grew up hearing these words from Psalm 24:1 (KJV) from time to time. That being the case, it would seem that churches would be eager to celebrate Earth Day, using the Sunday closest to that day as a special time to emphasize the proper use of and care for the earth.
 However, and it may just be my misperception, it seems that churches now are less likely to celebrate Earth Day than most other segments of society.
Monday, April 22, will be Earth Day 2013, and this year’s global Earth Day theme is “The Face of Climate Change.” Maybe even more than in the past, churches may not say much about Earth Day this year, for there are Christians (and a growing number of pastors) who reject the idea of climate change, at least as something that is being caused by or made worse by us humans.

The genesis of Earth Day is credited to Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005), a U.S. Senator (D-Wis.), who called for an environmental teach-in to be held on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year. It has been an annual observance ever since. But not everyone thinks that Earth Day is a good or necessary celebration—especially if it talks about such things as global warming.
Chris Mooney is a young (b. 1977) U.S. journalist and academic, a Yale University graduate who now focuses on writing about science and politics. His most recent book is “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality” (2012).
In the Introduction of his new book, Mooney makes reference to a recent survey which indicated that “only 18 percent of Republicans and Tea Party members accepted the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans” (pp. 6-7). “In other words,” Mooney goes ahead to say, “political conservatives have placed themselves in direct conflict with modern scientific knowledge, which shows beyond serious question that global warming is real and caused by humans” (p. 7, emphasis in original).
This issue of climate change continues to be a divisive issue among U.S. citizens in general and among Christians in particular. According to Conservapedia.com, global warming is a “liberal hoax.” (In case you don’t know, Conservapedia is written from a self-described American conservative and Christian point of view. The website was started in 2006 by Andrew Schlafly, son of the anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly, to counter what he called the liberal bias of Wikipedia.)
But can or should the problem of global warming be so easily brushed aside? Earlier this month the name of James Hansen was in the news. On April 2 a CBS headline said, “NASA climate scientist James Hansen quits to fight climate change.” Hansen (b. 1941) had been the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1981. Upon leaving NASA he said he planned to take a more active role in the political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases.
This is just one example of a multitude of top-notch scientists who have no doubt that global warming is real and caused by humans as Mooney declared. That is why I happy that Earth Day will widely observed on April 22, in spite of conservative Christians, and why I hope it will help more people face up to the fact of climate change and the necessity of us humans doing more to combat the dire consequences of that change.

13 comments:

  1. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)holds meetings for state legislatures and proposes actions to take back to their states. The ALEC has proposed the following, "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act." The act mandates a "balanced teaching of climate change in K-12 classes" The ALEC is funded in part by the fossil fuel industry--their balance will obviously give the same value to disputes by about 3% of scientists who oppose the thought humans cause climate change. Real balance against the 97%, no? And we used to ridicule the Russians from determinig history by political decisions.

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    1. Thanks for your pertinent comments, Les.

      Last month "Next Generation Science Standards" for public schools were announced and supported by 26 states. Those standards include teaching about the problem of global warming.

      As could be expected, there have been various conservative (Christian) groups who have spoken out and written in opposition to those new standards.

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    2. Teaching "balanced" science on climate change is like teaching "creation science" along with evolution. That is bad enough, but Leroy's point about pastors reflecting, not leading, their congregations seems more troubling somehow. "The views of pastors also parallel the opinion trend among Americans" is the conclusion in Leroy's link above. I just met the parents of a young person in our congregation who, starting nine years ago, have made a huge life-change to be more environmentally and socially conscious. They came to KC to lead a workshop on Friday at the Midwest Refugee Farmers Conference their daughter organized. The day before, they drove to Grand Island, NE, to testify against the Keystone XL pipeline. What a witness!

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    3. Thanks for your comments, Phil. I would like to have heard what was said at the Midwest Refugee Farmers Conference and to have met the couple who came to lead it.

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  2. Thinking Friend Norm Doeden, who now lives in Iowa but whom I knew as a friend and Lutheran missionary in Japan, writes (and I post this with his permission):

    "I agree with your thoughts on global warming and just wonder if you have any idea why people are so opposed to the concept of global warming. Is it only the economics of maybe it will cost me a little more for items or services needed? Is it so central to the Conservative's concept of everything is money driven and we want to keep all we can?

    "I cannot understand why someone would not agree with the thinking that if we can do anything to try and improve the climate and the environment, why should we not do it! Beyond me!"

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    1. Thanks for writing, Norm.

      Perhaps I am a bit cynical about this, but I think a lot of it stems from the fact that the global warming issue has been a Democrat thing, mainly since Al Gore took the lead in calling for concerted action to combat global warming.

      To the extent that global warming is seen as a Democratic issue, those who are (conservative) Republicans are going to oppose it maybe partly for economic reasons but probably primarily for political reasons.

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  3. Given the nature of the evidence, I can understand why there might be a scientist or two who wonder whether it really is human activity making a significant contribution to global warming. But if there are scientists who argue flatly absolutely that humans are not contributing to global warming, they do not deserve the moniker "scientist" at all. And I'm pretty dogmatic about that claim. :)

    The United Church of Christ, I know, has been pushing for the observation of Earth Day. I know because I've been inundated with emails to that effect. How many of our congregations are actually doing it, though, I don't know.

    I know a local Disciples pastor who argues that God won't let human beings destroy the environment. That pastor is quite politically and culturally conservative in other ways as well.

    I would suggest that the most compelling argument for reducing any human contribution to global warming is that, if we aren't the main contributors, at least we've cleaned up the environment some; nothing harmed by that. But if we are and don't repent, it would be disastrous indeed.

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    1. Thanks for posting your comments, Anton.

      I am not surprised that the UCC has been pushing the observation of Earth Day, and I assume that other "liberal" denominations and churches will be doing the same.

      The Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City has been advertising their "Earth Day Worship" service tomorrow, and at this point June and I are planning to attend it.

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  4. Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson sent the following comments that I post here with his permission. Even though he is just a few years older than I, he was one of my professors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he taught for many years.

    "We ignore global warming data at the risk of our human future. Denial by conservative Christians should not surprise me, I suppose, for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary now features a Creation Science Center, whose director says the earth can't be more than 7,000 years old! The seminary now trains ministers to teach church members to ignore and oppose scientific conclusions. How sad!"

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    1. My father is about as conservative as they come, yet as a life-long farmer, he lived by the philosophy "You must take care of the land if you expect it to take care of you." He did not mean that in terms of simple seasons or a few years. If the Lord tarries for a generation or a thousand generations, Pop expected his life work to honor the One he identified as Owner of it all. Pop saw himself as a steward of the land, never its owner. He taught me that through the years by word and deed. More power to Earth Day!Thinking more in terms of what we need rather than what we want means more for those who already have less. Whether mankind is the primary contributor to global warming or simply pushing along a natural process, seven billion people create a lot of carbon dioxide! (As a multi-degree graduate of Southern Seminary, I get more disappointed in that school every year.)

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    2. I much appreciated these comments by Tom, for I knew his father: he was a deacon in the church I served as pastor for over four years. And I knew Tom when he was a boy--in fact, I baptized him over 50 years ago!

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  5. Well, I listened carefully to my college-town church this morning to see if any mention was made of Earth Day. None at all. We are still in deep Easter mode; not a bad thing, but not Earth Day, either.

    As for the deep conservative opposition to global warming issues, I think most of it is economic. Conservatives are opposed to any need that requires spending money. When backed into a corner, they even accepted sequestration of the Pentagon!

    As for the religious dimension of the opposition, fundamentalism crossed the science Rubicon a long time ago. They argue from authority, not evidence, on a whole long list of issues. Adding one more issue to the list is a no-brainer. The alternative of painfully acknowledging and adjusting to science is just not in their strategy. They will accept some of the technological and tactical tools that have come from science, but not the science that developed them. I understand. Sometimes another piece of microwave pizza now is just so much more important than my health later. I shudder to think what that serpent could have done to Adam and Eve with a slice of pepperoni!

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    1. Craig, thanks for posting (as usual) thoughtful comments.

      Yes, perhaps the main reason for the Republican opposition to serious consideration of global warming is economic. And the general anti-science stance of fundamentalist Christians is likely to be a reason also.

      But I still can't help but think that much of it is political, an obligatory anti-Democratic, anti-Obama stance. To the extent that that is so, it is certainly sad that politics takes precedent over addressing a major worldwide problem in a constructive manner.

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