March 07, 2007

Evangelicals and Global Warming. Living out our beliefs?

There has been a lot of attention by evangelicals to the topic of global warming of late. And I think this is a fascinating topic, for a number of reasons. But the thing I most want to reflect on is the connection between beliefs and actions. J. P. Moreland, in Love Your God with All Your Mind, talks about how our beliefs shape our actions, and how our actions are a very good indicator of what we really believe. And I wonder how this relates to the dialogue about global warming. What is it that we actually believe about God's creation and our place and role in it. Do we really believe that the whole universe is God's creation, and do we really believe that we are supposed to be stewards of it? If we do, it would seem like protecting the environment would be a high priority. It would seem like destructive behaviors by human beings would fall under the rubric of sin, because they go against our creational mandate. So if we really believed this, it would seem that we could have our actions fit with our stated beliefs, and work for a sustainable way of life. And conversely, if we don't consider a sustainable lifestyle to be a priority, what does that say about our understanding of salvation and our relation to creation? It would seem to emphasize a "we're out of here" approach to creation that doesn't fully engage with our role as part of God's creation, which yearns toward that day when God will make all things new, including a new heaven and a new earth.

I was troubled to read a release from Focus on the Family and James Dobson yesterday condemning NAE vice president Richard Cizik. According to Dobson, he is too focused on environmental concerns to properly represent the evangelical community. And Dobson is quick to emphasize that not all evangelicals agree with scientists that global warming is an immenent threat to the environment or that it is caused by humans. My first response would be Yes, not all evangelicals agree, but would that exact same logic totally derail Dobson's complaint. Yes, Dr. Dobson, not all evangelicals agree that global warming is a major problem, but at the same time not all evangelicals agree with you that it isn't. Must the NAE agree with you? I would hope evangelicals can move toward the ability to dialogue on issues like this, instead of trying to redraw boundaries to exclude our opponents.

I further think that Dr. Dobson has reverted to some very unfourtunate rhetoric in his attempt to discredit Cizik, when he and other leaders ask, in their letter to the NAE, "how is population control going to be achieved, if not by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young and even by infanticide in China and elsewhere? Is this where Richard Cizik would lead us?" Now, I don't know Cizik personally, nor have I read anything he has written, but I'm sure I'm safe to say he isn't going to come out anytime soon to advocate infanticide! I myself am quite convinced that global warming is a legedimate problem. But I'm not even close to forfeiting all my beliefs about the sanctity of life or sexual ethics. In fact, I would argue that concern for global warming and for global issues like population control is a sanctity-of-life issue. If we really value the lives of all people on earth, we will recognize the threat environmental and population problems may pose to masses of impoverished people over the next decades. How is that not a Christian perspective? I hope my concern for these issues is a genuine living out of my Christian beliefs. And I hope that I can learn more and more and seek God more and more so that my beliefs and my practices are in conformity with God's will.

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