Jesus Freaks for Climate Change
10 Aug, 2007 11:40 am
Today's Washington Post includes an exploration of a relatively recent trend among evangelical Christians: environmentalism, or more specifically, climate change activism. There's not a lot new here, as the story has been covered in some depth for the last year or so. But it's worth reviewing, because whatever your feelings about the notion of fundamentalists working within a secular campaign, it's beginning to look like these unlikely bedfellows are going to be spending a lot of time between the sheets.
As much as some would like to pretend otherwise, the civil rights movement in America was driven largely by people of faith. Martin Luther King Jr. did not make a habit of hiding his faith, and while his campaign was essentially secular, he could not have accomplished anywhere near what did come to pass without the community networks of the Black southern Baptist churches and their leaders.
From Juliet Eilperin's piece in the Post:
Peter A. Seligmann, chief executive of Conservation International, an Arlington-based nonprofit group that seeks to preserve terrestrial and marine biodiversity worldwide, asked himself what sector of society was best positioned to shift U.S. climate policy: "What bloc of people has enormous influence, especially on the Republican Party? That group of people is right-wing Christian evangelicals" -- who made up 24 percent of the U.S. electorate in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
With those kind of numbers, and the reluctance of fundamentalist Christians to embrace environmentalism in the past, it seems unlikely climate change mitigation strategies are unlikely to win broad support without converting those evangelicals hung up on "dominion" over the Earth.
So it is perhaps wise for non-religious campaigners to set aside their irreconcilable differences with those who irrationally oppose abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cells research and work together on the Herculean task that reducing carbon emissions to a level that will forestall catastrophic warming, sea level rise, oceanic acidification and a host other paradigmatic inconveniences associated with the consumption of fossil fuels will entail.
Among the first goals of this unholy alliance will be marginalizing the more extreme holdouts, the likes of James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Chuck "Watergate" Colson. I've no idea how to go about doing that. I'm sure it will be more difficult than sidelining those few African Americans who weren't fond of MLK's tactics, seeing as at least MLK and his rivals could agree on a fundamental goal. Making matters worse is the close relationship between individual Baptist congregations and corporate neighbors, who tend to be skeptical of climate change for obvious reasons.
But finding common ground and overcoming entrenched biases will be necessary. It is often said that climate change is a "moral issue." It's a trite phrase, as just about any public policy question is a moral issue at some level. But climatologists tell us that climate change will hit the poorest people first and hardest, especially those hundreds of millions who eke out a marginal living as fishers and farmers at or near sea level. Then there's the melting glaciers in the Himalyas, from which something like 40 percent of the world's population derives its drinking water. Once they're gone, the resulting water resource wars will make the apocalypse look like a church picnic.
If evangelicals are true to their convictions (admittedly no more or less certain for them than anyone else), then surely the plight of the poor should provoke some degree of activist sentiment. I hate to say it, but I think Jesus would be among the first to call for a carbon tax.
Originally posted by James Hrynyshyn on: The Island of Doubt