Faith and Climate Change Scepticism: Competing Christian theologies of Environmental Stewardship
Faith and Climate Change Scepticism:Competing Christian theologies ofEnvironmental Stewardship Rich Harris
E-mail, Dec. 12th, 2012 The Christmas season brings images of many things, one of the most popular being the North Pole, where jolly St. Nick wraps presents with his elves. Thanks to the Coca-Cola Corporation, Santa now hangs out with sunglass-wearing, Coca-Cola- drinking polar bears frolicking in their winter wonderland. Slick. But it can never be enough simply to laugh at anthropomorphic, goofy animal antics. These animal antics have a purpose—to push the environmentalist agenda, using cuddly polar bears. Recently the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnered with Coca-Cola to fund polar bear conservation, though the bear is already on the Endangered Species List. All this political grandstanding happens despite the increase in polar bear populations by a factor of four or five in the last 60 years.
Behind the false claims about polar endangerment lies the scientific fallacy of substituting the output of models for real- world observations. Polar bears are flourishing, but population models that assume catastrophic melting of Arctic ice falsely conclude they’re losing hunting grounds—and if they‘re losing hunting grounds, surely they must be diminishing in number, right? But they‘re not. Obviously, something is wrong. The greater problem isn‘t the faulty science that the WWF and a confab of environmental activists use to falsely bemoan the impending doom of polar bears. The greater problem is using such faulty science to impose economically harmful environmental regulations on mankind. Fear mongering is just another way to break the commandment, ―You shall not bear false witness.‖ The Cornwall Alliance fights anti-human policies and anti- Biblical views of nature, while promoting economic development, especially for the very poor.
Faith, religion and belief matter ―What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny – that is, by religion.‖ ―Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must all be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not.‖ – The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis (White, 1967) – A churchman worried by the impact of a particular (presumed dominant) Christian theology in causing the ecological crisis of the 1960s
The argument That modern science is an extrapolation of natural theology. That (in the Creation story) Christian theology establishes a dualism of ―man and nature‖ and ―that it is God‘s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.‖ That science and technology have joined ―to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects are out of control.‖ ―Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.‖
Nevertheless... The Creation story is enduring – If you go to http://www.cornwallalliance.org/ you will get a video presenting Genesis 1 Narrative is powerful, story-telling holds our imaginations and shapes our experiences. ―Narratives form our reality. We become their vessels.‖ – Carolyn Merchant, Reinventing Eden (2003) Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy and Ethics ad the University of California, Berkeley.
A Recovery of Eden narrative Take a Christian theology of – Eden (paradise), the Fall (Adam and Eve), salvation (Christ), paradise (Heaven) – and Genesis 1: 28 And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (emphasis added)
A first Recovery of Eden narrative Linking with – New World explorations, the Scientific Revolution and European Enlightenment Becomes – a narrative of redemption, of recreation, of taming nature, of a new Eden on Earth – A moral and ethical imperative to do so Manifest Destiny
A first Recovery of Eden narrative ―This story has propelled countless efforts by humans to recover Eden by turning wilderness into garden, ―female‖ nature into civilised society, and indigenous folkways into modern culture. Science, technology, and capitalism have provided the tools, male agency the power and impetus. Today‘s incarnations of Eden are the suburbs, the mall, the clone, and the World Wide Web.‖
Other Perspectives Kearns (1996), for example, identifies three main ―ecotheological ethics‖ – Christian Stewardship ethic – Eco-justice ethic – Christian spirituality ethic Kearns, L., 1996. Saving the Christian Creation: Christian Environmentalism in the United States
The stewardship ethic of Genesis 2 Merchant recognises the stewardship ethic of Genesis 2: 15 – And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And without this, – ―Dominion theology simply doesn‘t grasp the vision and purpose of the Genesis story and, in fact, contradicts it. It is a false theology used for the malicious interests of environmental destruction in the name of so-called progress.‖ Wallis (2008)
The stewardship ethic of Genesis 2 Unfortunately, Genesis 2 has tended to be subsumed by Genesis 1. And the meaning of ―stewardship‖ is easily contested (/ subverted).
Cornwall Alliance – ‗For the Stewardship of Creation‘ www.cornwallalliance.org Read the Cornwall Declaration (2000) – http://www.cornwallalliance. org/articles/read/the- cornwall-declaration-on- environmental-stewardship/ See: – http://www.resistingthegree ndragon.com/
The Cornwall Declaration (2010) Many people mistakenly view humans as principally consumers and polluters rather than producers and stewards. Consequently, they ignore our potential, as bearers of God‘s image, to add to the earth‘s abundance. Many people believe that ―nature knows best,‖ or that the earth — untouched by human hands — is the ideal. Such romanticism leads some to deify nature or oppose human dominion over creation. While some environmental concerns are well founded and serious, […] Some unfounded or undue concerns include fears of destructive man-made global warming, overpopulation, and rampant species loss. Public policies to combat exaggerated risks can dangerously delay or reverse the economic development necessary to improve not only human life but also human stewardship of the environment.
E-mail, Sep. 13th, 2012 Here are a few specific activities you can pray for […] Statewide Christian Leaders‘ Advisory Councils: A forum for pastors and other Christian leaders to cooperate to guard their flocks from the spiritual and material threats posed by radical environmentalism while promoting Biblical Earth stewardship. Cornwall Media Outreach: […] to communicate our message of Biblical Earth stewardship, economic development for the poor, and the proclamation and defense of the gospel of Christ. This, of course, is in a world permeated by an environmental movement whose worldview, theology, and ethics are generally anti-Christian, whose science and economics are often very poor, and whose policies typically are of little real help to the natural world but harm the world’s poor while reducing prosperity for everyone.
Acton media – www.effectivestewardship.comEffective Stewardship DVD Published by the Action Institute – ―for the study of religion and liberty‖ – www.acton.org Online trailer – http://www.effectivestewardshi p.com/stewardship-of-the- environment What are the themes and ideologies underlying this presentation?
The Acton Institute ―For the study of religion and liberty‖ 274,497 likes on Facebook! Core Principles: ―Integrating Judeo-Christian Truths with Free Market Principles‖ Publications include: Journal of Markets and Morality (peer reviewed) 2011 Faith and Freedom Award Honoree: Lady Margaret Thatcher Acton University: ―an ecumenical conference of pastors, seminarians, educators, non-profit managers, business people and philanthropists from more than 50 countries.‖ – Sessions include: Property Rights in the Old Testament, Market Economics and the Family, Why Adam Smith matters, Stewardship 101, …
Money, Greed and God (Jay Richards, 2009)1) Is the planet warming? – Probably. [But] there‘s plenty of debate, no consensus. We‘re actually cooler than in the year 1000.2) If warming, is human activity causing it? – An increase in carbon dioxide leads to more plant growth. Recent data suggest that it‘s also gotten warmer of Mars. ExxonMobil [et al.] didn‘t cause that. Predictions of global warming is done by assumptions plugged into computer models, not direct evidence. The prudential answer is ―we don‘t know‖
Money, Greed and God (Jay Richards, 2009)3) If warming, and we‘re causing it, is it bad? – No, it‘s not. The total might be a net gain. Little reason to assume some warming would be bad [cites Lomborg]4) If warming, we‘re causing it and bad, would policies advocated make a difference? – Unless we are interested in practicing random acts of piety that don‘t do anything except squander money … we should be skeptical of the Kyoto Protocol and other similar attempts to restrict carbon emissions by fiat.
Contested words and meanings Is ―Stewardship‖ the new ―Wise Use‖?
A Broad History of Wise Use The phrase is attributed to Gifford Pinochet who became chief forester of the nation under (Teddy) Roosevelt‘s Presidency. Pinochet believed in the ―wise use‖ of resources to be utilised to meet people‘s needs but was also a conservationist believing government control of forests was required to stop the destructive practices of big logging companies.
A Broad History of Wise Use But counter to Pinochet the Wise Use movement campaigned on: – Resource production on federal lands – Property rights ―takings‖ – Environmental (de)regulations
Wise Use, GOP and the Christian Right ―There are increasingly close ties between those who subscribe to the ideas of Wise Use and members of fundamentalist Christian churches and organizations.‖ – Divine Destruction (Hendricks, 2005) ―[Pat] Robertson helped make anti-environmentalism acceptable within the ranks of the fundamentalist clergy and the mainstream of the Republican Party. Beginning in 1991, Robertson and the Christian Coalition‘s then executive director Ralph Reed, now an official with the Bush campaign, put their media and organisational clout at the disposal of the Wise Use agenda.‖ – Crimes Against Nature (Kennedy Jr., 2004)
But, Shifting Sands… Read the statement at http://christiansandclimate.org/s tatement/ Claim 1: Human-Induced Climate Change is Real – Claim 2: The Consequences ofClimate Change: An Climate Change Will BeEvangelical Call to Action Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest – Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem – Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now.
A project of The Alliance for Climate Protection, founded by Al Gore.wecansolveit.org It has the support of Pat Robertson (cf. Christian Coalition) – Watch the short YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=NhmpsUMdTH 8 Now superseded by http://climaterealityproject .org
Some Conclusions There are overlapping interests between the Christian Right and a neoconservative political agenda. Their environmental policies may be influenced by a ―dominion‖ reading of Genesis 1 (and possibly even an end times eschatology), though there are other more compelling explanations for their actions.
Neoconservatism and Nature Whilst theologies of the environment are still contested (see, for example, www.we-get-it.org or The Action Institute), the increasingly dominant narrative is based on the partnership ethic of Genesis 1 and 2 and linked to social justice But there is more to be studied on the influence of economically rightwing religious organisations and networks on ethics and the environment.