The Glass Darkly

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Caring for God's Creation

Thanks to Brian Miller for bringing this topic up in his blog, Just an Apprentice. After reading the links, I had to journal my analysis, though long, of the two voices.

In an Open Letter to the signers of “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action” and Others Concerned About Global Warming, members of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance wrote the following letter, “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming” in which they say they also present data, arguments, and sources favoring a different perspective on the issue of human (and more specifically a Christian) response to the issues of environmental decay. Signers of both documents represent evangelical Christians who say they recognize God's call to stewardship of Creation, however each takes a drastically different view of what that means. In my opinion, each presents "data and proof" in different ways too. I decided to outline my critique of ISA's views:

I admit my strong bias, supporting the views of the first document because it acknowledges the extensive scientific research which has been done within ecological communities all over the Earth, not just among humans. Scientists have compiled enormous amount of data about living things (plants, animals, fungi, and tiny single-celled living things including diseases) and non-living essentials (water, soil, climate, etc.) and how the human exploitation of the Earth has impacted each. Data at this level is easily extrapolated to help us predict what will happen if the population of the Earth continues to grow at the same rate and continues its harmful practices of living. This is where the concepts of global warming and environmental decay have emerged and "thank you" to the scientific community for speaking out on the truth!!!

The group, ISA, says they have their own data and proof that shows the scientific community is exaggerating its claims. But I found no data to support ISA's views. In fact ISA included the following statement in their letter:

Natural causes may account for a large part, perhaps the majority, of the global warming in both the last thirty and the last one hundred fifty years, which together constitute an episode in the natural rising and falling cycles of global average temperature. Human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are probably a minor and possibly an insignificant contributor to its causes.

Is that what they mean by scientific evidence/data and proof from their own studies? And where is their proof of the following? I would love some concrete examples.

Government-mandated carbon dioxide emissions reductions not only would not significantly curtail global warming or reduce its harmful effects but also would cause greater harm than good to humanity–especially the poor–while offering virtually no benefit to the rest of the world’s inhabitants.

Genesis does show us that God created the beautiful Earth and then told man to "rule" over it and "subdue" it. I just can't interpret that to mean, however, that we can do whatever we want as humans for the good of humans. Does "rule over" appeal to our human desire for power? Does it give permission for our natural human tendencies to exploit what we have been given? This group, Interfaith Stewardship Alliance (ISA), interprets Gen. 1:26-28 by saying:

The stewardship God gave to human beings over the earth–to cultivate and guard the garden (Genesis 2:15) and to fill, subdue, and rule the whole earth (Genesis 1:28)–strongly suggests that caring for human needs is compatible with caring for the earth. As theologian Wayne Grudem put it, “It does not seem likely to me that God would set up the world to work in such a way that human beings would eventually destroy the earth by doing such ordinary and morally good and necessary things as breathing, building a fire to cook or keep warm, burning fuel to travel, or using energy for a refrigerator to preserve food.”

This statement reveals two very fundamental reasons why many Christians do not see caring for the environment as God's work. First of all, this group identifies humans as the center of Creation rather than God's loving act of creation itself which brings Him glory. In other words, ISA's statement implies that God's first 5 days of work were only to serve the needs of the humans, who were created on the 6th day.

Perhaps this group has forgotten that each day God saw what He had made and was delighted in it. ISA mentions Gen. 2:15 where God said he put man in the garden to take care of the garden. I am puzzled at their interpretation of this... was it so Adam would have enough food for himself and his family? Or was God's vision bigger than that ... so that the garden would continue to be fruitful as God originally created it, not just so that Adam could use up all the resources for himself. The latter reason seems a bit selfish to me, the idea that all of God's work in Creation was for Us, to serve Us, rather than it being for God, Himself. Is not the task of all of Creation to bring God glory, not just sustain itself until "the End" or serve the needs of humans? This shows me that some Christians think humans are the greatest of the created beings and perhaps we think too highly of ourselves ... ???

Secondly, I see the quote above revealing the socio-economic status of the writers and most of the Christian supporters of this view. Though much of the total letter talks a lot about our need to consider how conserving the environment will affect the poor, the examples mentioned assume that all humans need the types of luxuries we have in the West. Another quote from the letter:

But for the world’s two billion or more poor people, who can barely afford sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to sustain life, and who are without electricity and the refrigeration, cooking, light, heat, and air conditioning it can provide, it can mean the difference between life and death.

What is it the poor really need to live???? Do most people in the third world crave refrigeration and airconditioning? No - they have always lived and continue to live without it. What do they really need????Clean water, trees, forests, productive fields uncontaminated food. Why don't they have it? Not because of the economic difficulties of curtailing pollution but because of the laziness of those of us in the West who would rather invest in our own economy (of SUV's, travel, huge homes to both heat and cool, etc.). ISA says that one of the best things we should be about as Christians is keeping our economy strong so that energy prices stay low. Obviously that helps us, but it is beyond me how they think this helps the poor in the world who hardly use any energy.

This statement was obviously written by wealthy people of the West who are twisting the plight of the poor to justify their own gluttonous lifestyles and tell us that efforts to care for God's world are, in the end, "futile" because "whatever efforts we undertake to stem our small contributions to it would needlessly divert resources from much more beneficial uses" in "wealthier societies." This attitude makes me sick to my stomach when I think of all the money I could put toward research on transportation that produces lower emmissions, instead of filling my gas tank!, or my tax money that went toward supporting a war which caused major oil spills, when I could have donated it to clean-up efforts or better technology in energy production.

The letter from ISA concludes with this:

In light of all the above, the most prudent response is not to try (almost certainly unsuccessfully and at enormous cost) to prevent or reduce whatever slight warming might really occur. It is instead to prepare to adapt by fostering means that will effectively protect humanity–especially the poor–not only from whatever harms might be anticipated from global warming but also from harms that might be fostered by other types of catastrophes, natural or manmade.

So ISA concludes by saying we need to protect ourselves from the very Creation they started out claiming God gave us to rule over and enjoy??? I am very confused. Apparently we can't expect the peace and redemption of the world, of all Creation, God says will happen through Christ. Christ has provided redemption for God's people who are called to participate in the redemption of Creation.

The question I come away with from this letter is, "what is it that we, as Christians, should be striving to preserve? ... ourselves and our own pretection or the honor and glory that God deserves from His Creation?"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Good Leadership

It is so refreshing to read news by the Brits or the Canadians or any other English press, for that matter. I like being able to read about my own country through the eyes of others in the world , reading about the US in 3rd person.

This British General sure is laying his opinions out in the open...not that I agree with everything he says. But I wonder how this kind of voice would be received in Washington. Another absolutely refreshing thing to watch is Parliament sessions on Downing Street. I think most Americans would see British parliamentarians as somewhat disrespectful to the Prime Minister in many cases. But if I had to choose between politics where intentions are hidden or devised and questioning the leader is seen as disrespectful versus politics where you just "have it out," speaking what you really think, I think I'd take the latter. I still struggle with my American side that has taught me to protect the respect of my leaders and part of showing respect and trust is following what they say. But as I reflect more on what makes a good leader and follower, I realize that being a good follower does not mean unquestionable obedience.

Any leader who only wants or demands that everyone agree with him/her is not a good leader. Rather I respect those leaders who are willing to surround themselves with dissenting voices in order that they can better assess and critique the situation in which their decisions are crucial.

Right now is another test for Washington - is Washington willing to listen to the dissenting voices in the international community in order to gain a broader perspective on what is going on with North Korea or how the US can respond? Or will the US decide to use the same hammer on North Korea it has been using in most other international conflicts the last six years? Will the US demand, once again, unquestioning followers by saying, "you are either with us or against us."

Abraham Maslow once commented: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail." Wouldn't it be refreshing to try out new tools? Or better yet, if we learned how to use other tools, maybe not every conflict will look like a nail. It is frustrating to see leaders that are limited in the tools they know how to use and are unwilling to take the time to learn how to use new ones. What's just as troubling is when our leaders ignore any possible wisdom in the dissenting voices and thus close their eyes to important aspects of the total situation, in this case, a global concern.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Reality of Diversity

We could learn a lot from crayons.
Some are sharp.
Some are pretty and some are dull.
Some have weird names
And all are different colors.
But they all have to live in the same box.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Seasons of Change

A bunny emerged from his hole one day
And sensed a change in the air
The squirrels chattered in the trees above
But his meadow was quiet and bare.

He perched himself on the crest of his hill
Looking around at the sparkling dew
The flowers and leaves were starting to change
To more of a golden hue.

Even the groundhogs that usually stopped for a visit
Were running about and busy
The song birds were fewer and crickets were quiet
While the crows cackled all in a tizzy.

The change in the colors and crispness of air
Were signs of a pending gloom
Walnuts and acorns were being put into store
For winter would be here soon.

The warmth of summer was turning to cold
When friends stay indoors on their own.
Bunny sadly realized that the change of the season
Meant soon he'd be left all alone.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Love for the World

". . . If you lessen your anger at the structures of power, you lower your love for the victims of power."

William Sloane Coffin (June 1, 1924 - April 12, 2006)