Vail Daily column: Environment’s care splits Christians
An Evangelical Christian minority supports the environmental science of global warming. Au Sable Institute in Wisconsin refers to environmental protection as “creation care.” These Christians regard global warming as a human threat. Third World poor people face the brunt of this scourge. Rising temperatures cause hurricanes, drought and flooding that destroy their crops and homes.
In contrast, most Evangelicals who follow President Donald Trump endorse his pull-out of the Paris climate agreement. This global commitment pledges to reduce human-induced pollution to zero by this century’s end. Why do Trump Evangelicals fail to acknowledge that global warming is real? The president has dismissed all of this talk about doing something about rising temperatures as “a hoax.” Evangelical Oklahoma Republican James M. Imhoff, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, believes global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people.”
These Evangelicals admit that 2016 ranked the hottest on record and that 90 percent of this heat melts glaciers and churns oceans into super storms. They are skeptical of the scientific consensus, however, that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of climate warming.
Such changes are naturally cyclical, counter conservatives. Sometimes temperatures dip for long stretches; then they heat up throughout many years. Wait out this latest uptick in global hot blasts, they advise. Other Evangelicals give some ground, conceding carbon emissions from human activity cause warming, but the incidence is too small to make much impact on climate. Such anti-science skepticism flatly contradicts conclusions from the EPA, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Rejection of evidence supporting global warming is rooted in deep-seated Evangelical suspicion of science. Richard Cizik, who headed the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), prior to pro-environmental views getting him fired, tells why Christians often distrust science. “There is a basic formula that goes: science supports evolution, Evangelicals oppose evolution, ergo there’s a conflict between science and Evangelicals. Evolution is like the third rail — if you touch it, you die — sorta like Social Security.”
Other Christians hold a healthy respect for scientific inquiry. They believe God’s revelation runs on two parallel rails: Scripture, which is called “Special Revelation,” and Nature, known as “General Revelation.” These revelations talk to each other and correct each other’s mistakes.
Evangelicals prefer literal scriptural interpretations over what Nature reveals. Some disparage Henry Thoreau as a heretical tree-hugger who spouted New Age nonsense at Walden Pond, declaring that “in wildness (Nature) is the salvation of the world.”
Trump Evangelicals who reject the Paris climate agreement substitute faith in free-market capitalism for science. Global environmental treaties depend on governments’ cooperation, whereas Evangelicals prefer individuals’ green initiatives to clean up the Earth. They believe reduced carbon emissions by individual effort and technological advance without government and labor union intervention eradicates pollution and poverty.
A Hebrew story-teller imagines Creation’s dawn. Humanity’s representatives Adam and Eve “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Such “dominion” does not mean to dominate, rule recklessly, usurp or damage Nature for profit or pleasure.
President Trump justified rejecting the Paris climate treaty by wrongly claiming China and India as the “world’s leading polluters.” He poisons the truth because China and the U.S. emit the most carbon dioxide. Our nation tops all countries by having the biggest per capita emissions.
Trump’s proposal for cutting better business deals on our own to stall climate change won’t clean up the mess. Having mutual respect for teachings of Scripture and science is a healthier, wiser starting point for keeping the Earth environmentally hospitable.
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries, (http://www.thelivinghistory.com) which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.