Saturday, March 12, 2005

God for Greens?

A long awaited movement may finally have stirred in its sleep.

The New York Times reports that a small cohort of evangelical Christian leaders is calling on the flock to act on global warming. The arguments run the biblical gamut, from interpreting stewardship as conservation to suggesting that it is Christlike to protect the poor from environmental degradation.

Whatever their reasoning, I hope this is a sign of change. The divide between environmentalists and evangelicals has always seemed incongrous; an environmentalist might argue for earth on its own merits while an evangelical views earth as a gift to be used judiciously, but the point remains the same. Global warming is threatening biological life, from phytoplankton and polar bears to humans, and as sentient, highly conscious life forms, it is our obligation to mitigate the damage. (Contrary to popular belief in the US, the majority of the world has accepted the science behind global warming, and anyone who disregards mounting evidence should have a talk with residents of the Arctic.)

My concern, however, is that these evangelical leaders will not be able to reach people like the woman who sat behind me on the plane to Maryland. She told a seatmate that she didn't worry about environmental problems because they were all part of God's plan; personal salvation was all that mattered, and anything beyond that was out of her control.

This seems like a beautiful way to avoid feeling responsible for a host of problems, and it's not a mantra exclusively repeated by evangelicals. It's something we all say, one way or another, trying to convince ourselves that we shouldn't feel guilty about war-torn Darfur or ecologically devastated Ecuador. Whether we attribute the turmoil to God or to human greed and capitalism, the fact of the matter is that no one wants to accept culpability -- because what the hell would we do? And who is going to listen to a handful of Christian leaders asking what Jesus would drive when it's so much easier to turn the key in the Excursion and drive to the grocery store? Yet, nothing is going to change if we choose denial over action, if we continue to insist that nothing short of a divine hand could get us out of the mess we're in today. That prophecy will come true if we keep sitting on our couches at night, clucking sympathetically at the hungry kids on tv.

I hope these religous leaders get through where others have failed. In a globalizing world, maybe people will finally see that we have more in common with each other than we think. In the end, we all live on the same planet, and that rocket ship to Mars doesn't look like it's made it off the White House lawn.

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