Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Excommunicating the Creation Stewards

At the Clothesline Report, we really try to avoid party politics.  We almost never mention the party affiliation of creation care advocates or their opponents.  We’ve been critical of Congressional climate deniers, but we were also tough on the President on matters like the Tar Sands pipeline.

But as much as we try to avoid the political parties, it seems that they keep finding us.

So with heavy heart, we note today that presidential candidate Rick Santorum has told the world – or at least strongly implied – that you can be a Christian (like us), or you can be an environmental advocate (like us also), but you can’t be both.  Here’s how it happened:

Two days ago, the Senator told supporters that President Obama embraced “some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”

Now even the most cynical political hacks consider outright attacks on an opponent’s religious belief to be off limits in America.  So by Sunday morning, Santorum was on “Face the Nation” explaining himself to CBS’s Bob Schiffer.  “So, Senator, I've got to ask you,” said the newsman. “What in the world were you talking about, Sir?”

“Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” replied Santorum.  “I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the Earth above man and says that, you know, we can't take those resources because we're going to harm the Earth by things that frankly are just not scientifically proven, for example, that politicization of the whole global warming debate, I mean, this is all an attempt to, you know, to centralize power and to give more power to the government.”

Hmm.  That’s a mouthful.

But let’s take this statement seriously.  It warrants a careful review.  First, you have a theology that is based on the Bible: presumably, the Senator’s got it. And then you’ve got theology that’s not: that would appear at first to be the President’s personal faith, but that’s not what he means.  Instead, the non-biblical theology is what those “radical environmentalists” are planning and doing about politicization of “global warming.” 

Now, who are these radical environmentalists?  They're the ones (like us) who take seriously the warnings about the threat of global warming and, I suppose, politicize it. Whatever their politics, they listen to the National Academy of Sciences; and the National Academies of all G8 countries plus China, Brazil, Mexico, India and South Africa; and NASA; and NOAA; and the U.S. Armed Services; and 97% of all climatologists; and the entire United Nations. All these authorities affirm the reality of climate change, and advocate sharp reductions in greenhouse gases.

And what is the real non-biblical goal of those radical environmentalists? “Centralize power and to give more power to the government.”

Later that day, Santorum shed even more light on what this “phony theology” really means: “You can call it a theology… but they want to impose it on everybody else while they insist and complain that somehow or another people of Judeo/Christian faith are intolerant of their new moral code.”

You got that, didn’t you?  At first, advocates for environmental justice (like us) aren’t “based on the Bible.”  But it gets worse:  Now we’re not even “Judeo/Christian.” The real Christians and Jews are the ones we complain about with our "new moral code."

Well, I don’t like being excommunicated from my faith.  Not one bit.

Rev. John Stott
But when I look around, I see some remarkable fellow outcasts.  For starters, there’s the late and great Rev. John Stott, who warned us in his final writings about climate change: “Of all the global threats that face our planet,” wrote this venerable man, “this is the most serious.” Is it possible? Was the saintly Stott mired in a “phony theology?”

Then there’s Rev. Leith Andersen, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.  He signed a declaration that stated:  “Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made.”

Andersen was joined by bestselling author Rev. Rick Warren, Rev. Jim Wallis (founder, Sojourners), and Rev. Ron Sider (founder, Evangelicals for Social Action) plus 300 other (formerly?) Christian leaders. They too signed the declaration. Do they too have a “phony theology?”

And then – oh! Look! – the 4,000 delegates from 200 countries who formed the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.  They affirmed the following commitment:   “Love for God’s creation demands that we repent of our part in the destruction, waste and pollution of the earth’s resources and our collusion in the toxic idolatry of consumerism.  We support Christians whose particular missional calling is to environmental advocacy and action (like us).” More phonies? Not Judeo/Christians?

Lausanne Congress: 4,000 delegates from the entire world
What's more, there are all those U.S. Catholic bishops!  They came together to commit themselves to the following covenant: “As faithful Catholics, we have a moral obligation to care for both Creation and the poor. Pope Benedict XVI insists, ‘Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions’ to curb climate change.” Are they too among the phonies?

You know, I don’t like being excommunicated by the Senator.  But as I look around at my fellow outcasts, it’s beginning to feel a tiny bit like the community of heaven. Who would have imagined that they were all conspiring to "give more power to the government?"

But let's look beyond the irony of it all.  Has anyone wondered at the mindset that hatched this line of reasoning? The narrative goes like this:  “It’s a political mistake to question the religious faith of one particular man.  So to cover our tracks, let’s just explain that we were only denying the spiritual legitimacy of people worldwide for whom creation care is a matter of allegiance to their God, and a matter of love to the millions who cling to the margins on an increasingly degraded planet.”

Does this sound right to you?

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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