Monthly Archives: July 2013

Evangelical Scientists Urge Climate Action, Warn of Harm to the “Least of These”

I’ve long hoped for Christian scientists and scholars to take a public stand on climate change. Maybe that would debunk the climate-denial smoke-screens: that the science isn’t settled; or if it is, you can’t believe those godless scientists anyway.

That’s why I was so excited to see more than 200 evangelical scientists and scholars joining their voices on Wednesday to urge — to plead with — Congress to take action to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. Their message is so simple:

  • The creation is groaning under the weight of our over-use of fossil fuels;
  • The burden will fall most heavily on the poor and the vulnerable;
  • The Earth is already suffering and bearing enormous costs from human-induced climate change;
  • We are commanded to do no harm to our neighbors, but our national policies are harming the whole world;
  • The time for debate is over, and you must act now to protect God’s creation.
Dr. Calvin DeWitt, letter signatory, surveying climate change impacts in Kenya

Dr. Calvin DeWitt, letter signatory, surveying climate change impacts in Kenya

The complete text of the letter is reprinted below. Have a read; it’s short. And then ask yourself: If Christian scientists have spoken up, then how about Christian pastors, teachers, business professionals, students or [fill in your calling here]? Please, don’t let yourself be among the last Christians to get serious about the global assault on God’s good creation.

The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). Are you maybe what it’s been waiting for? Your scientist-brothers-and-sisters have spoken. Now it’s your turn. Continue reading

Can Evangelicals Explore Climate Warnings Without Fear?

Written by Rev. Charles Redfern
Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern: writer, pastor, activist

The coal mine’s canary is hacking, spitting, gasping, and turning blue – so yell at it.  Question its motives.  Tell it the fumes are imaginary.  Drop hints that it’s wheezing a heretical wheeze.

Cold reality prompts the canary’s cough.  Fact: The world’s glaciers are shrinking.  Fact: The polar ice caps are melting.  Fact: 2012 was America’s warmest recorded year and the world’s ninth hottest.[1]  Another fact: Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman discovered that 97% of all active climatologists are agreed – human activity spurs the Earth’s rising temperatures and glacial melting.[2]  Then there are the reports: A federal advisory draft released in January, 2013, predicted catastrophe unless policies change,[3] as did a World Bank warning in November, 2012.[4]  A recent UN study reveals that this century’s first decade was the hottest in 160 years.[5]

These facts and reports – as well as droughts and a super storm – resemble that poor canary, whose death signaled dangerous methane levels and the need for action.

This Is Easy

Surely evangelical Christians, my tribe, can explore this dilemma without fear. No historic creed is at stake and Scripture advocates creation care:  We’re the Lord’s designated stewards (Genesis 1:27-30).  We were called to “guard” God’s sanctuary (a more literal rendering of the wording in Genesis 2:15).  Our Earthly rule fits Walter Kaiser’s description: “The gift of ‘dominion’ over nature was not intended to be a license to use or abuse selfishly the created order in any way men and women saw fit. In no sense were humans to be bullies and laws to themselves.”[6]  Kaiser is right: God’s leadership motif is “help” (Psalm 121:1-2), and service (Matthew 20:28). Psalm 19:1-4 testifies to God’s glory in creation and Romans 8:18-22 looks forward to its redemption.  Kudos to Francis of Assisi, who cherished the animals and plants. Continue reading

Christian Heresy: Individualism in the Community of Creation

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses….”

Christians didn’t invent individualism. Maybe we could grant that distinction to Plutarch, the philosopher whose 1st century writings sowed the seeds that arguably gave birth to the Renaissance. But to hear many American evangelicals tell the story, you’d think that we came up with the idea.

Never mind that the Lord’s Prayer never bothers with “me” – our Father; give us; forgive us; lead us; deliver us…. Never mind that Jesus’ fervent prayer for his followers was that they would be one, as he and the Father are one. Or that the prototype Christian community after Jesus’ resurrection featured no private property, but all followers possessed everything in common as they had need.

Even so, in many of our families and churches, the prevalent view is mostly about “God and me,” or perhaps the other way around. God has a wonderful plan for my life; I receive Christ as my personal savior; my faith – not my church’s – saves me; daily prayer is time alone with God; Christ shall come … and take me home….

And this “me-not-us” mindset spills over into our community life as well, doesn’t it? We love our country, but largely to the extent that it leaves us alone. Don’t interfere with my privacy, my property, my pursuit of happiness. Don’t draft me, don’t tax me, and don’t regulate me. I can stand my ground; I can secure my borders; I can speak my mind, even if you don’t like it much.

Jefferson: patron saint of American individualism?

Jefferson: patron saint of American individualism?

Best-selling author and Christian leader Tony Campolo recently called out the heresy of heightened individualism in a book he co-wrote with Shane Claiborne. “Jesus did not call us into individualism as much as into community. It is in the context of community, according to Scripture, that we discover our individual gifts and callings and discover how we are to make our unique contribution to the well-being and blessing of all.”

In this, Campolo echoes Martin Luther King, who said decades earlier: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

I’m afraid, however, that American evangelicals aren’t listening all that well. At least we older ones are often the staunchest defenders of the dreary individualist ethos.  Continue reading

Extreme Weather: The Climate-Chaos Tax

As I prepared to leave Prince Edward Island last week, I said my goodbyes as many of my new  agroforester-friends headed back to their homes across the U.S. and Canada.

There was Valerie, headed back to Alaska where the mercury had just topped 96 degrees Fahrenheit, smashing all prior records, hotter than Miami in many parts of the state. There was a large contingent headed back to Calgary, where the Bow and Elbow Rivers had inundated Canada’s fourth-largest city in a devastating flood. Many were on their way to the American Southwest, trapped in a record heat wave and an unrelenting multi-year drought, with wildfires raging over 1.8 million acres so far this year. (In less than one week, nineteen elite firefighters would lose their lives fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona.)

Calgary's rivers overwhelmed the city

Calgary’s rivers overwhelmed the city

Others were headed back to Texas, whose climate-denying governor, Rick Perry, had just renewed and extended his two-year-old emergency drought declaration to 200 counties, as drought conditions persisted over 95 percent of the parched state.

Back at my hotel, the breakfast-room attendant held forth with surprising knowledge on the prospect that climate change was splitting beautiful PEI into two separate islands, as rising sea levels flood and erode the island’s picturesque coastlines. On the other side of the world, the 68,000 islanders who inhabit the Pacific Marshall Islands battled the rising seas, as high tides surged over the seawalls defending the tiny nation’s capital and flooded the airport.

When I arrived at the Charlottestown-PEI airport, the TV news splashed graphic images of countless Indians stranded in churning water, as the Ganges River claimed more than 1,000 victims in a record monsoon flood. The prior week, floods on rivers too numerous to name had ravaged Warsaw and Budapest, among many other cities in Germany, Austria, Poland and other European countries.

Maybe you’ve noticed too? Extreme weather is all over the news, practically all the time. Perhaps you’ve wondered if the media is just finally reporting on bad weather that’s been there all along? Continue reading