It's part of my daily routine: plug "climate change news" into the Google bar and follow my nose until I find something that cries out for a 150-word response.
I'm closing in on 1000 consecutive climate letters since I began on January 1, 2010. It's a good thing I like writing, because the subject matter is invariably so damned depressing.
Today's was rather unusual. Examine, if you will, this head-scratcher, from the Christian Post:
When it comes to the issue of global warming, the label conservative and liberal won't necessarily help you determine if an evangelical Christian is a proponent or skeptic. Why? Because even within the inner core of conservative evangelical circles people are divided over the issue, with both sides asserting that science is clearly on their side. Take The Christian Post, for example: Dr. Richard Land, CP's executive editor, is among those who are skeptical that humans tip the scales toward global warming, while Dr. Joel C. Hunter, CP's senior editorial adviser, believes controlling human behavior may be in order.Yeesh.
Moreover, the prospects for a global decision to control carbon because of warming have dropped precipitously over the last three years because of a worldwide economic downturn, much to the consternation of evangelical and secular activists alike. Skeptics are delighted. But activists also point to a recent article in The New Yorker, which reports that President Barack Obama will make climate change a priority if he gets elected to a second term.
So which side is correct? And how should Christians view the future of the global warming debate, both inside the Christian community and out?
These god-botherers make my guts tired. Leave aside the inherent absurdity of an evangelical climate-change denier referring to himself or herself as a "skeptic," and contemplate this aspect of the equation: forty percent of people in this country (according to a Pew poll) believe that the Rapture is coming (that's not the same number that believed in Harold Camping's date, of course — setting a date for Armageddon would be totally irrational!)
Here's how I see it:
You're allowed to believe anything you like about what's going to happen to the world; it's a free country, more or less.
I welcome any Abrahamist True Believer who feels that an imminent Apocalypse makes it incumbent to preserve Earth until such time as the Bearded Thunderer decides to give us all a damn good whacking. That's playing fair, in my book. If there are evangelical environmentalists who are genuinely concerned about climate change, I'll gladly buy them a cup of coffee, or whatever they desire.
But if you believe in some sort of massive-destruction-via-divine-agency, it violates the social compact if you assist the destruction through a secular mechanism (burning up all your coal).
Hence my letter for today (which will appear on my website 11 days from now — I'm ahead of the curve):
When it comes to climate change, believers face two crucial questions.I think the likelihood of their printing it is only marginally greater than the Rapture itself, but it sure felt good to write.
The first addresses their relationship to scientific expertise: since climatologists are, in effect, planetary physicians, can members of the faith community accept the data and analyses of climate scientists just as they accept the advice of a medical specialist?
The second addresses an pillar of many Christian faiths: are believers who eagerly anticipate the Rapture ready to concede that our civilization is instead threatened by global warming — a wholly profane immolation of believers and infidels alike?
As an atheist, I’ll take my chances with an End Times of genuinely Divine origin, but describing a civilizational collapse caused by industrial CO2 emissions as a fulfillment of the Book of Revelations is the eschatological equivalent of cheating at solitaire. If evangelicals look forward to the End Times, they must combat climate change, lest they find themselves fooled by a secular Apocalypse.
For those with the taste for further discussion of this meta-depressing subject, you are invited to visit my discussion of Competitive Eschatology and Climate Change, found both here at the GOS and at my own blog.
Thoughts and reflections?