Evangelical Christians know that caring for God's creation is a scriptural imperative.
BY: the Rev. Jim Ball
Are irrational and dangerous end-of-the-world views of conservative Christians-"the earth is going to be burned up anyway, so why care for it"-behind the environmental policies of our Republican-controlled federal government?
Put aside for a moment any thoughts about whether the presuppositions behind this thesis are correct, because the "secret" has now been exposed by Glenn Scherer, an investigative reporter for the online environmental magazine Grist, in an article provocatively titled "The Godly Must Be Crazy."
But wait, there's more. The Grist "exposé" was catapulted into the national spotlight when veteran journalist Bill Moyers made it the centerpiece of a speech on December 1 in New York City that was subsequently excerpted in numerous newspapers, including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Oakland Tribune, the Miami Herald, and the Indianapolis Star.
Many readers were troubled by factual errors in the Grist article, and the website has run a
regarding one blatant inaccuracy: Scherer's claim that James Watt, the first Secretary of the Interior in the Reagan administration, told a congressional hearing that there was no need to worry about preserving natural resources because "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." Moyers, who had repeated the apocryphal quote in his speech, later issued a correction. Nevertheless, his speech was already part of the environmentalist canon.
I have been an appreciative reader of Grist since its inception. And I have admired some of the work of Bill Moyers. But they really blew it this time.
The Scherer/Moyers storyline belongs in the fiction-is-stranger-than-truth category. While they have captured a lot of attention with a disturbing and salacious conspiracy theory, it is neither accurate nor helpful.
In fact, the Grist article's thesis provides a perverse form of comfort to those who view conservative Christians warily, confirming what they already believe: "I always knew those people were crazy." It also provides a scapegoat for explaining bad public policy: "Well, at least I know who to blame for wrecking the environment."
Most disturbing, the Scherer/Moyers attack on evangelicals gives cover to the environment's true enemies. Anti-environmental industry leaders aware of the Scherer-Moyers "end-times" argument must be laughing all the way to the bank, as attention is deflected from them toward conservative Christians.
There are indeed barriers to evangelicals embracing environmental issues or creation-care, including for some their end-times views. The real question that should have been addressed by Scherer and Moyers is, what are the most important barriers to evangelicals caring for God's creation? And a follow-up would be, what is keeping evangelicals and environmentalists from working together to care for the environment? A good starting point for Scherer and Moyers could have been, "Why do evangelicals dismiss creation-care as a liberal concern when the Bible calls them to do it?" I'll address such questions in a moment.
But first, in relation to the Scherer-Moyers thesis, the issue is not whether some conservative Christians hold what others perceive to be strange end-time views. The issue is whether these views significantly affect their care for God's creation. The answer, in my opinion, is no.