Several weeks ago, Mark Driscoll said this:
I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.
When people got upset about it, he claimed it was just a joke, adding:
I am sorry that you do not have a sense of humor.
The thing is, I grew up in a home where this sort of thing was said regularly, and it wasn’t about joking. My parents were soundly against recycling, because they saw the earth as disposable. I was reminded of this again a couple months ago when I complained to my mom that there was only one place in my town that took glass recycling, and it was on the outskirts, and she basically laughed at me for recycling.
I’ve written quite a bit about my own experiences with evangelicals’ views of the end times. I grew up in premillenialist circles, and we really did believe that Christ would return any day, and I grew up expecting that this world wouldn’t last another hundred years, and probably wouldn’t be here in fifty. This world was put here for us to use, I was taught, so we might as well use it while it’s still here. We looked forward to the day when Christ would create a new heaven and a new earth.
Given Mark Driscoll’s reputation and the similarity between his beliefs and my parents’ beliefs, I don’t think he was joking. I think he was serious. I think premillenialist eschatology gives evangelicals like Driscoll and my parents an excuse to not feel bad about their carbon footprints. I think that in a world of uncertainty, it’s psychologically reassuring for them to belief that what we do to the environment doesn’t matter, because Jesus is coming back and will fix everything.
That said, I’m extremely glad that my parents’ and Mark Driscoll’s beliefs appear to be giving way to a new evangelical approach to climate change and pollution: “creation care.” This new trend hasn’t been without conflict, conflict that often takes place between younger, hipper evangelicals on the one hand and older, set-in-their-ways culture wars evangelicals on the other. In fact, not so long ago Focus on the Family and the National Association of Evangelicals had a falling out over this very issue. In fact, I suspect that this trend is the reason Driscoll played off his remarks as a joke rather than digging in—and we should see that as a positive sign.