Climate change is one of the big issues of our time, with a major ethical dimension. It’s times like these that we could really do with some clarity from God on what He wants from his worshippers and – why not – maybe some advice on the science as well..
The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the USA, is trying to help. On March 10, they released a statement with the news that God wanted us all to reduce our carbon emissions. Science, they said, cannot be dismissed simply because you don’t think God will like it:
Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change–however great or small.
However, The Weekly Standard reports that other prominent Southern Baptists have taken umbrage at this declaration, pointing out that their 2007 resolution cast doubt on the science behind climate change, said that climate mitigation would hurt low income nations, and what’s more we should stop funding scientific research into the whole issue (presumably on the grounds that it would likely produce more results offensive to God). The Southern Baptist President, Frank Page, was forced into an apology:
“Seldom have I seen such a reaction,” he complained. “I have been called names that I have not been called in my entire life.” He apologized for creating an impression that the declaration officially represented the church.
Then the moral majority struck back, with a letter to US Senators opposing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions:
Joining with other conservative groups such as the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist-backed letter complained that the bill’s “underlying assumption” about human-induced climate change is “highly questionable.”
So there you have it. God is officially against climate change mitigation. Or maybe not. Strangely enough, in the UK God seems to be strongly in favour of mitigation.
What’s the bottom line here? Simply this: in turns out that God is in favour of whatever the general consensus is in the community. Religion, as a tool to help with modern ethical dilemmas, is useless. We are seeing something similar with embryo research.
The Weekly Standard concludes with an intriguing paragraph. The churches’ position on climate change, it says, is nothing to do with ethics – and all to do with PR and proselytization!
Overly conscious of stereotypes about their “fundamentalist” controlled church, Page and many of the other Southern Baptist signers of the Global Warming declaration seem more determined to disprove that they are “uncaring” than substantively address climate change. Following groups like the National Association of Evangelicals, they seem to believe that favorable media attention will enhance their prestige and their evangelistic outreach. But most Southern Baptists probably think differently, intuiting that churches thrive more when they are culturally contrarian than when they succumb to convention.