Global Warming and Evangelicals

A statement by evangelical religious leaders
calling for regulations to address global warming is a positive first

I’ve been watching from a distance the debate in the evangelical community about the statement on global warming announced yesterday and receiving widespread coverage today.

An interview on Morning Edition on NPR this morning was helpful in gaining perspective in two ways. First, the pastor who was interviewed favoring the document made a compelling statement that ties global warming to its harmful results on the poor and marginalized who suffer most as a result of environmental catastrophes.

This is more than an environmental issue. He noted it’s a social justice issue as well, rooted in one’s theological understanding of how famines, droughts and flooding affect those who are poor in catastrophic ways. We’ve seen the terrible toll the tsumani and hurricanes have brought to the poor in Asia and the United States.

The debate, of course, is how some natural occurences might be affected by environmental change that results from human impact on the natural world. Famine triggered by drought is the most common concern. However, changes in climate also bring flooding to some parts of the world, resulting in damage to poorly constructed, vulnerable homes. Complex climatological change can’t be made too simple, of course, and that’s what makes this debate interesting.

Some leaders in the evangelical community refused to sign on because they don’t accept the basic premise that environmental changes are human-caused. And even so, as Dr. Richard Land said today on NPR, humans hold the highest place in the order of creation and, therefore, their needs should take precedence over environmental protection.

This led me review the Social Principles of my denomination which are the church’s attempt to speak prayerfully and thoughtfully about the practice of faith. The first major section THE NATURAL WORLD, opens with these words:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings.

I think the evangelical document aligns more easily with the historic position of the The United Methodist Church than it departs from it. Of course, it isn’t a denominational document. But the statement puts these evangelical leaders closer to teachings that have been offered by mainline denominations for quite a long time. This convergence of theological thought on this issue is a welcome move, from my perspective.

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