Monday, April 09, 2018

Christians and Climate Change

I enjoyed this article about Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian climate scientist at Texas Tech. She spends part of her time in the looking-glass-world of speaking to largely skeptical conservative Christians about the reality of climate change, including anthropogenic climate change.

How difficult is this task? The invaluable Pew Research Center has the numbers:

White evangelicals (that's me) are the greatest deniers of climate change.

Does anybody understand why? I certainly do not.

I can understand Genesis related issues, like the age of the earth. I don't agree with young earth creationists, but I see where they are coming from; I understand the appeal of a plain reading of scripture. But nowhere in scripture does it tell us that the world could never warm. No passage indicates that God who, in his sovereignty, permits all manner of deadly natural disasters to occur, would suddenly draw the line at climate change. Or that man, who is capable of an impressive potpourri  of unholy mischief, is divinely incapable of contributing to climate change.

Unlike other (supposed) conflicts with science, the motivation cannot be theological.

Disregarding the possibility of woeful ignorance, that leaves, as the possible reason--politics. Yes it's that same-old, same-old weird American-only correlation that I've puzzled over for years, the provincial and bizarre correlation between conservative Christianity and conservative politics. I don't see this in my conservative Christian European friends--only in my countrymen.

When asked about the objections she hears from her fellow evangelicals, Hayhoe states:
It’s true that people often use science-y sounding objections to dismiss the reality that the climate is changing and humans are responsible. “The data are wrong,” they argue, or “We don’t know enough yet, we need to study it longer.” Or they use religious-y sounding objections like, “God would never let this happen,” or “The world will end anyways, so why care?”
I find the last answer: “The world will end anyways, so why care?” particularly disturbing. Because I have, on many occasions, had atheists tell me anecdotally that a Christian said that environmental issues are of no concern, because "Jesus would be coming soon." Having never heard such a sentiment, and finding it unimaginable that any Christian (regardless of eschatology) would utter such nonsense, I accused those atheists (with different phraseology) of making stuff up. I perhaps owe some apologies.

It's very strange. Why would the end of the world (as in Jesus returning) give you license for poor stewardship? There are of course many things that I would not want to be doing the moment Jesus returns. And while it might not be the most embarrassing, damaging the planet is definitely on the list of things I hope I'm not engaged in when I meet Jesus.


  1. "the provincial and bizarre correlation between conservative Christianity and conservative politics."

    It may not be just a correlation but a unification among professing Christians of identity/theology with conservative politics and the skepticism of the common man. I have a stack of books by historians more learned than me who seem to confirm this.

  2. Do you and/or the historians find it to be, as I do, peculiar to American (or perhaps American and Canadian) Christianity?

  3. Definitely peculiar to American Christianity. I don't think Canadians should or would want to share our affliction.

  4. Mark Byron2:51 PM

    It seems to be a combination of anti-intellectualism and free-market economics that drives the stance on the environment.

    Libertarian economics is an outlier in European political thought (with the exception of the Dutch VVD and German Free Democrats), with mainstream Christian Democrats being far more government-friendly than US Republicans. Also, the egghead-bashing of US Fundamentalists of a century ago wasn't quite as much in the mix in Europe, where theological conservatives were already in exile.

    1. Mark Byron: How have you been? It;s been a long time!