The other day I was in a high school classroom that featured a political cartoon taped to the wall. In it, the President addressed global warming. His comforting message? “Sure, the planet's going to get a little warmer. But it won’t feel so bad because you’ll be ankle-deep in water.”
Five years ago, who could have anticipated that global warming would develop into the cause du jour? We’ve already got major awards shows that somehow evolve (yes, I can use that word and not worry for my salvation) into extended public service announcements. How long until we see television commercials with has been actresses (I vote for Janeane Garafalo) weeping uncontrollably while they lament the steadily decreasing ski jacket market?
The thing is, there are some who refuse to believe that global warming is a real threat. Or even real. That’s cool (ha, a weather joke!) with me. I don’t know if it’s real, and if it is real, I'm not sure it’s man-caused. There are super-scholars on each side who swear up and down that their view is the right one. And far be it from a cat who never took chemistry to trifle with them. If it’s real, okay, if not, okay. But, here’s the thing…some people are telling me I should be more concerned because of my faith.
Jerry Falwell recently commented that global warming is more than a hoax, it’s dangerous that Christians would pay it any heed. Falwell insists that global warming is drawing believers away from the real task of sharing their faith. That to believe that there’s a problem with the environment and take steps to fix it is, somehow, un-Christian. I’d like to nominate willful exploitation of the environment as un-Christian.
Falwell’s rant essentially says that to take the steps outlined by the “liberals” is to deviate from our task of evangelism. What if evangelism is more holistic than simply, believe these things and your soul’s good to go? What if environmental care is the strongest sort of evangelism to those with whom our paths rarely cross? In the end, it’s all about what sportscasters like to call “upside.” Let’s play the environmental version of Pascal’s Wager.
Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. We become heroes to the next generation.
Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, but we believe it’s real. In response we become more responsible citizens. We reduce, reuse, recycle. We save energy by turning off lights. We drive automobiles that reduce emissions. The next generation admires our fervor—misplaced as it was—and they enjoy the benefits of our concern.
Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is false, and we believe it’s false. We respond by continuing to consume non-renewable resources. By wasting energy, oil, and trees, knowing that the weather won’t be affected. The next generation regards us as greedy, self-concerned opportunists.
Let’s imagine for a moment that global warming is real, and we believe it’s false. Actually, let’s not.
That’s the point here. There is far more to be gained by living as though global warming is a real danger than by living as though it’s not. What Falwell fails to establish is the downside.
He asserts that if evangelicals are taken in by global warming, they will be distracted from the task of sharing the gospel. Simply untrue and the problem with “slippery slope” arguments. A Christian driving a hybrid can share their faith just as well as one driving an SUV. And if the person listening is environmentally sensitive, perhaps the Hybrid driver has an even better chance.
Falwell sees this as a case of believers being carried away by empty and deceitful philosophy. I see it as just one way our generation has the opportunity to become all things to all people.
Scripture insists that someday God is going to remake the heavens and earth. If the broader biblical pattern is any indication, this will not be a “start from scratch” kind of a thing, but a re-creation of what’s already here. Why wouldn’t Christians reflect a similar attitude toward the earth and lead the way in environmental causes? As those created in God’s image, let’s resolve to treat the rest of God’s creation as though He cares about it, too. Because He does.
Someday, perhaps we’ll be ankle-deep in blessing.