Will Baptists Step Up to Take on Global Warming as Moral Issue in 2007?


Three days after Christmas the Bush administration backtracked on global warming when it proposed under a court-ordered deadline to place the polar bear on the threatened-species list due to the rapid loss of Arctic ice.

While the Secretary of the Interior Department acknowledged the loss of Arctic ice, he avoided speaking to what caused the accelerating loss and what to do about it.

 

"The scientific analysis in the proposal itself, however, did assess the cause of melting ice. Most of the studies on the Arctic climate and ice trends cited to support the proposed listing assumed that the buildup of heat-trapping gases was probably contributing to the loss of sea ice, or that the continued buildup of these gases, left unchecked, could create ice-free Arctic summers later this century, and possibly in as little as three decades," reported the New York Times.

 

Environmental groups hailed the proposal as a victory.

 

In other global warming news with holiday temperatures on the East Coast 15 degrees higher than 2005, retailers had name the season the "Coat Crisis of 2006." Much warmer temperatures meant winter coats and accessories remained unsold.

 

Over the week warm weather records in New York and Newark were shattered. Central Park recorded a record-breaking 72 degrees, beating by 9 degrees the previous high set in 1950.

 

In middle Tennessee, Dec. 17 was 72 degrees, the highest recorded temperature in 130 years. The month of December was 6 degrees warmer than normal.

 

From Australia came news about a study that fish on the Great Barrier Reef were dying because of rising sea temperatures.

 

From the Bay of Bengal came news about the disappearance of an island, Lohachara, once inhabited by 10,000 people. Dozens of islands are vanishing, according to an Indian scientist.

 

Global warming is real. Caring for creation is a real moral imperative.

 

Yet a larger number of Southern Baptists, conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists still deny the evidence that demands a moral verdict. They prefer to believe science-fiction writers than the National Academy of Science. Moderate Baptists, too, have their own global warming deniers.

 

But the problem for most moderate Baptists is not intellectual denial about the evidence. It is moral sloth, the lack of moral stewardship required to do earth care.  

 

Some American communities are addressing global warming concerns. Fargo, N.D., changed traffic lights to use less energy. A suburb of Indianapolis switched city cars to hybrids and to run on biofuels. Seattle added a parking tax to discourage driving. Sugar Land, Texas, and Meridian, Miss., joined other cities to pursue the Kyoto Treaty that calls for a reduction in carbon emissions, a treaty that the Bush administration rejected.

 

Almost a year ago, 86 evangelical leaders drew a lot of media attention when they called for a major effort to combat global warming, including federal legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. When the Christian Right snapped back with its anti-science and pro-oil ideology, global warming fell off the evangelical agenda.

 

A year later, the evidence is even clearer and the Bible's pro-environment message remains unchanged.

 

What, then, shall we do?

 

First, recognize the Bible as God's green book. The green Bible stakes out the divine imperative for earth care. Be mindful of the need to counter the misreading of the Bible that claims biblical dominion means exploitive domination.

 

Second, challenge fellow congregants who are global-warming deniers. The choice is simple: Trust science-fiction writers or the National Academy of Science. Science isn't what's in doubt in the Christian community. What is in doubt is the Christian moral values of some Christians.

 

Third, show "An Inconvenient Truth" at your church, inviting the community to a viewing and discussion. Be sure to invite community officials to attend.

 

The Gore-haters will need to deal with their hate. The rest of the Christian community should stop being held hostage by haters.

 

Gore's documentary is now out in DVD. Churches are beginning to watch it and talk about it, as did Louisville's Highland Baptist Church in a packed fellowship hall on a Sunday evening in October.

 

Fourth, put global warming on the agenda of every moderate Baptist state convention and fellowship meeting, beginning with Bible study. Global warming damns the global poor in this life, the every people mission-sending societies claim they care about.

 

Fifth, realize that global Baptists are concerned about global warming. Read here, here and here.

 

Sixth, have your church establish a committee to run an environmental audit on energy conservation. Underscore that mission as a moral one, not simple one about saving money.

 

Energy conservation matters. Shift from the old energy-gobbling incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs--bulbs that use 70 percent less energy than regular ones and last 10 times longer. Check out light bulbs.

 

Seventh, share with EthicsDaily.com what your church is doing as an environmental steward. Your story could provide an example for others to follow.

 

Let's become green Bible Baptists--together--starting this year.

 

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

 

 

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