BETWEEN GOD & GREEN: HOW EVANGELICALS ARE CULTIVATING A MIDDLE GROUND ON CLIMATE CHANGE
By Katharine K. Wilkinson
Oxford University Press, $29.95
”Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change,” by Katharine K. Wilkinson, states, “Climate change is a critical piece of the new evangelical politics emerging in American public life.” And so it is, unfortunately.
The book is a scholarly work that explores the concept of “creation care” or, more specifically, “climate care.” It primarily follows the conversion and progress of creation care evangelical elites who advocate for climate-change politics, policy and personal commitment. “Between God & Green” is fairly thorough in its in-depth exploration of the world of evangelical thought on humans’ relationship to the environment. The book’s assessment of the role of Christian eschatological (end time) beliefs on how a person views and treats the environment is particularly revealing.
“Between God & Green,” however, is somewhat slanted. It portrays the climate care movement’s leaders and fellow believers as more or less apolitical, moderate and Spirit-led, while those who challenge their faith — that mankind is responsible for the sin of climate change — are painted as essentially right-wing dupes of the Republican Party.
In Chapter 5, “Engaging People in the Pews,” the author summarizes interviews she has had with congregants regarding a position statement of the Evangelical Climate Initiative (an organization whose funding “comes largely from secular foundations that support conventional environmental advocacy”). ECI’s position statement, which is reproduced in the book’s appendices along with eight other creation care organization documents, is titled “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.” The author observes that “conservative politics and conservative Christianity and the influence of the echo chamber of conservative media were evident in group discussions, as churchgoers echoed these discourses.” Ignored, as always, is the biggest echo chamber of all, academia.
But, that ignorance aside, the attempt to relate climate care activism to a scriptural foundation throughout “Between God & Green” gets to be a bit over the top at the book’s conclusion. The book ends with a curious application of the events in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 11. That is where in the Gospel Jesus expels from the temple in Jerusalem the money changers and those selling doves for sacrificial offerings.
The author interprets the event this way: “Jesus challenged what had become business as usual — politicization and commercialization of this sacred space, which benefited the privileged and preyed on the poor.” The author then goes on to say, “Similarly, climate care challenges entrenched perspectives and practices perceived to be economically, morally, politically, and theologically corrupt, with the hope of installing more authentic ones in their place.”
Alternatively, when reading the scriptural passage, I thought of ECI’s support for carbon trading and selling (“cap-and-trade”) — a scheme that will further impoverish the middle class, enrich unscrupulous investors and, as usual, do next to nothing to help the poor, who always seem to miss out on these massive wealth-transfer schemes. Now, that is truly economically, morally, politically and theologically corrupt.
As a Christian and an atmospheric scientist with more than 30 years of experience, I agree with the position of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which the book implies is somehow anti-environment. To the contrary, although the Alliance’s mission focuses on real aid to the world’s poor and needy, it does not neglect effective care for creation.
Furthermore, I have witnessed throughout my career the metamorphosis, refinement and exploitation of the never-ending story that humans are somehow destroying a “fragile” planet — this time by releasing too much greenhouse gas. Of all people, Christians should be the least gullible on this untenable position because Christians have a foundation built on the belief that God is creator and sustainer of all things. Forget about the dubious “sin” of anthropogenic climate change; focus instead on the arrogance germane to the idea that not only are humans causing long-term global climate change, but that we can fix it.
The climate of the world will be much better off when Christians focus on being ambassadors for Christ rather than activists for the atmosphere.
• Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist who specializes in air-quality issues. He is author of the new book “In Global Warming We Trust: A Heretic’s Guide to Climate Science” (Telescope Books).
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