Monday, January 02, 2006

US Evangelical Christians and the environment

I understand from Radio 4 that Evangelical Christians in the US are, at some stage this year, going to make a pronouncement on the environment. So just in case any of them stop by here (and I know a few do, from time to time), can I offer some thoughts?

I am conscious of the opinions of some people in the US - that the whole global warming thing is regarded as a kind of anti-US conspiracy, to hit their industries. On the other hand, people outside the US are staggered at the fact that (for example) in Phoenix, Arizona, which has arguably amongst the most days of hot sunshine of any city in the developed world, just about every house still has a massive tumble dryer. They also take a dim view of the fact that there is a very close relationship between people who economically have a vested interest in the continuing growth in carbon production (i.e. the oil industry) and the US government.

The scientific evidence relating to global warming is verging on the irrefutable. We have seen glaciers retreating, polar ice regions melting, and winter ice cover not so extensive, highest Caribbean Sea temperatures, record length and unusual severity of the hurricane season ... and so on. These are only the measures that have made it into the media.

All of these things ought to give us pause for thought. However, from a Christian perspective, the actual facts of the matter are practically irrelevant. The motivation for Christians isn't so much this, as the fact that as humans, we are supposed to be stewards of God's creation. God gave humans authority to care for the earth, and on the basis that authority and responsibility ought to be linked, we are likely to be held to account for how we have used what God has given us. And yes, that includes Christians. In fact, it is most binding upon God's people.

A kind of "environmental hyper-Calvinism" - "Well, God made the world and cares about the world, so there's nothing I can do that will make any difference" - is a denial of Christian responsibility - in the same way as hyper-Calvinism ("God has chosen who he is going to save, so I don't need to tell anybody") is a distortion of the gospel. Christians should not be wasteful of what God has given them - should be concerned for their neighbours - should recognise that they will be accountable for their behaviour. And Christians in the US have a voice that can still influence the direction of their nation.

If you have a chance to influence this discussion, then please try and detach the debate from the politics and reground it in the Bible.