The Bible spoke first about humans guarding garden Earth from harm, but Bible listeners did not hear.
The Bible said God entrusted us with the assignment to be responsible for the earth, but Bible interpreters did not act.
The Bible said human beings were the crowning glory of creation, but Bible believers decided we were the only jewel in the crown.
The Bible said the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” but Bible readers figured the earth was ours, and we could do whatever we wanted to everything in it.
That is because our fidelity to the Bible is secondary to our anthropocentrism, our hyper-individualism, our materialism without limits and our need for immediate gratification.
Now science has spoken. Leading scientists, experts and government officials have issued a report saying the garden is in trouble due to harmful human activity.
Perhaps God will at last be able to communicate to the Christian community through science in ways that God has been unable to communicate about earth-keeping through the Bible.
The near-consensus scientific position is that global warming is “unequivocal.”
The U.N.-related Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports there is more than a 90 percent certainty that the driving cause of global warming is human activities with the use of fossil fuels as a primary source.
With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States is responsible for 25 percent of the greenhouse emissions, a higher percentage than any other nation.
While European nations have taken actions to reduce emissions, the Bush administration has rejected the reality of climate change until recently and drug its feet on action. The U.S. government did approve the report, however.
The report expects snow cover will contract, sea levels will rise, tropical storms will intensify and droughts will worsen.
Congressman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, told the Washington Post the report was “a unanimous, definitive world statement.”
“It’s time to end the debate and act,” Gordon said. “All the naysayers should step aside.”
Will Christians hear the experts and heed the scriptures? Or will Christians listen to the know-nothing hosts of hate radio and be intimidated by semi-literate, global-warming-denying fellow congregants?
Will Christian leaders avoid offending the corporate chieftains concerned only with immediate profit? Or will Christians recognize that global warming will harm the poor more than the rich?
If global warming had genitalia, then fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals would be against it. And Americans would be halfway home toward social change–change in public policy. Regrettably, global warming is about science, not sex.
That means the rest of the Christian community must do some heavy lifting. In a church ethos where spiritual escapism encourages congregants to avoid rigorous intellectual engagement and social activism, change is hard. Being proactive is always more difficult than being reactive. Shifting America from an idolatrous relationship with short-term gain to long-term good is tough work.
The first task is to make the environment in general and global warming in particular first tier-moral issues. Surely it is in the church’s vested interest to begin re-reading the Bible and re-teaching the Bible’s mandate about earth-keeping. The science-doubters need the reassurance of Scripture. The slothful members need the moral motivation of the Bible.
A second task is to connect global warming to missions. Rising sea levels, intensifying storms and worsening droughts will hammer those at the margins of life far more than those who can afford to reallocate assets and to relocate. If we really care about the poor, we will act to reduce global warming.
Meanwhile, we watch to see if the Creator can speak through science to the creatures who are warming up creation.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.