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Theologians Warn Of False Gospel Re: Environment


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Theologians Warn of 'False Gospel' on the Environment; Call Christians

To Repent of Sin

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2005--In an effort to refute what they

call a "false gospel" and to change destructive attitudes and actions

concerning the environment, a group of theologians, convened by the

National Council of Churches USA, today released an open letter calling

on Christians to repent of "our social and ecological sins" and to

reject teachings that suggest humans are "called" to exploit the Earth

without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God's creation.

 

The statement, "God's Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and

Society in the United States," points out that there is both an

environmental and a theological crisis that must be addressed.

 

"We have listened to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our

daily habits - a gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation

of humans only and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our

own ends alone," says the statement. "This false gospel still finds its

proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened

political leaders and policy makers."

 

The statement calls on Christians to take two important steps to enable

socially just and ecologically sustainable communities for future

generations: first, to "repent of our sins, in the presence of God and

one another," and, second, to pursue, "with God's help, a path different

from our present course."

 

In its call to repentance, the statement confesses that, "we have abused

and exploited the Earth and people on the margins of power and

privilege, altering climates, extinguishing species, and jeopardizing

Earth's capacity to sustain life as we know and love it." It goes on to

identify eight norms to guide us on a new environmental path: justice,

sustainability, bioresponsibility, humility, generosity, frugality,

solidarity and compassion.

 

The NCC's Eco-Justice Working Group decided to ask leading theologians

to gather in the fall of 2004 at the National Cathedral in Washington,

D.C., to work on a theological statement to counter arguments that the

environment is not an issue that should concern Christians. In order to

produce a theologically grounded statement, the group issued invitations

to theologians who were well versed in ecumenism and the doctrine of

their own church bodies.

 

According to Father Chris Bender, an Orthodox priest who helped to bring

the gathering together, "Some people say that the environment doesn't

matter" because the second coming of Christ will usher in the end of the

world as we know it. "To make such a statement is the height of

arrogance," said Bender. "We don't know when the Lord is coming back but

we do know that one day we will have to give an account for making the

environment unlivable for those who come after us and for those who are

the poorest among us," he said referring to the belief by Orthodox and

other Christian churches that each person will have to stand before God

and give an account of their actions. According to Bender how we treat

God's creation "will be on God's agenda."

 

Said the NCC's Associate General Secretary for Faith & Order, Dr. Ann K.

Riggs, "No one can read Scripture and deny that caring for creation is

part of what God has asked us to do." The Old Testament makes that point

clear, she notes, adding, "There is nothing in the New Testament or

early church traditions that suggest we no longer have to care for or

protect creation. Care of creation is part of the Gospel," she said as

she expressed her excitement about the release of the statement and

noted her hope that it will have a profound impact on both the Church

and society.

 

In addition to refuting false teachings about the environment and

calling Christians to repent, the statement also appeals to Christians

and "all people of good will" to join together in understanding humans'

responsibility to care for creation, to integrate this understanding

into what it means to be the church, and to advocate boldly on behalf of

those most vulnerable to the negative effects of the global

environmental crisis.

 

NCC President and Christian Methodist Episcopal Bishop, Rev. Dr. Thomas

L. Hoyt, Jr., who participated in the gathering and applauded the

release of the statement, said, "As humans, we have a tendency to

desecrate earth and minimize the biodiversity of life. While theology is

usually ahead of practice at least we must aim for a relevant theology

that informs what we ought to be and do. Theology and ethics are joined

here to the end that human communities may be more just and all of life

may be respected," asserted Hoyt.

 

The NCC hopes that the statement, "God's Earth is Sacred," will

stimulate conversations in churches, seminaries, colleges, universities

and throughout society.

 

"We will begin circulating this statement to all of our member churches

and others to stress the importance and urgency to begin to change how

we care for God's creation," said Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC general

secretary. "From Genesis to Revelation it is clear that God has given us

the responsibility to care and seek justice for all of God's creation

and we want to make sure that people in the pews are equipped to be

ambassadors for this message and good stewards of the environment."

 

The "God's Earth is Sacred" statement is part of a growing religious

awareness of humankind's role in protecting creation. It was released on

the heels of a grassroots campaign that just last week released "God's

Mandate: Care for Creation," which was signed by more than 1,000 clergy

and laypeople from Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions--and it

came just before a broadbased effort on Feb. 16 to lift up the

international Kyoto Protocol on climate change, an effort that included

the participation of faith based groups. See www.nccecojustice.org for

the "God's Mandate" statement and signatories, and "Christian Response

to Kyoto" resources.

###

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The theological statement can be found online at

www.councilofchurches.org. For more information or to schedule an

interview, contact Leslie Tune at (202) 544-2350, ext. 11, (202)

297-2191 (cell) or via email, Ltune@ncccusa.org.

 

God's Earth is Sacred:

An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United States

 

God's creation delivers unsettling news. Earth's climate is warming to

dangerous levels; 90 percent of the world's fisheries have been

depleted; coastal development and pollution are causing a sharp decline

in ocean health; shrinking habitat threatens to extinguish thousands of

species; over 95 percent of the contiguous United States forests have

been lost; and almost half of the population in the United States lives

in areas that do not meet national air quality standards. In recent

years, the profound danger has grown, requiring us as theologians,

pastors, and religious leaders to speak out and act with new urgency.

 

We are obliged to relate to Earth as God's creation "in ways that

sustain life on the planet, provide for the [basic] needs of all

humankind, and increase justice." Over the past several decades, slowly

but faithfully, the religious community in the United States has

attempted to address issues of ecology and justice. Our faith groups

have offered rich theological perspectives, considered moral issues

through the lens of long-standing social teaching, and passed numerous

policies within our own church bodies. While we honor the efforts in our

churches, we have clearly failed to communicate the full measure and

magnitude of Earth's environmental crisis-religiously, morally, or

politically. It is painfully clear from the verifiable testimony of the

world's scientists that our response has been inadequate to the scale

and pace of Earth's degradation.

 

To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not

only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,

who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for

creation: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For

humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological

diversity of God's creation...for humans to degrade the integrity of

Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its

natural forests, or destroying its wetlands...for humans to injure other

humans with disease...for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its

land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances...these are

sins." We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.

 

This means that ours is a theological crisis as well. We have listened

to a false gospel that we continue to live out in our daily habits-a

gospel that proclaims that God cares for the salvation of humans only

and that our human calling is to exploit Earth for our own ends alone.

This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to

capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policy

makers.

 

The secular counterpart of this gospel rests in the conviction that

humans can master the Earth. Our modern way of life assumes this

mastery. However, the sobering truth is that we hardly have knowledge

of, much less control over, the deep and long-term consequences of our

human impacts upon the Earth. We have already sown the seeds for many of

those consequences. The fruit of those seeds will be reaped by future

generations of human beings, together with others in the community of

life.

 

The imperative first step is to repent of our sins, in the presence of

God and one another. This repentance of our social and ecological sins

will acknowledge the special responsibility that falls to those of us

who are citizens of the United States. Though only five percent of the

planet's human population, we produce one-quarter of the world's carbon

emissions, consume a quarter of its natural riches, and perpetuate

scandalous inequities at home and abroad. We are a precious part of

Earth's web of life, but we do not own the planet and we cannot

transcend its requirements for regeneration on its own terms. We have

not listened well to the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

 

The second step is to pursue a new journey together, with courage and

joy. By God's grace, all things are made new. We can share in that

renewal by clinging to God's trustworthy promise to restore and fulfill

all that God creates and by walking, with God's help, a path different

from our present course. To that end, we affirm our faith, propose a

set of guiding norms, and call on our churches to rededicate themselves

to this mission. We firmly believe that addressing the degradation of

God's sacred Earth is the moral assignment of our time comparable to the

Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, the worldwide movement to achieve

equality for women, or ongoing efforts to control weapons of mass

destruction in a post-Hiroshima world.

Ecological Affirmations of Faith

 

We stand with awe and gratitude as members of God's bountiful and good

creation. We rejoice in the splendor and mystery of countless species,

our common creaturehood, and the interdependence of all that God makes.

We believe that the Earth is home for all and that it has been created

intrinsically good (Genesis 1).

 

We lament that the human species is shattering the splendid gifts of

this web of life, ignoring our responsibility for the well being of all

life, while destroying species and their habitats at a rate never before

known in human history.

 

We believe that the Holy Spirit, who animates all of creation, breathes

in us and can empower us to participate in working toward the

flourishing of Earth's community of life. We believe that the people of

God are called to forge ways of being human that enable socially just

and ecologically sustainable communities to flourish for generations to

come. And we believe in God's promise to fulfill all of creation,

anticipating the reconciliation of all (Colossians 1:15), in accordance

with God's promise (II Peter 3:13).

 

We lament that we have rejected this vocation, and have distorted our

God-given abilities and knowledge in order to ransack and often destroy

ecosystems and human communities rather than to protect, strengthen, and

nourish them.

 

We believe that, in boundless love that hungers for justice, God in

Jesus Christ acts to restore and redeem all creation (including human

beings). God incarnate affirms all creation (John 1:14), which becomes a

sacred window to eternity. In the cross and resurrection we know that

God is drawn into life's most brutal and broken places and there brings

forth healing and liberating power. That saving action restores right

relationships among all members of "the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).

 

We confess that instead of living and proclaiming this salvation through

our very lives and worship, we have abused and exploited the Earth and

people on the margins of power and privilege, altering climates,

extinguishing species, and jeopardizing Earth's capacity to sustain life

as we know and love it.

 

We believe that the created world is sacred-a revelation of God's power

and gracious presence filling all things. This sacred quality of

creation demands moderation and sharing, urgent antidotes for our excess

in consumption and waste, reminding us that economic justice is an

essential condition of ecological integrity. We cling to God's

trustworthy promise to restore, renew, and fulfill all that God creates.

We long for and work toward the day when churches, as embodiments of

Christ on Earth, will respond to the "groaning of creation" (Romans

8:22) and to God's passionate desire to "renew the face of the Earth"

{Psalm 104:30). We look forward to the day when the lamentations and

groans of creation will be over, justice with peace will reign,

humankind will nurture not betray the Earth, and all of creation will

sing for joy.

 

Guiding Norms for Church and Society

 

These affirmations imply a challenge that is also a calling: to fulfill

our vocation as moral images of God, reflections of divine love and

justice charged to "serve and preserve" the Garden (Genesis 2:15).

Given this charge and the urgent problems of our age-from species

extinctions and mass poverty to climate change and health-crippling

pollution-how shall we respond? What shall we be and do? What are the

standards and practices of moral excellence that we ought to cultivate

in our personal lives, our communities of faith, our social

organizations, our businesses, and our political institutions? We

affirm the following norms of social and environmental responsibility:

 

Justice-creating right relationships, both social and ecological, to

ensure for all members of the Earth community the conditions required

for their flourishing. Among human members, justice demands meeting the

essential material needs and conditions for human dignity and social

participation. In our global context, economic deprivation and

ecological degradation are linked in a vicious cycle. We are compelled,

therefore, to seek eco-justice, the integration of social justice and

ecological integrity. The quest for eco-justice also implies the

development of a set of human environmental rights, since one of the

essential conditions of human well being is ecological integrity. These

moral entitlements include protection of soils, air, and water from

diverse pollutants; the preservation of biodiversity; and governmental

actions ensuring the fair and frugal use of creation's riches.

 

Sustainability-living within the bounds of planetary capacities

indefinitely, in fairness to both present and future generations of

life. God's covenant is with humanity and all other living creatures

"for all future generations" (Genesis 9:8-17). The concern for

sustainability forces us to be responsible for the truly long-term

impacts of our lifestyles and policies.

 

Bioresponsibility-extending the covenant of justice to include all other

life forms as beloved creatures of God and as expressions of God's

presence, wisdom, power, and glory. We do not determine nor declare

creation's value, and other creatures should not be treated merely as

instruments for our needs and wants. Other species have their own

integrity. They deserve a "fair share" of Earth's bounty- a share that

allows a biodiversity of life to thrive along with human communities.

 

Humility-recognizing, as an antidote to arrogance, the limits of human

knowledge, technological ingenuity, and moral character. We are not the

masters of creation. Knowing human capacities for error and evil,

humility keeps our own species in check for the good of the whole of

Earth as God's creation.

 

Generosity-sharing Earth's riches to promote and defend the common good

in recognition of God's purposes for the whole creation and Christ's

gift of abundant life. Humans are not collections of isolated

individuals, but rather communities of socially and ecologically

interdependent beings. A measure of a good society is not whether it

privileges those who already have much, but rather whether it privileges

the most vulnerable members of creation. Essentially, these tasks

require good government at all levels, from local to regional to

national to international.

 

Frugality-restraining economic production and consumption for the sake

of eco-justice. Living lives filled with God's Spirit liberates us from

the illusion of finding wholeness in the accumulation of material things

and brings us to the reality of God's just purposes. Frugality connotes

moderation, sufficiency, and temperance. Many call it simplicity. It

demands the careful conservation of Earth's riches, comprehensive

recycling, minimal harm to other species, material efficiency and the

elimination of waste, and product durability. Frugality is the

corrective to a cardinal vice of the age: prodigality - excessively

taking from and wasting God's creation. On a finite planet, frugality is

an expression of love and an instrument for justice and sustainability:

it enables all life to thrive together by sparing and sharing global

goods.

 

Solidarity-acknowledging that we are increasingly bound together as a

global community in which we bear responsibility for one another's well

being. The social and environmental problems of the age must be

addressed with cooperative action at all levels-local, regional,

national and international. Solidarity is a commitment to the global

common good through international cooperation.

 

Compassion-sharing the joys and sufferings of all Earth's members and

making them our own. Members of the body of Christ see the face of

Christ in the vulnerable and excluded. From compassion flows inclusive

caring and careful service to meet the needs of others.

 

A Call to Action: Healing the Earth and Providing a Just and Sustainable

Society

 

For too long, we, our Christian brothers and sisters, and many people of

good will have relegated care and justice for the Earth to the periphery

of our concerns. This is not a competing "program alternative," one

"issue" among many. In this most critical moment in Earth's history, we

are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care

for Earth as God's creation.

 

Churches, as communities of God's people in the world, are called to

exist as representatives of the loving Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer

of all creation. We are called to worship God with all our being and

actions, and to treat creation as sacred. We must engage our political

leaders in supporting the very future of this planet. We are called to

cling to the true Gospel - for "God so loved the cosmos" (John 3:16) -

rejecting the false gospels of our day.

 

We believe that caring for creation must undergird, and be entwined

with, all other dimensions of our churches' ministries. We are convinced

that it is no longer acceptable to claim to be "church" while continuing

to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God's creation.

Nor is it acceptable for our corporate and political leaders to engage

in "business as usual" as if the very future of life-support systems

were not at stake.

 

Therefore, we urgently call on our brothers and sisters in Christ, and

all people of good will, to join us in:

 

Understanding our responsibilities as those who live within the United

States of America - the part of the human family that represents five

percent of the world population and consumes 25 percent of Earth's

riches. We believe that one of the surest ways to gain this

understanding is by listening intently to the most vulnerable: those who

most immediately suffer the consequences of our overconsumption,

toxication, and hubris. The whole Earth is groaning, crying out for

healing-let us awaken the "ears of our souls" to hear it, before it's

too late.

 

Integrating this understanding into our core beliefs and practices

surrounding what it means to be "church," to be "human," to be "children

of God." Such integration will be readily apparent in: congregational

mission statements, lay and ordained ministries, the preaching of the

Word, our hymns of praise, the confession of our sins, our financial

stewardship and offerings to God, theological education, our evangelism,

our daily work, sanctuary use, and compassionate service to all

communities of life. With this integrated witness we look forward to a

revitalization of our human vocation and our churches' lives that

parallels the revitalization of God's thriving Earth.

 

Advocating boldly with all our leaders on behalf of creation's most

vulnerable members (including human members). We must shed our

complacency, denial, and fears and speak God's truth to power, on behalf

of all who have been denied dignity and for the sake of all voiceless

members of the community of life.

 

In Christ's name and for Christ's glory, we call out with broken yet

hopeful hearts: join us in restoring God's Earth-the greatest healing

work and moral assignment of our time.

 

Signed,

 

Drafters

Neddy Astudillo, Latina Eco-Theologian, Presbyterian Church USA

 

Father John Chryssavgis, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

 

Dr. Dieter Hessel, Director of the Ecumenical Program on Ecology,

Justice, and Faith

 

Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., President, National Council of Churches and

Bishop of Louisiana

and Mississippi, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

 

Dr. Carol Johnston, Associate Professor of Theology and Culture and

Director of Lifelong

Theological Education at Christian Theological Seminary

 

Tanya Marcova-Barnett, Earth Ministry, Program Director

 

Bill McKibben, author and scholar-in-residence, Middlebury College

 

Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious

Studies at Seattle

University

 

Dr. James A. Nash, social and ecological ethicist, retired

 

Dr. Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus of Social

Ethics, Union Theological

Seminary, New York City

 

Rev. Dr. H. Paul Santmire, Author and Teaching Theologian, Evangelical

Lutheran Church in

America

 

Co-signers

Dr. Karen Baker-Fletcher, Associate Professor of Theology, Perkins

School of Theology,

Southern Methodist University

 

Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr., Emeritus Professor, Claremont School of Theology

and Claremont

Graduate School

 

Dr. Jay McDaniel, Director of the Steel Center for the Study of Religion

and Philosophy,

Hendrix College

 

Dr. Sallie McFague, Carpenter Professor of Theology Emerita, Vanderbilt

University Divinity

School Distinguished Theologian in Residence, Vancouver School

of Theology, British

Columbia

 

Dr. Barbara R. Rossing, New Testament Professor, Lutheran School of

Theology at Chicago

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This is excellent news -- that the letter was written, that is. Not the long list of Earth's traumas and dangers, which never fail to bring me despair to the point of near collapse.

 

For those who have not seen Bill Moyers' article on the 33 percent of the US Electorate who believe in what they call "end-times" and the false doctrine of Timothy LeHaye's best-selling (!!!) "Left Behind" series, here is Moyers' piece entitled, THERE IS NO TOMORROW.

 

I do wish that the National Council of Churches would have been specific about including this doctrine in their condemnation. Some people are dulled out and need to have their nose rubbed in the truth of what they are doing.

 

There Is No Tomorrow

 

By Bill Moyers

The Star Tribune

 

Sunday 30 January 2005

 

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the

delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit

in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first

time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in

Washington.

 

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues

hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is

generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their

offspring are

not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters

and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

 

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the

interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging

Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that

protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent

return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree

is felled, Christ will come back."

 

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was

talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out

across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally

true - one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is

accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens

went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

 

That's right - the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the

best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left

Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right

warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical

theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers

who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative

that has

captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

 

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George

Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him

for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of

its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering

a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

 

As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will

return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes

and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God,

they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of

boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation

that follow.

 

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've

reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West

Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel

called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish

settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's

why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book

of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river

Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with

Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed - an

essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I oogled

it, the rapture index stood at 144 - just one point below the critical

threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the

righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal

hellfire.

 

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to

Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn

Scherer - "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will

see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that

environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually

welcomed - even hastened - as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

 

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe

lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S.

Congress before the recent election - 231 legislators in total and more

since the election - are backed by the religious right.

 

Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to

100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian

right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist,

Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum

of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis

Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100

percent

with the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently

quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will

come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He

seemed to be relishing the thought.

 

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found

that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book

of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible

predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned

to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on

some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this

end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the

spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to

worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts,

floods,

famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the

apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change

when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about

converting

from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the

loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a

word?"

 

Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord

will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's

Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or

socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie

... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he

Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is

no shortage of resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view

the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth

sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the

people."

 

No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant

hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot

soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful

driving force in modern American politics.

 

It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any

credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how

to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up

every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an

optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I

onceasked: "What do you think of the market?"I'm optimistic," he answered.

"Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure

my optimism is justified."

 

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the

Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the

natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and

to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not

that I don't want to believe that - it's just that I read the news and

connect the dots.

 

I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the

environment. This for an administration:

* That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the

Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their

habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires

the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural

resources.

* That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle

tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility

vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.

* That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to

keep certain information about nvironmental problems secret from the

public.

* That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting,

coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with

coal companies.

* That wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling

and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest

stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great

coastal wild land in America.

 

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental

Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million - $2 million of it from

the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council - to pay

poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These

pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but

instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry

were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and

children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

 

I read all this in the news.

 

I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's

friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon

Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate

change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe

catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

 

I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations

bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached

toit: a clause removing all endangered species protections from

pesticides;

language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of

environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed

by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.

 

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the

computer - pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at

me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not

what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not

right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future.

Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

 

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are

greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to

sustain indignation at injustice?

 

What has happened to our moral imagination?

 

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And

Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"

 

I see it feelingly.

 

The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a

journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be

the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future

we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for

cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those

photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called

hochma - the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and

then to act as if the future depended on you.

 

Believe me, it does.

 

-------

 

Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series

"NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet,

where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers' remarks upon

receiving

the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the

Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

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This is GREAT! :D Note that all the churches that signed this agreement to not harm the earth ARE already churches that Progressive Christians embrace: United Methodists, Presbyterians. Noticed that the big "Left Behind" compain churches and non-Progressive churches such as Southern Baptists and Assembly of God did NOT sign this?

 

I will add this thread to my web pages' recommended links;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Kirkpatrick Sale, in his "Imperial Entropy: Collapse of the American Empire" (on the www.counterpunch.org site, Feb 22, 2005) notes that environmental degration (in terms of global warming) will mean not only the end of empire, but "maybe [the] end of civilization." He could have gone further by saying the end of our species (along with many others). For the rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentration is now itself increasing, and that is indeed a scary phenomenon. Unfortunately, as Sales says in closing his article, the values that have made the U. S. what it is are one that we will not abandon--meaning that there is no hope for us humans.

 

My own view is that the only answer to most of our problems is societal system change. I see this as possible (indeed, in 1984 I published a strategy for bringing about such change), but not as likely. For humans are the stupidest of the intelligent species, and don't have the sense to see the "handwriting on the wall"--until it's too late.

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