Monday, December 8, 2008

Hello, My Name is Environmental Pinhead

My holiday season began with three disappointments. First, I went to see the new Vince Vaughn flick, "Four Christmases," and found it to be thoroughly devoid of both humor and holiday cheer. Second, I received a review copy of "Searching for a Better God" and finished the last chapter still wondering what was wrong with our current God and completely convinced that the author didn't know of a better one. Finally, I caught wind of Richard Land's attack on climate science and pro-active environmentalism on his radio program. As a recent article published by (a website and organization for which I have few affections), "Baptist Leader Misstates Environmental Data," has pointed out, Land recently spent his show ranting about how the globe is actually getting cooler, not warmer, and called those who disagree with him "environmental pinheads" and "environmental loons."

Now, I don't mind anyone attacking a particular position with which they disagree. Unless this is your first visit to my blog, you know I do it often myself. What irks me is when people launch an attack with such ferocity and vitriol that their breath could melt steel when they haven't done their homework. As this article points out, Land was quoting data form a Washington Times article referring the United States, NOT the globe. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center, 2008 has been the 9th hottest year GLOBALLY on record.

Following Land's radio spot, I was interviewed by the Associated Baptist Press for a story entitled, "Studies Show Rise in Greenhouse Gases in 2007," in which I noted that people who selectively quote data to support a contrarian view are driven more by an ideology than a theology. When viewed theologically, our decisions should always err on the side of love rather than greed in any matter, environmental or otherwise.

"Regardless of one's stance on climate change," I said in the ABP article. "Everyone can agree that pumping record levels of gas into our atmosphere isn't a good idea and certainly wouldn't be consistent with an idea of stewardship."

I have said many times before that I am not convinced of all the claims of climate scientists. I can't even understand some of what they say. But in the face of conflicting evidence on ethical issues, Christians must always act prudently. Prudence, in my mind, means gathering all the facts before making strong claims and doing one's best not to stoop to name calling. 



Anonymous said...

The only thing I think I can comment on regarding this post Jonathan, is your statement in the face of conflicting evidence on ethical issues, Christians must always act prudently...

This can (dare I say must) be the case in all issues less the fundamental "issue" of the essential doctrines of Jesus' Church.

I really don't have much of an opinion in the matters mentioned in the article...there is too much impassioned debate and bigoted egocentric rhetoric on all sides of this "argument", that I dare not "take a side" in the light of God's Grace and Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

"Now, I don't mind anyone attacking a particular position with which they disagree." Good, 'cuz I liked "Four Christmases," lol. (Really, I did.)

Other than that, good post. I like your manner of thinking. And that Richard Land pic! Wow! Did he use vaseline to get that hair so tv-evangelist-slick?

God bless,


Anonymous said...

I don't like his comb-over, and you're right regarding theology and ideology, theology should shape your ideology, not the other way around.

Interesting blog post either way.

Anonymous said...

There is only one way to get and keep an comb over like that: you buy it and then put it up at night.

Adam said...

Having taken a class under your critic I can say that he is not the most humble Christian I've ever met, but could possibly say the least I've met. Don't let the verbal attack and name calling get to you. Remember, he's in Washington, the town of mudslingers and name calling.

As for the pic, you were too kind. A more recent and worse could be found.

I don't always agree with some of the things you write but I do respect you as a Human and a fellow brother in Christ not to call you hateful names. You're actually a really great guy.

Jonathan Merritt said...

"He is not the most humble Christian I've ever met, but could possibly say the least I've met."

...Ahem...No comment. :)


Robby said...

I claim no expertise in this field, either, and I agree that science seems undecided on the causes of global warming. But we need to be clear. The earth goes through times of warming and cooling. From what I hear, all scientists agree on that point. What's at issue is/are the cause(s) of global warming (and cooling)? What bothers me about many in our Christian sub-culture is that we are denying warming (and cooling) altogether. It seems apparent that something is happening. At issue is this: does man cause temperature fluctuations directly? I would agree, Jonathon, that we need to pay attention to this since it is a stewardship issue. I would want to tag evangelism onto this to ask, "What did Land's comments do to expand the kingdom?" I would say very little, if any. And finally I would say that we all need a hefty dose of wisdom to answer these questions. Thanks for making us think.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Good comments. I am not sure if most scientists would agree that the earth has always experienced periods of cooling and warming. That would depend on accepting several theories on ice ages and other things which are and can only be a matter of scientific and historical speculation. So, I am not sure. The only actual data we have is between 100 and 300 (in the case of the UK) years old. That data shows a warming effect markedly beginning around the time of the industrial revolution.That much I can say for sure.

I also appreciate your kingdom thinking. It is a lesson for all of us to remember that everything we do and say in the public arena has a net affect on our kingdom work and kingdom witness--either negative or positive. After reading Land's words, the readers can decide which was the case here.

Johnny Carr said...


BT said...

Richard Land is essentially a political person and should be judged accordingly.

I do suspect that the whole discussion of climate change is tainted by the association of 'Liberalism' with 'Environmentalism'. Notions of acting to protect the environment are reflexively resisted by those who see themselves as 'Conservative', which is defined as being in opposition to free-loving, godless, hippie 'Liberals'.

The think about climate change is that the consequences could be catastrophic. Even if you thought the chances of human impacts were 50/50, or 25/75 or maybe even less, as Jonathan suggests prudence would suggest preventive actions should be taken. The fact that we could work at the same time to reduce our dependence on imported oil should be seen as a HUGE bonus on the side. And the future is in renewable energy one way or the other.

The industrial revolution has been going strong for only about 150 years. At some point in the future, the idea that human culture can continue to flourish simply on extraction and consumption of natural resources earth in the present fashion will not be sustained. Let's not destroy the earth before we figure that out.