Leaving the Environment Behind

Glenn Scherer, in a Grist magazine piece called "The Godly Must Be Crazy," worries about the affect of Left Behind style theology on US enviromental policy.

In a section subtitle "Don't Worry, Be Happy" he asks:

"Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, 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?

Scherer points to Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt who told Congress that he wasn't worried about protecting the environment. "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back," Watt once said.

I don't know many Evangelical today remember Watt, but they do know Dwight L. Moody. Here's what he said in the 1880s, based on his belief that the end was near

I don't find any place where God says that the world is to grow better and
better ... I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel, God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, `Moody, save all you can.' "

Many Christians still use this metaphor--t>e Earth is doomed like the Titanic, and the church's job is to get people in the lifeboat. It's not just enviromental policy that's affected by this idea.

It's social policy as well--why make the world a better place for people where the end is coming. Give them a Jesus-shaped lifepreserver, get them into the boat--that's all that matters. Alleviating suffering or injustice in this life is meaningless--saving souls counts.

What if we change the metaphor. Suppose the world, instead of being the Titanic, is more like the Queen Mary, which sailed faithfully on till reaching her final destination. In that case, caring for the ship and all her passengers is of the utmost importance.


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