Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Faith in the News

The intersection of theology and politics is often in the news it seems. Martin Marty, of the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, recently noted that some “Tea Partiers undergird their opposition to global warming with theology of the biblical sort. Last October 20 in The New York Times, John M. Broder did a close-up of typical action in campaigns at Jasper, Indiana. Global warming? “It’s a flat-out lie!” shouted the founder of the local T.P., basing his view on theologian Rush Limbaugh and “the teaching of Scripture. ‘I read my Bible. . . [God] made this earth for us to utilize.’” Lisa Deaton, a founder of Tea Partyish “We the People Indiana,” added gloss: “Being a strong Christian, I cannot help believe the Lord placed a lot of minerals in our country, and it’s not there to destroy us.”

Marty continues, “It would be easy to refute and dismiss such proclamations, but they are generously backed. Broden: “Those views in general align with those of the fossil fuel industries,” which subsidize—at the rate of [by now well over] $500 million in the last two years—lobbying against legislation that would help postpone The End. Such industries can always find some dissenter against the overwhelming scientific consensus which warns against the destruction of the planet. Ron Johnson, the new senator from Wisconsin, settles it all scientifically. Climate change? “It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity.” Or part of an every ten-thousand year cycle. Wait and see.

Marty notes that “LaVonne Neff commenting in Christianity Today on Bill McKibben’s Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, quoted stories identifying the author as “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and “the world’s best green journalist.” He is also, she notes, “a churchgoing, Sunday-school teaching Methodist, who wants to see Christians leading the environmental movement,” and makes a theological case for their doing so. McKibben argues for “small and local” ways to help confront the issue. Ms. Neff, contra Mr. Limbaugh and other theologians on the far right, argues that McKibben’s recommendations “fit well with Scripture’s respect for creation” and “its requirement to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

In conclusion, Marty writes: “Many Catholics, Jews, and Mainline Protestants, who have worked this theme in their “social justice” preaching, rejoice to hear such evangelical voices. Neff writes, “McKibben is not a doomsday prophet,” but he is a prophet crying in our heating-up wilderness.


Global Warming and American Christianity by Martin E. Marty, Sightings, 11/15/2010, the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

“Local is beautiful: Bill McKibben believes we can thrive on a planet that will never be the same,” Christianity Today, November, 2010.

John M. Broder, “Climate Change Doubt Is Tea Party Article of Faith,” New York Times, October 20.

Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by (New York: Times Books, 2010).

---, “Hot Mess: Why Are Conservatives So Radical about the Climate?” The New Republic, October 6, 2010.

Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, publications, and contact information can be found at

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