Conservative Evangelicals embrace God and green
Why some right-leaning evangelical Christians have become true believers in climate change. God and green go together, these conservatives say.
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Love for humanity should be underlie concern for the environment, says Farley, who earlier wrote the book "The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church," in which he talks about "living life from a heartfelt motivation."Skip to next paragraph
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Two recent events have Hayhoe, Farley, and Merritt scrambling to meet new skepticism about climate change and the environment. So-called "Climategate," based on stolen e-mails, has caused some to doubt a portion of the data in the IPCC report. And "Snowmaggedon," the record-breaking February snowstorms on the East Coast, seems to some to throw a fat snowball at the idea of "global warming."
"Climategate didn't do us any favors," Farley concedes. But the e-mails don't change the basic conclusions of a vast number of scientists "who have published in peer-reviewed journals of all kinds" study after study showing that climate change is real, he says. "The message that needs to be shouted clearly to everyone is that this is real, this is happening."
There's a big difference between ever-changing weather events, such as this year's big snowstorms, and slow-moving climate change, which is measured over decades, Hayhoe says. But unusually large snowstorms actually fit the pattern of more extreme weather predicted by climate-change models: "What is 'normal' is changing. Extremes in weather are becoming more frequent, [whether] drought or heat wave or rainfall events," she says. "Here in Lubbock three years ago, we had the longest dry period in history, over 110 days without rain. And then the very next year, we had the most rain we've ever had in a 24-hour period.
"You can't say any one event is due to climate change," she says. "But we see this pattern all across the US, all across the world, where these extremes are getting more and more frequent in both directions."
Hayhoe, Farley, and Merritt all note that Evangelicals don't have to agree with scientists on every issue, such as when the earth was created or whether humans evolved from lower forms of life, in order to believe that climate change is happening and needs to be addressed.
Embracing the environment
Merritt hopes that even those Evangelicals who can't bring themselves to accept human-induced climate change will accept other parts of the environmental message to care for God's creation.
Harming God's creation is as destructive as "tearing a page out of the Bible," Merritt says. "We are asked by God to act to preserve the planet and to protect the people who depend on the planet's resources." The command in the book of Genesis for humans to care for the world "has never been revoked, ever, in Scripture," he says. From the very beginning of the Bible "we get a very clear picture that God has gone green, and He's never looked back."
The reason Evangelicals should care about climate change is "not because we worship the earth," Hayhoe says. It's recognizing that the impact is likely to be most severe in some of the most impoverished areas of the world.
"Doing something about climate change is loving our global neighbor," she says. "It's about caring about people who are already hurting around the world. And it's about caring for our children and future generations, who are going to inherit this earth that God has given us."