Today was Earth Day, 2014. For many, it was a day to celebrate the Earth, to give thanks for its fruitfulness, and to express concern about threats to both the planet and we humans that inhabit it. As a Christian, I also rejoice on Earth Day in the Creator, who has graciously placed us both in and over the creation.
Because we are within the creation–in Genesis it is emphasized that humans are made of the same stuff as the rest of creation–we are subject to the rules of the created order. The planet can be cultivated with care to the benefit of all creatures, including ourselves, or it can be exploited with greed for the benefit of a few people. We can make it better, or we can make it worse. We can live in it as if we are responsible only to ourselves, or as if our ultimate responsibilities are to our Maker.
Being that we humans are embedded in the creation, we have to be concerned about two closely related sciences: ecology and economics. Ecology is all about the relationships between organisms and their surroundings. Economics is concerned with the generation and allocation of wealth among human beings. Human economies would utterly collapse without the resources of the Earth, such as plants, minerals, and fuels, and so economics is dependent on ecology. Ecology, on the other hand, can function without human economics, as it did until sometime in the midst of Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1. But now that people are in the creation, ecology is affected by human economic activities; in some places more strongly than others. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; our influence on ecosystems can be bad, but it was intended in Genesis 1-2 to be good.
One can broadly divide economic systems into capitalist/free market systems, and socialist/communist systems. Many political conservatives–and I am a conservative–like to point out that ecological degradation was more serious and widespread in the communist world than in the capitalist West. I lived in Eastern Europe for over five years, and saw some of this up close. We had to filter our tap water because of its high heavy metal content, and once went through Copşa Mică, the Romanian “black village” infamous for being coated in soot in the communist period due to the production of carbon black.
It is difficult to dispute that communist countries had atrocious environmental records. There were a number of factors involved in this, but I would like to highlight what I think are a few reasons for the ecological catastrophes of the communist bloc:
1. The economy always trumped ecology. The communists had their five-year plans with production goals that had to be met, and “luxuries” like clean air and clean water stood in the way.
2. Short-term goals always trumped long-range goals. Siphoning water out of rivers for massive irrigation projects in Central Asia boosted cotton production, but with grave long-term costs for the Aral Sea, the ecosystems for hundreds of miles around, and the people of the region.
3. The earth was looked at as a commodity or resource for human use, not as God’s good creation that had intrinsic worth.
4. There was no avenue for protest. One didn’t want to stand up to Stalin or Ceaușescu–or to the local party thugs–and say “This is wrong.”
Of these four points, the first three can happen just as easily in a market economy as in a socialist economy.
1. To many “conservatives,” the economy always trumps ecology. This perspective is no different than that of the communist functionaries whose five-year plans ignored environmental issues. If the economy is bad, we need to loosen up on environmental regulations to prompt growth. If the economy is good, we still need to loosen up on environmental restrictions so they won’t drag the economy down.
2. There are plenty of free-market capitalists who are out to earn a quick buck with no thoughts of the consequences for the Earth (or for other people), just as the five-year planners of the U.S.S.R. were eager to meet their quotas. Both are evil.
3. There are plenty of political conservatives–Evangelical Christian conservatives–who effectively deny that the creation has intrisic value, in and of itself. To them, landscapes, ecosystems, or biological communities do not have any true value except in relation to humans. Unmined coal, for example, is worthless, because it is looked at purely from an instrumental (what’s in it for us) viewpoint. Some even go so far as to say that we are insulting God if we don’t use all parts of creation for ourselves. This is an overly-anthropocentric (man-centered) perspective on nature, and ignores the goodness of creation that existed in Genesis 1 even before the appearance of the first humans.
This leaves us with point number four. The main thing we had going for us in the West was the freedom to protest and advocate. Corporations didn’t do anything about the fact that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used to catch on fire from the pollutants that were dumped in it until they were forced to, and they weren’t forced to until people raised a stink about it. The same goes for the mining waste at places like Butte, Montana (once called “America’s ugliest city”).
What I want to advocate is a conservativism that is actually interested in conserving the Earth. This includes protecting air, water, land, and biological communities. It means looking for long-term solutions to long-term problems. It also includes a perspective that growth isn’t always a conservative value, and a recognition that limits exist in the world God has placed us in. The key word, in my mind, is “balance.” There are those on the left who have a very unbalanced view of the environment. There are also those on the right who have a very unbalanced view of the environment.
Some of what we see in the conservative movement right now is an over-reaction to some of the pantheist, socialist, and anti-human extremes of the environmental movement. Certainly there are dangerous ideologies on the left, and those need to be assertively resisted. But the solution is not to mine all the coal, shoot all the wolves, eat spotted owls for dinner, drill-baby-drill, or shut down the Environmental Protection Agency.
Grace and Peace
This article is an expansion of a comment I made on my post There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, which was about the then-upcoming documentary “Axed: The End of Green” (which has been re-named Blue).
When I refer to “some conservatives,” I am specifically thinking of many Tea Party conservatives (and those who follow the Acton Institute) who advocate things like abolishing the EPA. Does the EPA need reform? Yes. But those who believe it is in our society’s interest to gut or even eliminate environmental regulations are foolish. Cleaner air and cleaner water did not come about in our society by relaxing environmental regulations. I am not really sure what in the natural world some of these conservatives want to conserve.
Calvin Beisner, perhaps Evangelicalism’s best known anti-environmental crusader, is one who claims we insult God if we don’t use the coal God has given us. My thoughts: 1) This is a great example of the anthropocentrism that is pervasive in this sort of conservatism. 2)Maybe God buried the coal for a reason.
I recognize that free markets generate the wealth that we need to combat genuine environmental problems. My point, however, is that it is not unrestrained, laissez-faire capitalism that accomplishes this. Environmental regulation is necessary in order to restrain sin (Romans 13); in this case the sin of wilfully destroying God’s good Earth. We need balance. Free markets, yes. But not completely free.
I started to write a paragraph about the parallels between elements of the conservative movement (the libertarian types) and liberation theology (which was/is an attempt to blend Christianity with Marxism). Basically, as others have pointed out, there is a liberation theology of the left, and there is a liberation theology of the right. Both are wrong.
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. — On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas — Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.
Mitt Romney’s Environmental Platform — Ummm, Mitt Romney doesn’t seem to have an environmental platform. The menu at mittromney.com doesn’t have “Environment” as an option.
There isn’t anything substantial about the environment that I could find on the site. I am a conservative, and will vote for Romney in November. But why can’t we have a conservative presidential candidate who would actually be interested in conserving?
Richard Dawkins’ sloppy scholarship — Jay Wile does a good job of exposing militant atheist Richard Dawkins’ poor use of quotations. “This situation is very interesting, because creationists are often accused of quote mining, but here is a clear case where one of the greatest evolutionary evangelists of our time is doing it.”
The “Planet Debate” renewed? — A few years back, Pluto was demoted, so now we have only eight planets in the solar system. The debate is certain to be renewed at same point, not only about Pluto, but also about a couple of asteroids. The NASA article NASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Large Asteroid refers a number of times to the planet-like qualities of the asteroid Vesta, such as having an interior differentiated into layers, including an iron core.
N.T. Wright sings about Genesis — sung to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Watch it at the Internet Monk. Wright isn’t the world’s greatest musician, but he inserts a lot of theological issues into a few verses.
Why they had to fall, I don’t know, it doesn’t say
They did something wrong, and we’ve longed for God’s new day-ay-ay-ay
Grace and Peace
YEC and Dispensationalism — The discussion on my 1000th post has been interesting: the relationship between young-Earth creationism and dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is the theological system that divides salvation history into “dispensations” or periods of time in which God relates to humans in distinct ways. Usually, the last dispensation—that is, the End Times—is just around the corner. Popular dispensationalist authors have included Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind), and Charles Ryrie (The Ryrie Study Bible). I was a member of a dispensationalist YEC church in college, and was greatly blessed by the teaching and people, but I am now neither YEC nor dispensationalist.
Catastrophic Plate Tectonics — I have made a few comments on Jay Wile’s post Those Plates, They Are A-Movin’ on his Proslogion blog. Most YECs now accept that the evidence for plate movement is overwhelming, so they have proposed various models for hyper-rapid plate movement during Noah’s flood. The most popular explanation among mainstream YECs right now is something called Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. Of course, to them CPT explains everything, and problems with CO2 and SO2 production; cooling rates, the structure of oceanic crust, hot-spot volcanism (e.g. Hawaii-Emperor Seamounts), guyot formation, and differentiation of subduction-related magmas are inconsequential.
No room in the middle — Veteran Indiana senator Richard Lugar was defeated in the primary election by a Tea Partier. Lugar’s comments after his defeat point to the divisiveness that characterizes modern American politics:
Too often bipartisanship is equated with centrism or deal cutting. Bipartisanship is not the opposite of principle. One can be very conservative or very liberal and still have a bipartisan mindset. Such a mindset acknowledges that the other party is also patriotic and may have some good ideas. It acknowledges that national unity is important, and that aggressive partisanship deepens cynicism, sharpens political vendettas, and depletes the national reserve of good will that is critical to our survival in hard times….
I don’t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases. For two consecutive Presidential nomination cycles, GOP candidates competed with one another to express the most strident anti-immigration view, even at the risk of alienating a huge voting bloc. Similarly, most Democrats are constrained when talking about such issues as entitlement cuts, tort reform, and trade agreements. Our political system is losing its ability to even explore alternatives. If fealty to these pledges continues to expand, legislators may pledge their way into irrelevance. Voters will be electing a slate of inflexible positions rather than a leader.
I got this quote from Internet Monk.
Paper napkins — Lazyhippiemama informs us that the average American uses 2200 paper napkins per year. If each of us used one less paper napkin per day, that would reduce our paper napkin use by 313,000,000 paper napkins per day. [That comes out to a reduction of 114,245,000,000 paper napkins per year].
Canada doesn’t make cents — Canada is not only eliminating the one-cent coin, they are changing the appearance and composition of the loonie and toonie ($1 and $2 coins) to save money and make them more difficult to counterfeit. The Canadian cent was eliminated primarily as a cost-saving measure. United States cents are also expensive to produce (it costs more than two cents to make a cent), but so far the only thing the U.S. government has done about it is to criminalize the melting or export of pennies (and nickels).
Ronald Reagan was the antichrist.
Barack Obama is conducting a war against Christianity.
Anyone who believes humans are causing global warming is a left-wing, socialist, environmental wacko.
Anyone who doesn’t believe humans are causing global warming is an ignoramus.
Christians who accept an old Earth or evolution are either dangerous compromisors, or maybe not Christians at all.
Young-Earth creationists are just plain stupid.
I’ve heard all of these, and much more, from Christians.
I get weary of the “culture wars” that pervade much of our society and the Christian church, whether in politics, the environment, origins (creation and evolution), or even theology.
What I get tired of is not the debate—I have strong thoughts on some of these issues—but the level of acrimony and demonization that characterizes much of the debate, even among Christians.
It is good to be passionate and zealous, as long as we are passionate and zealous about things that are primary, rather than secondary or tertiary in importance, and that we play by Biblical rules of integrity, love, and humility.
C. John Collins has a good section on “culture wars” in Chapter 20 of Science & Faith: Friends or Foes:
It’s pretty common to hear that we’re in a culture war—the traditionalists and the secularists are fighting over who will control the culture. There is a sense in which the image is right: as we will see in the next chapter, there are worldviews that are at odds with each other, and therefore it’s no surprise that we find conflict. The image is a dangerous one, though, because it can lead us to look at everything in combatant terms: people who disagree with us become our enemies, and we have to defeat them. If you are my enemy, and I am a Christian, then—even if you’re a Christian too—you must be morally defective.
Three further dangers follow from this warfare imagery. The first is that we can forget that worldviews involve not just philosophical positions but also moral commitments; and that back behind unbelief there lies a demonic enslaver. As Paul put it in Ephesians 6,
12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18[Pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…
There is a spiritual component to this battle; and therefore, all our intellectual efforts must express our faithfulness to Christ and must be bathed in prayer. We must never use the weapons of unbelief—dishonesty, slander, name-calling, and so on. The second danger, related to the first, is that we can forget that the unbeliever is not the person we’re fighting against; rather, he is the person we are fighting for: that is, the purpose of all this is to free people from their slavery to the Devil. The third danger that arises is that we can forget that any Christian—and any Christian church—always has only a partial grasp of a fully Christian worldview; and even those parts that we grasp rightly, we practice only partly. So some of our “warfare” ought to be against our own imperfections!
The warfare image is a biblical one, to be sure; but we will do well to be careful how we use it.
[bold emphasis added]
I will be passionate and zealous about things that I believe are both true and of supreme importance, such as the existence of God, the sinfulness of Man, and in Jesus Christ as the only bridge between man and God. Many of these “primary” things of life are expressed in the ancient creeds of the Church.
I will also be passionate and zealous about some secondary issues—such as the age of the Earth, the importance of good stewardship of the Earth, political conservatism that embraces things worth conserving (Earth, family) rather than propping up greed—though my level of enthusiasm will vary from topic to topic.
I will try to discern what is primary, and what is secondary. I will fail at this sometimes.
I will not demonize you or hate you if you differ from me. In fact, I cherish diversity in these areas, and am enriched not only by those with whom I agree, but also by those with whom I differ.
Grace and Peace.
“I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that States and the Federal Government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.” — Ronald Reagan
The quote is taken from It’s conservative to conserve by Rob Sisson, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, which was in the Washington Times on Monday. Sisson wrote in response to Steve Milloy’s editorial in the Washington Times the week before, Republicans green with Democrat envy: GOP activists pursue a liberal eco-agenda. Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com.
I’ll side with Reagan rather than Milloy on this one.
Grace and Peace
Arrrrgh. I’m writing about politics again. Or am I writing about religion? Here is a section from “God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck” by Southern Baptist pastor/seminary professor Russell Moore:
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
He hit the nail on the head. This rally was a quasi-religious and nationalistic call to morality and civil religion, but not a call to follow Jesus Christ. Many in the crowd didn’t seem to know the difference.
HT: Cranach (the blog of Gene Edward Veith)
Grace and Peace
I have too many half-read books on my bookshelf (or in some cases stacked in piles in my office). One of them is Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher, with the subtitle “How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, … America (or at least the Republican Party).”
I don’t wear Birkenstocks, I’m not all that hip (and certainly not a mama), but I am an evangelical, right-wing nature lover who buys eggs from free-range chickens even though they cost more.
Dreher sums up what it is to be a “crunchy con” (crunchy for granola-eating, and con for conservative) in A Crunchy-Con Manifesto:
1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.
5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.
8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
Things that are important: faith, family, community, beauty, nature, truth, wisdom.
Grace and Peace
A car at work has this bumper sticker:
Ummmm… I think it has been over 300 years since anyone was burned at the stake in this country (a very unfortunate event in U.S. history). Since that time, mixing of politics and religion has led to some rather positive historical developments, such as the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement (this person has obviously not read much by Martin Luther King Jr.). We should be thankful that the leaders of these movements did not leave their Christianity at the doorstep when they entered the political realm.
The history of religion, including that of Christianity, has some rather dark pages. I cannot deny that. Atrocities and injustices in the name of Christianity, however, are inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and of the New Testament, and so do not invalidate Christianity, or the involvement of Christians in politics.
This sort of historical revisionism runs rampant in the writings of the “new atheists,” such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Perhaps a better bumper sticker—one that is a little more accurate in terms of recent history—would be:
Grace and Peace
I go to a Republican church, and I vote almost exclusively Republican. When I lived in St. Louis, I also went to a Republican church, but the church next door was a Democrat church. You could tell by bumper stickers on the cars. This kind of bothers me. Would a Democrat feel comfortable in my church? I would hope so, because one can certainly hold to many principles of the Democratic Party, such as universal health care, gun control, or stronger environmental regulations, and be a Christian. I shouldn’t even have to say that. Many of these Christians would argue that their liberal positions flow from Biblically-based concerns.
I was in a discussion with a group of men from my church last week. We were discussing Philippians 2:14 (“Do everything without complaining or arguing” NIV),. This question was asked: Is it acceptable to complain or argue about President Obama and his policies? I stuck out my neck and stated that there are things that Obama has done in his first 100 days that I actually liked. Most shook their heads in disbelief; some were shocked and almost confrontational: “Name one thing Obama has done right! One thing!”
I didn’t say anything, and was relieved when the topic got back to Philippians 2.
Here are some things that I think Obama has done better than the previous Republican administration:
- Environmental policy: McCain had the potential to be a good environmental president, but seemed to be caving in to the other side in his campaign. Clean air and clean water are precious. So are unspoiled land and wetlands. Overall, these were threatened by the Bush administration. There is nothing Biblical about endless growth in consumption or poor stewardship. Republicans for Environmental Protection has some excellent positions on environmental policy, but unfortunately these are not held by a majority of Republicans.
- Energy policy: The Obama energy policy is much more sophisticated than the short-sighted “drill baby drill” mantra of the Republican campaign. It includes a breadth of renewable energy resources that have been on the backburner for way too long.
- Torture: Yes, Al-Qaeda is bad. Very bad. But reading about the torture policies of the Bush administration makes me think I’m reading The Gulag Archipeligo, and it doesn’t make me happy. We are supposed to be better than our enemies. (John McCain, who knows about torture from personal experience, was opposed to torture as well).
Don’t take me wrong; I have some grave concerns about the Obama agenda. I didn’t vote for him, and I wouldn’t vote for him now. It is foolish to spend a trillion dollars to rescue companies that made horrible business decisions (would McCain have done any differently?), and his radical abortion agenda is offensive to me. But here they are, three things that Obama has done right.
Grace and Peace
I’ve been involved in a discussion over at Cranach about the battle for the soul of the conservative movement: Conservative civil war. I threw in a few quotes from noted conservatives to point out that there is nothing conservative about allowing pollution and degradation of the Earth.
“While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean, pollution-free environment.” — Barry Goldwater
“Nothing is more conservative than conservation.” — Russell Kirk
“Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution” — Ronald Reagan
“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Grace and peace
OK, I said a while back that it was nice to have the election behind us, and that I hoped I wouldn’t spend much time on politics until 2012. Well, it’s hard to switch gears…
- I object to pastors who use their pulpits to organize voters rather than teach the Bible and proclaim the gospel.
- I object to evangelical organizations (including certain Christian broadcasters, evangelical radio stations, the National Association of Evangelicals, various 501c3’s, and even some churches) who raise money for “ministry” and then all they ever talk about are political issues and headline news, while rarely (if ever) mentioning the gospel.
- I object to the fact that when the average unbeliever today hears the word evangelical, he thinks of a voting bloc rather than anything spiritual.
- I object to the fact that most evangelicals are overwhelmingly on the same page politically, but their movement is doctrinally so diverse that they can’t even agree what the gospel is.
- I object to the fact that the average evangelical could not give a coherent, biblically sound summary of the gospel or a theologically accurate explanation of justification by faith—but they are more worried about an Obama presidency than they are about the disintegration of their own testimony.
Grace and Peace
Rod Dreher is author of the Crunchy Con (granola conservatism) blog and an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, and he wrote in the name of Wendell Berry on his ballot for president of the United States.
A week before, he wrote a column about Wendell Berry in his newspaper: Wendell Berry’s Time is Now.
Most haven’t heard of Wendell Berry; I first heard of him through reading books about Christian perspectives on the environment. Here are some quotes from Dreher’s editorial:
Could any man be less relevant to the politics and culture of our time than an old Kentucky poet-farmer who is so out of step with the times that he refuses to use a computer and still tills his earth using draft horses? And yet, given the converging crises of this extraordinary moment in American history, it just might be that in the winter of a long and honorable career, Wendell Berry’s moment has arrived.
Why? Because in his numerous essays, poems and novels, the traditionalist agrarian writer, now 74, has stood steadfastly for fidelity to family and community, self-sufficiency, localism, conservation and, above all, learning to get by decently within natural limits. Our nation and our world have reached a crucible of near-cataclysm in our economy and – with climate change – in the environment, chiefly because we have refused to live within our means.
If Mr. Berry’s politics can be summed up in a single word, it would be stewardship.
Though to all appearances an old-time Democrat, his faithfulness to his iconoclastic vision makes him an uncomfortable presence among the mainstream left and has won him new admirers on the dissident right. He is a moralist hostile both to big government and big business. He is a Christian who can’t be understood apart from his deep religious conviction that humankind is under divine command to be good caretakers of creation – the land, its creatures and each other.
If you build your politics on this foundation, you will find yourself standing outside the camps of our parties. Most Republicans don’t care for him because he is a harsh critic of industrialism, consumerism and the unfettered free market as a destroyer of land, community and healthy traditions. Most Democrats regard him as out of touch because he is a religious man who holds autonomous individualism, especially the sexual freedom it licenses, to be similarly destructive of families, communities and the sacredness of love.
“The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve.”
Unlike mainstream environmentalists, Mr. Berry won’t separate “the environment” from humanity. He once told me that he will not sign on to the environmentalist cause until activists recognize that ordinary people and their needs are part of the natural world, too.
The sum of Berry’s philosophy might be “live within boundaries.” This isn’t a popular idea among either liberals or conservatives, but it is wise, and I believe it is Biblical as well.
Grace and Peace
From Christianity Today, a map showing Evangelical Christian voting patterns:
You can click on the states for statistics.
HT: World Magazine
Grace and Peace
A much better county by county 2008 presidential map is found at the New York Times site:
It’s a little faint, but one nifty feature is the ability to zoom in to see data from any one county:
The NYT also has a county bubble map. Blue for Obama, and red for McCain, plus the size of the dot is proportional to the population of the county:
Lots of little red dots aren’t enough to balance out the massive blue dots of the nation’s cities.
HT: The Map Room
Grace and Peace
You’ve all seen the red state/blue state maps on election night. Here’s a map showing the 2008 presidential election on a county-by-county basis:
The USA looks red after all!
There is actually a lot more blue on the map than there was in 2004, when Bush defeated Kerry:
This 2004 map is asthetically much more pleasing than the 2008 map I found; I’ll keep on looking for a better 2008 map.
Grace and Peace
A few random thoughts regarding the election:
- I listened to McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech on NPR on the radio. I didn’t see the crowds, but the reporter described the McCain crowd as “monochromatic,” and the Obama crowd as very diverse. That the party of Lincoln is so predominantly white should tell us that we conservatives have done an absolutely terrible job (I know there are exceptions) when it comes to diversity. Where are the blacks? Where are the Hispanics?
- Between speeches, NPR interviewed a black congressman from South Carolina who had roots in the civil rights movement. I’m sorry I can’t remember his name. He was obviously deeply moved by the election of Obama. He cared deeply about issues of justice, and spoke about how the black congressional caucus had gotten together to pray for the election. We white Evangelicals focus on abortion (and hopefully will continue to do so). I would love to see the day when we white Christians also care deeply about the poor and oppressed, and our black Christian brothers and sisters consider the rights of the unborn to be a critical civil rights issue as well.
- The Obama campaign was run almost flawlessly, and with lots of cash. The McCain campaign, or at least my personal experience of it here in Colorado, was not so smooth. I ordered a McCain (not a McCain-Palin) bumper sticker over the internet almost two weeks before the election. I would think the campaign would see to it that this was taken care of promptly, given the urgency of the deadline. I presumed that I would receive this bumper sticker within three or four days, but instead I received it the night before the election. Not much use there. Plus, I didn’t get the bumper sticker I ordered. I got the McCain-Palin sticker rather than just the plain McCain sticker; I wasn’t a Palin supporter. The day before the election, the GOP placed a flyer on our door, reminding us to vote, and telling us where to vote. However, the flyer told us to go to the wrong polling place! Fortunately, we already knew our correct precinct. One more thing, on election day, we received at least half a dozen calls from the GOP asking us if we had voted yet. Wasn’t one “yes, we have already voted” enough?
Whew, It’s over. Perhaps you won’t read any more politics on this blog until 2012, unless it relates to my focus of “science, the environment, and Christianity.” Perhaps.
As you know, I supported John McCain for president. In his concession speech last night, McCain modeled the graciousness and respect that we should have for the president-elect, Barack Obama. The election of an African-American to the presidency is certainly a historic occasion, and a sign that we as a nation are maturing in terms of race relations. I’ll be praying for him.
Quotes from some other Christian blogs:
It is indeed significant to have elected our first black president. This will help in exorcising our racial demons. (I read a black journalist who said that if Obama won, which he could scarcely believe would happen, that it would show that everything he believed about white people would be proven wrong).
I think we will see in President Obama a repeat of the John Kennedy phenomenon: an upsurge of idealism that may sweep away much of our cultural cynicism, especially among the young and among our cultural elite. This would be healthy.
…I have misgivings and fears, but I’m looking for the positives, and I do think there will be some.
(Gene Edward Veith – Cranach)
Almighty and sovereign God, ruler over all that you have made: As we awoke today to a new president, some of us are surprised, but the outcome of yesterday’s voting is not a surprise to you, who know and ordain our beginning and our end.
Thank you for the precious truth that, in Christ, your mercies are new every morning. We confess that too often we have put our trust in chariots and horses—and presidents—instead of your perfect rule. We confess our fretting and, instead, rest this morning in your sovereign governing over all that you have made.
We pray for our new president, making intercessions and thanksgiving for him. Through our voting, you have appointed a ruler to govern your people; work through him to promote that which is good and to punish that which is evil.
Protect his and his family’s lives, and make him a defender of life.
Guide him as he guides our government….
(William C. Marsh at World Magazine)
Some positive things I’m looking forward to in the Obama presidency:
- Greater protection for the environment.
- Greater investment in alternative energy resources.
Grace and Peace
1. I’m unemployed.
2. I haven’t made enough money to pay federal income taxes since 1999.
3. I’m paying for expensive health insurance out of my own pocket.
4. My retirement account is shrinking, not growing.
5. I’m an environmentalist.
So who am I voting for?
1. I’m unemployed. The tax plan of McCain is more likely to stimulate job growth than the tax plan of Obama.
2. Taxes on the middle class. Obama’s plan could make more than half of American workers into non-taxpayers. That might be popular with some, but it isn’t a good idea to have a majority of non-taxpayers dictating the laws while a minority are paying the taxes. I say this as one who has been on the bottom of the middle class and has not had any taxable income for the past eight years. I wouldn’t mind paying my fair share (but no more).
3. Health insurance. It’s expensive, and needs reforming, but I’m not convinced that Obama will take it in a good direction.
4. Shrinking retirement account. It is going to take hard work on my part to be ready for retirement years. “Hard work on my part” would be a better attitude on the part of working Americans than “How can the government make this easy.”
5. I’m an environmentalist. So is John McCain. Obama has a good environmental voting record as well, for the most part (except perhaps for mountain-top coal removal). John McCain has spent time in the wilderness. How much time has Obama spent in the creation all alone with the rocks, streams, and squirrels? This will make one a deeper environmentalist than reading Al Gore.
6. Abortion. I cannot vote for someone who has such a disregard for the weakest ones in our society. Obama’s voting record on abortion is actually to the left of Kennedy, Boxer, and other liberal leaders.
Go out and vote (unless you are voting for Obama).
Grace and Peace
The attacks against John McCain by some environmental groups (such as the Sierra Club) are unfair. McCain has a well-integrated energy and environmental policy, that reflects his years of environmental leadership, not only in the Republican Party, but in the senate as a whole.
From Republicans for Environmental Protection:
The Environmental Case for John McCain
by REP Government Affairs Director David Jenkins
Speech to Society of Environmental Journalists conference, Roanoke, Virginia; October 18, 2008
Thank you, it is a pleasure to be here.
For those of you who don’t know, Republicans for Environmental Protection, or REP for short, is an organization dedicated to improving the Republican Party’s stance on environmental issues, helping elect truly green Republicans, and advancing our belief that real conservatism requires a strong stewardship ethic.
REP first endorsed Senator McCain in his 2000 primary race against George Bush—and in case anyone is wondering— no, we have never endorsed President Bush.
In fact, it was during that 2000 race that Senator McCain first met with REP and raised the issue of climate change.
And since climate change is currently the biggest and most pressing environmental challenge we face, it is a good place to start when talking about Senator McCain and the environment.
His record of leadership on climate change is unequaled. No member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, has done more to move our nation forward towards an effective response to climate change than John McCain.
Senator McCain has done more than talk about climate change, or roll out an election season plan. He was the first senator to introduce comprehensive climate legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
He has been introducing his climate bill since 2003, he held numerous hearings on the legislation, and in the face of opposition by his own party leaders, used political capital to secure floor votes on the bill.
His leadership didn’t stop there. To build support for climate legislation, Senator McCain undertook an intensive effort to educate his colleagues in Congress about climate change and the need to address it.
He took skeptical senators and representatives to the ends of the earth, including Antarctica, Alaska, Greenland, and New Zealand, to show them, firsthand, the impacts of climate change, expose them to climate research, and convince them that it is time to act.
By contrast, Senator Obama’s record on climate change is pretty thin. We really do not know how much political capital he is willing to spend on the issue—or how this issue stacks up related to his other priorities. He has a plan, but that only matters if it is something that can realistically become law.
I firmly believe that a McCain presidency, because of his proven commitment to this issue, his record of bipartisanship, and the fact that he can secure Republican votes, offers the best opportunity to see meaningful climate legislation become law.
During the primary season, a top priority of the environmental community was for candidates to raise the climate issue on the campaign trail. Senator McCain did just that. He was constantly raising the issue in the Republican debates—even when the question was about energy or the economy, he addressed the issue in speeches, he sent out flyers exclusively about climate change, and he made this issue a key part of his campaign.
As you might imagine, this was a first for a GOP presidential primary—and on top of that, he actually won.
Because of Senator McCain’s record of climate leadership, the fact that he elevated the issue in the primaries, and because he was clearly the greenest candidate in the GOP field, I had hoped that the environmental community would have celebrated, at least briefly, his winning the nomination.
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead our friends over at Sierra Club begin launching harsh attacks on Senator McCain as soon as it seemed likely that he would be the GOP nominee.
In February, when the League of Conservation Voters released its 2007 scorecard, Senator McCain was given a zero rating because he missed all of the scored votes. Sierra Club President Carl Pope issued a statement at the time saying that McCain’s zero rating “exposed a lifetime pattern of voting with polluters and special interests.”
Call me crazy, but I thought it just exposed the fact that he was busy campaigning for president and missed the votes.
Now, interestingly enough, just yesterday, LCV issued its 2008 scorecard. Senator Obama received a score of 18 because he missed 9 of the 11 scored votes while he was out campaigning.
I look forward to seeing Mr. Pope’s characterization of that score.
I mention this because I think such harsh partisanship from the environmental community serves to further polarize environmental issues along political lines at a time when bipartisan support is needed, just as it was when we passed the landmark environmental laws of the 1970s, if we are to enact climate legislation that can be sustained long-term, regardless of which way the political winds are blowing.
Senator McCain also has a long record of leadership on public lands issues.
Most of you probably know that Senator McCain’s hero and role model is Theodore Roosevelt. This is especially true when it comes to environmental stewardship. His close friend, the late Congressman Mo Udall, also shaped Senator McCain’s stewardship ethic.
Senator McCain and Congressman Udall worked together to protect 3.4 million acres of Arizona wilderness. Senator McCain has been a champion of the Grand Canyon, fighting successfully for legislation to protect the canyon from noisy aircraft overflights. He currently has the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River bill in an omnibus public lands package that the Senate plans to vote on in November.
Thus far, Senator Obama has not taken an active leadership role in wilderness, parks, or other public lands issues.
Climate change and public lands issues are areas where there is a clear difference between the candidates in experience, focus, and leadership, but there are also some real differences in policy direction that have gotten very little play in the media.
One of these has to do with the candidates’ approach to water projects.
In 2006 and 2007, Senator McCain, along with Russ Feingold, sponsored a bill and two legislative amendments to require independent prioritization and review of Army Corps of Engineers water projects. Lacking such prioritization and oversight, Corps projects are often wasteful, pork barrel boondoggles that destroy rivers and wetlands and siphon valuable dollars away from more worthy projects.
Senator Obama opposed the McCain–Feingold Corps reform amendments.
Senator McCain supports farm policy reform to address costly, outdated, and environmentally harmful subsidy programs. Senator Obama has supported the status quo.
Senator McCain opposes an effort to add wind damage coverage to the already financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program. Adding wind coverage to NFIP would put the program deeper in the red and encourage development in ecologically fragile, hurricane-prone coastal areas by having taxpayers across the country underwrite the risk of such development.
Senator Obama favors adding wind damage coverage to NFIP.
Senator McCain has promised to end the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, which—as has been highlighted at this conference—is destroying the Appalachian landscape and has resulted in thousands of miles of streams being buried by the overburden.
Senator Obama has been considerably less committal about this issue.
Since energy has been such a high profile focus of the campaigns, I’m sure most of you are aware of the major distinctions between the two candidates’ energy policies. So, in the interest of time I’m just going to make a few points.
While much of the talk has centered around offshore drilling and nuclear energy, it is important to point out that Senator McCain has a very balanced energy plan that is fully integrated with his climate change policy.
He is committed to quickly shifting our transportation sector away from oil by dramatically improving fuel efficiency and relying more on alternative fuels. He believes that electric hybrids and flex-fuel capability are keys to this. He supports accelerating the development and use of cellulosic ethanol.
His support for nuclear energy is rooted is his commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He is not convinced that we can meet our energy needs in a climate-friendly way unless we expand our use of nuclear energy.
Senator McCain opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as does Senator Obama.
The Obama campaign continually attacks Senator McCain by claiming he opposes tax credits for wind and solar. While he has voted against specific bills for various reasons, he wants to rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits and provide an even-handed system of credits that will remain in place until a cap on carbon emissions can transform the market.
Anyone who tries to compare Senator McCain’s stewardship ethic and his energy and environmental policies to President Bush is simply not being honest. The differences are dramatic, whether the issue is climate change, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, CAFE standards, Tongass logging subsidies, heck, even the role of science in informing public policy—and those differences have positively impacted the tone and substance of the GOP platform.
In 1908, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was busy implementing his great conservation vision for America—and protecting our nation’s natural heritage more than any other president before or since.
Now, exactly 100 years later, we have an opportunity to elect another Republican, cut from a similar mold, who believes that conservation is conservative, who cherishes our public lands, and who is passionate about the stewardship obligation we owe future generations.