Bill Moyers is one of a handful of old school journalists still practicing his craft. Better, he still has a mainstream forum where Americans who haven’t purchased the latest technological gadget, can still watch him do his thing.
I admit that I haven’t watched Mr. Moyers’ for awhile, but Moyers on America caught my eye, last night, as I grew bored with my choice of American League playoff contenders. I’m sorry, but Oakland/Detroit just doesn’t get it done for me in October.
I surfed on over and became interested in Moyers’ subject—the embrace by some fundamentalist Christians of environmental causes. As a former member of a fundamentalist sect, some 20 years ago, I’ve always followed the lengths to which supposed followers of Christ will go to contort themselves to justify their system of belief, particularly when it comes to choice of candidate or political party. The particular group I fell in with had strange ideas on men’s hair, women’s dress and even, racial equality. I’m not here to dwell on my own sordid religious history, however.
Even in my lapsed state, I occasionally spend time following the tenor of thought across the religious spectrum. I’ve grown weary of particular members of the holier-than-thou wing on the far right that houses the likes of Dobson, Falwell, Robertson and others. Like many issues that find them more likely to choose Bush (or Republicanism) over the Bible, the environmental debate is no different. While liberal Episcopalians, Quakers and others have traditionally exhibited concern for the creation (if you hold to that view) and made care of the earth part of their religious mission statements, fundamentalists, on the other hand, could be found side-by-side with those who deny the claims of most of the world’s scientific community, particularly when it comes to global warming.
According to Moyer’s program “Is God Green?” there is a growing rift within the Xian community calling itself evangelical. Actually, there is some historical precedent, for environmental concern on the part of the evangelical movement. Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, concern for the earth and its environmental degradation were debate topics within and without the church. In evangelical circles, theologians like Francis Schaeffer and medieval scholar, Lynn White, wrote books that essentially blamed organized religion for the world’s environmental ills. White in fact argued that medieval Christian attitudes in particular and the entire Judeo-Christian foundation in general, taught that disregard and even exploitation of the environment were ok.
Unfortunately, most American Christians got sidetracked by politics and their tilt rightward to worry much about the environment, over the past 25 years. In fact, Robertson, Falwell and others, carved up large portions of the countryside building educational edifices as monuments to their own narrow-minded, Republican views of God.
Moyers highlighted groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network, who published a statement declaring their commitment to caring for the creation. Others, however, going under the dubious name of the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, published their odious Cornwall Declaration, which in essence, repudiated any responsibility that Christians have in caring for the earth. This group, primarily rooted in the Calvinistic, Dominionist school of theology that teaches that pollution is just another form of physical corruption brought on by sin--in essence, the earth if fucked, so don't worry one bit about the ramifications of your wasteful tendencies. Basically, the crafters of this declaration intone that “humanity alone is capable of developing resources and strategies that can “unlock the potential...for all the earth’s inhabitants,” and therefore embrace beneficial human management of the earth." By beneficial, I’m assuming that they mean our current, capitalist, consumer-driven model of stewardship.
The declaration goes on to state that “while “some environmental concerns are well founded and serious, others are without foundation or greatly exaggerated.” This is of particular concern in developing nations, where basic issues like inadequate sanitation, widespread use of primitive fuels like wood and dung, and primitive agricultural practices go largely unaddressed while more distant and theoretical issues receive the lion’s share of funding and attention.”
Moyers interviewed someone named Calvin Beisner, who apparently is an “authority” on global warming, or at least, the belief that the scientific community’s majority opinion of the danger it poses to life on earth, is exaggerated. Beisner did his best impression of someone with science on his side, refuting many of the claims that leading scientists have made concerning global climate change.
Contrasting Beisner’s hot air and bloviations, was Richard Cizik, of the National Association of Evangelicals, who passionately argued that biblically, Christians need to show care and concern for Mother Earth. Cizik’s position puts him in the crosshairs of many that lean rightward when it comes to politics and religion. Cizik made several points that were excellent, particularly about the need of members of the religious community to put aside politics and follow clear religious teaching on the environment.
While I don’t hold the theological persuasions of men like Cizik, Moyer presented their thoughts and ideas, clearly and objectively. The fact that he gave a pompous windbag like Beisner, as much time as he did, is a credit to Moyers inclination towards objectivity. Better, it shows the hollowness of the claims by those on the right that members of the mainstream media have a "liberal bias."
Once again, a seasoned veteran of journalism, shows what the field used to be about—presenting issues, thoughtfully, well-documented and with enough material to actually promote some thought on a crucial issue.