“Stewardship” of the Earth
What “Stewardship” is freighted with in the minds of some Fundamentalist Christians
I was brought up in the United Methodist Church of the 1960s. Parallel to that upbringing I was introduced at an early age to the modern scientific understanding of the world that includes biological evolution, geologic time, and a vast universe in which the Earth is central only in the minds of some humans. At the time I was vaguely aware that some fellow Methodists, as well as members of some other Christian faith communities, adhered to a belief in the literal truth of words of the Bible (Fundamentalism). Through the years I naively (and somewhat thoughtlessly) assumed that Biblical Fundamentalism and the denial of science that it entailed would gradually recede into the past, much like the astronomical geocentrism of Roman Catholic doctrine gradually gave way to the heliocentrism of the observational and mathematical science of Galileo Galilei. (Nevermind that it took three and a half centuries for a Pope to concede that Galileo was correct.)
Biblical Fundamentalism and all that it entails did not gradually recede, and now it has been harnessed for political purposes. I was vividly reminded of this as I did the background research for Monday’s post concerning the venue for the Deer Park School Board candidate forum at the Tri-County Christian Center (TCCC), an Assembly of God Church in the southern part of the community of Deer Park. In the “Answers to Questions” webpage of the TCCC I was introduced to the Cornwall Alliance’s 2006 Report, “an evangelical response to Global Warming”. The link to that document was stale, but the documentation at the Cornwall Alliance remains abundant—and worth examining for what it reveals about the Fundamentalist view of climate science, Dominian Theology, and humanity’s place in the universe.
Before quoting the Cornwall Alliance as representative of modern Christian Fundamentalist orthodoxy, it is worth noting that Christianity is not now (and never was) a monolithic faith. Conflicts (often deadly serious) between Christian belief systems, often based on differences between concepts most would now consider arcane (e.g. dualism, Catharism, Gnosticism), are as old as Christianity itself. It is dangerous and inappropriate to paint all modern-day Christians with the same brush—and it is equally dangerous for anyone to imagine that wearing a cross of one flavor or another means adherence to a universal belief system called “Christianity”. This is especially true of attitudes toward science in general and climate science in particular. Consider, for example. that Gonzaga University, a Roman Catholic institution, is entirely comfortable with the Gonzaga Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment—even as some self-identified “Christians” have insisted to me that “Roman Catholics aren’t Christians”.
With that extended introduction and disclaimer let’s consider what the Cornwall Alliance can tell us about the worldview of most Fundamentalist Christians—and about the word “stewardship” in the Fundamentalist lexicon as it applies to climate science. From the Cornwall Alliance For the Stewardship of Creation’s thirty point web document entitled “The Biblical Perspective of Environmental Stewardship: Subduing and Ruling the Earth to the Glory of God and the Benefit of Our Neighbors”
25. We affirm that environmental policies that address relatively minor risks while harming the poor—such as opposition to the use of abundant, affordable, reliable energy sources like fossil fuels in the name of fighting global warming; the suppression of the use of safe, affordable, and effective insecticides like DDT to reduce malaria in the name of protecting biodiversity; and the conversion of vast amounts of corn and other agricultural products into engine fuel in the name of ecological protection—constitute oppression of the world’s poor.
If there is any doubt left about Fundamentalist adherence to Dominion Theology, check out point #13. I guess we can just abandon the idea of preserving anything of nature. After all, we were put here to dig up all that oil, coal, natural gas, and all the minerals that God put in the ground for us to find, extract, and use! There’s no need to preserve the cursed wilderness, that cursed natural world.
13. We affirm that the Bible normally associates wilderness or wildness with divine judgment and curse (Exodus 23:29; Leviticus 26:22; Deuteronomy 7:22; 1 Samuel 17:46; Isaiah 5:2–4; 13:19–22; 34:1–17; Jeremiah 50:39; Leviticus 16:21–22).
We deny that wilderness is the best state of the Earth.
14. We affirm that God placed minerals, plants, and animals in and on the Earth for His pleasure, to reveal His glory and elicit man’s praise, and to serve human needs through godly use (Genesis 2:5–16; 4:22; Numbers 31:21–23; Job 38–41; Psalm 19:1–6; Psalm 104).
The website of the Spokane Valley Assembly of God, the church of the recently elected chairman of the Spokane County Republican Party, Pastor Brian Noble, does not specifically subscribe to the precepts of Cornwall Alliance. The Valley Assembly website is much more cagey about its precepts of faith than is TCCC in Deer Park. It should come as no surprise, however, that once one digs down to the CONSTITUTION AND BY-LAWS OF SPOKANE VALLEY ASSEMBLY OF GOD, INC. one finds the classical definition of Biblical Fundamentalism as a “Tenet of Faith”: “The Bible is the inspired Word of God, a revelation from God to Man, the infallible rule of faith and conduct, and is superior to conscience and reason, but not contrary to reason (II Timothy 3:15-17; I Peter 1:23-25; Hebrews 4:12).”
Many, if not all, of the self-described “Christians” among Republican U.S. Representatives and Senators, most especially including U.S. Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5-eastern Washington), come to Congress with a view of the world based in Biblical Fundamentalism laid out among the statements from the Cornwall Alliance quoted above. Climate denialism isn’t just based on fossil fuel corporation money for these people, it is essential tenet of religious faith. The only way to gain representation for us on the issue of global heating is to vote these people out of office.
The tricky part of all this is that, as discussed above, for the voter to learn the specific guiding worldview that a particular candidate’s profession of “Christianity” entails often requires some sleuthing. Most candidate’s would preferDespite abundant evidence in McMorris Rodgers’ educational background (nearly all Fundamentalist Christian schools) it was possible to imagine that she had outgrown her Fundamentalist upbringing—until she professed it from the podium to an audience of admirers.
Keep to the high ground,