This article is part 3 of a 4 part article on the recent SBECI.
My second major concern is on the latter point: Clarity. What is it exactly that is being proposed? What is the major concern driving the initiative. Is it care for creation, care for the environment, or the more specific concern of global warming? This point is significant because, even though the initiative says “this is an issue where Christians may find themselves in justified disagreement about both the problem and its solutions,” it offers a moral imperative for all humanity—Christians and Southern Baptists included—to forestall the impact of human actions on global warming: Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change—however great or small.
On what grounds is this universal ethical imperative derived? There must be clarity on this point. This imperative goes beyond the theological imperatives of dominion and stewardship in the sense that it represents a specific moral imperative related to the specific problem of global warming. The initiative has, in effect, pronounced “out of bounds” any debate over whether there actually is global warming, stating, “We resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it.” According to this Southern Baptist initiative, the reality of human caused global warming is resolved in the affirmative, and ethical action is demanded. The ethical action, apparently, has already been established and human actions which may contribute to global warming proscribed.
Such a proscription goes beyond environmental stewardship and creation care to specific ethical application. For many Christians, this will be viewed as having gone too far down the road of eco-monism, adopting what some may view as rather arbitrary and unnecessary (if not altogether oppressive) proscriptions. Granted, the initiative has not endorsed any specific measures for curtailing the supposed human impact on global warming, but will it? More importantly, how will it not? On what grounds will this initiative not go along with proscriptions against SUV’s or with demands for Kyoto protocols?
There needs to be clarity on the point of departure from the eco-monism ethic. For one thing, the ethic of eco-monism is often absurd. Not only are some women choosing to abort their babies so that the dirty little diapers don’t soil nature’s fragile ecosystem, but also there are many other imperatives demanded in the name of erasing our carbon footprint from the otherwise pristine face of our green globe. To offer just one such example, Tim Lang, the Natural Resources Commissioner in the U.K., has recently declared—in the name of thwarting the human impact of global warming—that it is time to stigmatize drinking bottled water. Dasani and Aquafina are as bad for the environment as driving a car, he claims. Thus, such negative impacting actions ought to be relegated to the realm of the immoral.
If he is able to show that there is a dirty carbon footprint on the carpet of earth’s climate, then are we obligated to forego Aquafina? If this concern seems outlandish, then consider the SBECI statement urging the importance of this issue: “Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better.”
Presumably, our “doing better” is accomplished by becoming less cautious. Are we, then, to throw caution into the globally warmed winds and adopt measures against Aquafina, Huggies, and Hummers? If not, then on what grounds are we resisting these proscriptions? What happens when those grounds of resistance are viewed by the world as “uncaring, reckless, and ill-informed”? There are swift currents of ethical imperatives already flowing in the stream of the global warming movement, and they are much stronger than even those once found in the general flow of the green river of environmentalism. I am not convinced that prudence is best served by diving into the global warming stream rather than attempting to remain on the banks of the river, attempting, theologically, to hold key positions in shaping the river away from its course toward pantheism. I am not convinced that the initiative is yet clear enough on these distinctions to warrant our embrace.