This morning Ben posted his own particular take on the anti-science posture of the church including a coarse but pointed video with Louis C K. Perhaps the most telling part in this video is the idea of God coming back and asking us why we didn’t take care of this incredible place that he has given us. I have to say that I scratch my head as to why that isn’t more apparent. In particular, I puzzle about why people who fight so much for the idea of creation don’t seem particularly interested in carefully tending that loving gift from God. I also wonder why those who identify as “conservative” don’t seem terribly interested in “conserving” the resources and the other forms of life God placed here. It honestly seems like a no-brainer to me! And, whatever the pros and cons of our current understanding of climate change, it just doesn’t seem terribly wise to conduct an experiment on the only planet we’ve got that could render it inhabitable for us. Prudence, if nothing else, suggests care in these matters. And if Christians comfort themselves with the hope of heaven, I think Louis C K has it right that we will have some pretty uncomfortable reckoning with the Maker.
The larger issue that Ben points up is that this is one more place where the church is out of step with many of his generation. Kinnaman doesn’t really talk about this but I encounter many thoughtful people who have turned to the east because this worldview system at least affirms our “oneness” with all things. I have questions about the efficacy of that worldview to address environmental issues but that’s for another post. Others pursue naturalism because they see naturalist scientists as the ones caring for the beautiful world they love. Many see Christians, mostly of my generation, opposing any efforts to address climate change and not wanting to even think of a more earth-friendly way of life, and they say…I’m out of here. The fact that our environmentalist “smackdowns” and our consumption lifestyle seem more important to us than the gospel and the people alienated by our lives and rhetoric says something about our priorities, and our hearts, it seems to me.
Most troubling is that in many of our churches, we have drawn our response to environmental concerns more from certain radio and TV outlets than we have our scriptures. Also,I realize there are ideologues on both “sides” of these questions. But as Ben said, I also know scientists who are not ideologues–they simply are collecting and analyzing data that give them cause for concern. You can probably find some of them at your local university. You might even have some already in your congregation who have never felt welcome to share their work because of the rhetoric they hear from other adults or even from the pulpit. One of the ways churches might think of overcoming the “anti-science” perception Kinnaman talks about is to invite an actual scientist to come and talk about their research and what they are learning–particularly scientists in the environmental sciences. I would encourage that you do this not to argue or convert but to understand. Questions are good–questioning is a way of life for academics– as long as the questioning isn’t leading or accusatory. And I hope the adults in our congregations can be mature enough to realize that it is OK to listen to someone with whom we might not agree!
I think one of the implicit questions Kinnaman’s book and our discussion raises is “what matters more? To protect a way of life and to win arguments? Or to build bridges and engage discussions that may challenge us and open doors to win a new generation of people to the faith we cherish?” I think in this regard of the apostle Paul who wrote, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22b, NIV)