Last night I went to a George Will lecture on campus and listened to him question whether climate change was man-made. (This was not the focus of his lecture, but the subject came-up during the Q&A period).
When it comes to climate change, I think I will stick with the climate scientists who actually know something about the subject. One of these scientists is Katharine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who co-directs the Climate Center at Texas Tech University. Yesterday Hayhoe published a piece on Christians and climate change in The New York Times. Here is a taste:
I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.
Then there’s pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, species extinction: climate change makes all those worse, too. In fact, if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.
But if caring about climate change is such a profoundly Christian value, then why do surveys in the United States consistently show white evangelicals and white Catholics at the bottom of those Americans concerned about the changing climate?
Read the entire piece here.
Jonathan Franzen’s recent New Yorker essay on climate change is sobering. But is also hopeful.
Franzen argues that we are investing too much time and money into trying to reverse the consequences of climate change when it is probably too late to do anything about it. Instead, we should be spending our time and resources thinking about how we are going to survive the devastating impact of climate change. Hope, he argues, is part of the answer.
Here is a taste:
I’m talking, of course, about climate change. The struggle to rein in global carbon emissions and keep the planet from melting down has the feel of Kafka’s fiction. The goal has been clear for thirty years, and despite earnest efforts we’ve made essentially no progress toward reaching it. Today, the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable. If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.
If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.
Even at this late date, expressions of unrealistic hope continue to abound. Hardly a day seems to pass without my reading that it’s time to “roll up our sleeves” and “save the planet”; that the problem of climate change can be “solved” if we summon the collective will. Although this message was probably still true in 1988, when the science became fully clear, we’ve emitted as much atmospheric carbon in the past thirty years as we did in the previous two centuries of industrialization. The facts have changed, but somehow the message stays the same.
Psychologically, this denial makes sense. Despite the outrageous fact that I’ll soon be dead forever, I live in the present, not the future. Given a choice between an alarming abstraction (death) and the reassuring evidence of my senses (breakfast!), my mind prefers to focus on the latter. The planet, too, is still marvelously intact, still basically normal—seasons changing, another election year coming, new comedies on Netflix—and its impending collapse is even harder to wrap my mind around than death. Other kinds of apocalypse, whether religious or thermonuclear or asteroidal, at least have the binary neatness of dying: one moment the world is there, the next moment it’s gone forever. Climate apocalypse, by contrast, is messy. It will take the form of increasingly severe crises compounding chaotically until civilization begins to fray. Things will get very bad, but maybe not too soon, and maybe not for everyone. Maybe not for me.
Read the entire piece here.
The Washington Post is running a really interesting piece on Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and an evangelical Christian. (Her spouse is a Christian author, pastor, and radio host). Those evangelicals who want to reach public audiences in their religious tribe can learn a lot of Hayhoe’s approach. Here is a taste of Dan Zak’s post:
Her skills of communication do seem miraculous by the standards of modern climate politics: She can convert nonbelievers. She knows how to speak to oil men, to Christians, to farmers and ranchers, having lived for years in Lubbock, Texas, with her pastor husband. She is a scientist who thinks that we’ve talked enough about science, that we need to talk more about matters of the heart.
For her, that means talking about faith.
“We humans have been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet, which includes each other,” Hayhoe said at the conference. “We are called to tend the garden and be good stewards of the gifts that God has given us.”
You might say that the climate problem, while understood through science, can be solved only through faith.
Faith in each other.
Faith in our ability to do something bold, together.
Faith that the pain of change, that the sacrifices required, will lead to a promised land.
Does this sound believable? Maybe in some places, to certain people. In Washington, at the climate conference, Hayhoe was preaching to the choir. But the prophet wasn’t just in town to talk to believers. She was here to talk to Congress.
Getting activists to clap for fossil fuels was the easy part.
Read the entire piece here.
Would the founding fathers have supported a Green New Deal? I have no idea.
From the very beginning, there were critics who challenged the claim that “We the people” referred to a collective or public interest shared by all American citizens. This is what the most vocal opponents of the Green New Deal get wrong when they call the plan “socialist” — they fail to realize that pursuit of a collective good is the very essence of the Founding Fathers’ vision for America. There is an alternative vision. It includes: the Antifederalists, who lost the debate over the Constitution in 1787-88; the leaders of the Confederate States of America; the captains of industry who dominated the first Gilded Age; the Southern defenders of Jim Crow and enemies of the civil rights movement; and the current corporate leaders of our second Gilded Age. What ties all these apparently different groups together is an anti-government ethos with libertarian implications and deep-seated reluctance to share resources with multiple versions of “them.”
Read the entire piece here.
21,000 evangelicals that is. Learn more from Rebecca Thiele’s piece at WFYI (Indianapolis). A taste:
A group of evangelicals in Indiana wants the state to expand wind and solar energy. The Evangelical Environmental Network delivered more than 21,000 signatures to Gov. Eric Holcomb Wednesday demanding 100% renewable energy in the state by 2030.
“It gives [lawmakers] freedom to pursue solutions at the speed and scale that we need to address environmental pollution and the climate crisis,” says Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, director of outreach for the EEN.
The EEN calls itself a ministry that mobilizes christians to care for God’s creation, which includes the environment. It says Indiana’s reliance on coal led the United Health Foundation to rank the state near the bottom for air quality.
Read the rest here.
David Siders thinks so. Here is a taste of his recent piece at Politico:
“Carter almost takes us out of the entire realm of what our politics has become,” said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Carter and Howard Dean. “He’s the anti-Trump … I mean, we have almost the polar opposite as president, somebody who is so an affront to everything that’s good and kind and decent.”
Maslin said, “I have felt for some time that a candidate who is not just good on the issues but can marshal a moral clarity about what our politics ought to be, in contrast to what it has become, that person … that could be the currency of 2020.”
In fact, Carter has become a constant point of reference early in the campaign for Democrats polling outside of the top tier. John Delaney, the little-known former Maryland congressman who by August 2018 had already campaigned in all 99 counties in Iowa, has likened his focus on the first-in-the-nation caucus state to Carter’s.
And after her pilgrimage to see Carter this year, Klobuchar wrote on social media, “Wonderful lunch with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter today at their home in Plains. Tomato soup and pimento cheese sandwiches! Got some good advice and helpful to hear about their grassroots presidential campaign (when no one thought they could win but they did)!”
Read the entire piece here.
I still think Carter’s 1979 “malaise speech” is one of the best presidential speeches I have heard in my lifetime.
- Notice that Carter used the phrase “I feel your pain” before Bill Clinton popularized it.
- The speech has a streak of populism in it.
- It is deeply honest and humble. Can you imagine a president today reading criticism of his presidency before a national audience?
- Carter identifies the loss of national purpose and a “crisis of confidence” as a “fundamental threat to American democracy.” It is a forward-looking message of hope and progress. Carter speaks with conviction, often raising his fist to strengthen his points.
- Carter says that self-indulgence, consumption, and materialism undermines citizenship. According to historian Kevin Mattson, this comes directly from historian and cultural critic Christopher Lasch and his best-selling The Culture of Narcissism.
- Carter points to the many ways the country has gone astray–Vietnam and Watergate and economic dependence on Middle East oil.
- Carter offers “honest answers” not “easy answers.” Of course no one wants to work hard and make sacrifices, they want individualism and freedom instead. A little over a year after this speech Ronald Reagan defeated Carter with just such a message of individualism and freedom.
- Carter warns us about the path of self-interest and fragmentation. This is what America got with Reagan. See Daniel T. Rodgers’s The Age of Fracture.
- Carter sees the national discussion of energy as way of bringing a divided nation together. This seems more relevant than ever today. Green New Deal aside, a green solution to energy would create jobs and strengthen the economy.
- When Carter talks about foreign oil and America’s dependence upon it, he is invoking founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton who worked tirelessly to make the nation economically independent.
- Interesting that in the 1970s Democrats still saw coal as a vital energy source. He also champions pipelines and refineries.
- Carter calls for a strengthening of public transportation and local acts of conservation. This kind of self-sacrifice, Carter says, “is an act of patriotism.” This reminds me of the non-importation agreements during the American Revolution. To stop drinking tea or buying British goods was seen as a similar act of patriotism. See T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution. Carter says “there is no way to avoid sacrifice.”
- As I have noted above, this speech hurt Carter politically. But it is deeply honest and, in my opinion, true.
Over at Big Think, Stephen Johnson writes about a plan that might help with border security, create jobs, and bring green energy to the United States. Here is a taste:
“What should the U.S. do about The Wall?” is a question that’s destined to divide many Americans. But there’s one proposal for the U.S.-Mexico border that, at least in theory, seems agreeable to everyone.
A consortium of 28 engineers and scientists has proposed that – instead of building a simple barrier along the approximately 2,000-mile border – the U.S. and Mexico could work together to build an industrial park along the divide that would include desalination facilities, solar energy panels, wind turbines and natural gas pipelines. The plan would not only provide the region with border security – considering it’d be a continuous train of heavily guarded industrial facilities – but also energy, water and jobs.
In a white paper, the team called it a “future energy, water, industry and education park” that “will create massive opportunities for employment and prosperity.”
“Just like the transcontinental railroad transformed the United States in the 19th century, or the Interstate system transformed the 20th century, this would be a national infrastructure project for the 21st century,” Luciano Castillo, Purdue University’s Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems and lead of the consortium, told Phys.org. “It would do for the Southwest what the Tennessee Valley Authority has done for the Southeast over the last several decades.”
Read the entire piece here. Interesting. This deserves bipartisan consideration.
The Green New Deal concept championed by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aims to address looming environmental catastrophe while creating good-paying jobs. Some critics argue that these two goals should be kept separate. But, as historian Neil M. Maher writes, there’s a strong precedent for the two goals going hand-in-hand. Take, for example, the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was part of the original New Deal.
Read the rest here.
Rev. Mitchell Hescox is the CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. He lives in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. In his recent piece at The York Daily Record, Hescox argues that pro-life evangelicals should be concerned about the bad air emanating from fracking sites and natural gas facilities in Pennsylvania. Here is a taste of his piece:
As pro-life evangelicals, we have a special concern for the unborn. We want children to be born healthy and unhindered by the ravages of pollution. The Bible calls us to “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy” (Psalm 82: 3-4 NIV). Certainly, preborn and new-born children are the most vulnerable among us. They deserve a quality of life that can only be assured when we uphold both our Christian beliefs and our Commonwealth’s Constitution:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
We’re not alone. This year over 15,000 pro-life Pennsylvania Christians wrote to Governor Wolf and asked him to create sensible fugitive methane standards. Another 5,000 Pennsylvania pro-life Christians added their comments against the EPA’s ill-fated attempt to cancel new source methane standards nationally.
Read the entire piece here.
We had a good discussion at my dinner table tonight about the Fourth National Climate Assessment. As a young evangelical, my seventeen-year old daughter is passionate about this issue and it was fun to see her so engaged. She is appalled at Donald Trump’s refusal to believe the findings. By the way, she will cast for her vote a president for the first time in 2020. She is heading off to a yet-to-be-determined Christian college in the Fall and will represent, I pray, the future leadership of the church on this issue and others.
As I said before, I think evangelicals must take this report seriously and treat it as a “life” issue. Sadly, I think most evangelicals will ignore it or shrug it off because they are afraid it will divide their churches. But my prayer is that some pastors and church leaders will have the courage to confront this head-on. If your evangelical church is addressing this is in some meaningful and purposeful way I would love to hear about it.
Over at CNN, Jen Christensen provides fifteen “takeaways” from the report. They are:
- Crop production will decline
- Cows could have it bad
- Food sources from the sea will decline
- Food and waterborne illness will spread
- Bugs will bug us more
- It will be hard to breathe
- Mental health will be challenged
- More of us will die
- We won’t be able to work as much
- We won’t be able to get around as easily
- Water infrastructure will be challenged
- Floods will be more frequent
- Wildfires will increase
- History will be lost
- There will be more snakes and other invaders
Read how Christensen develops these points here.
Read it here.
What is this report? A taste:
The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) deliver a report to Congress and the President no less than every four years that “1) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program…; 2) analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and 3) analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.”
The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) fulfills that mandate in two volumes. This report, Volume II, draws on the foundational science described in Volume I, the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR). Volume II focuses on the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change and variability for 10 regions and 18 national topics, with particular attention paid to observed and projected risks, impacts, consideration of risk reduction, and implications under different mitigation pathways. Where possible, NCA4 Volume II provides examples of actions underway in communities across the United States to reduce the risks associated with climate change, increase resilience, and improve livelihoods.
This assessment was written to help inform decision-makers, utility and natural resource managers, public health officials, emergency planners, and other stakeholders by providing a thorough examination of the effects of climate change on the United States.
Key points from the report:
- “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”
- “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”
- “Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.”
- “Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”
- “The quality and quantity of water available for use by people and ecosystems across the country are being affected by climate change, increasing risks and costs to agriculture, energy production, industry, recreation, and the environment.”
- “Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.”
- “Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.”
- “Ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being altered by climate change, and these impacts are projected to continue. Without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, transformative impacts on some ecosystems will occur; some coral reef and sea ice ecosystems are already experiencing such transformational changes.”
- “Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States. Expected increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”
- “Our Nation’s aging and deteriorating infrastructure is further stressed by increases in heavy precipitation events, coastal flooding, heat, wildfires, and other extreme events, as well as changes to average precipitation and temperature. Without adaptation, climate change will continue to degrade infrastructure performance over the rest of the century, with the potential for cascading impacts that threaten our economy, national security, essential services, and health and well-being.”
- “Coastal communities and the ecosystems that support them are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions and regional adaptation measures, many coastal regions will be transformed by the latter part of this century, with impacts affecting other regions and sectors. Even in a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, many communities are expected to suffer financial impacts as chronic high-tide flooding leads to higher costs and lower property values.”
- “Outdoor recreation, tourist economies, and quality of life are reliant on benefits provided by our natural environment that will be degraded by the impacts of climate change in many ways.”
I am glad to learn so many young evangelicals are taking this seriously. It is time for our churches to do the same. This is a LIFE issue.
Jeremiah 29:7: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
What might the application of this verse mean for the evangelical role in fighting climate change? How might creation care and environmental justice help the “welfare” of the cities where live and work? For me and many others, this is a “life” issue. It is something that churches must address as part of their missions.
Climate science isn’t questioned at Wheaton College the way it often is in the wider evangelical community. The school is a brick-and-mortar rebuttal to the myth that science and religion must be at odds with each other. When Wheaton students step into their-state-of-the-art science building, for instance, they are greeted with signs stating that a “sound Biblical theology gives us a proper basis for scientific inquiry,” and a display featuring locally excavated Perry the Mastodon, which carbon dating shows to be more than 13,000 years old.
The school is not alone in intertwining commitments to love God and protect the earth, often referred to as “creation care.” The Cape Town Commitment, a global agreement between evangelical leaders from nearly 200 countries, includes acknowledgement of climate change and how it will hurt the world’s poor (and it is required reading for Wheaton freshmen). Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University and an evangelical, has been an outspoken advocate for climate action. And in addition to YECA, there are numerous groups active in this arena, including the Evangelical Climate Initiative, Climate Caretakers, Care of Creation and A Rocha.
In late 2015, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)—the biggest umbrella group of evangelicals in the country, representing 43 million Americans—issued a statement accepting climate change, acknowledging the human contribution to it and encouraging action. YECA’s advocacy helped bring that statement, called “Loving the Least of These,” into being. In it, NAE argues that Christians should be compelled to care about climate change as a matter of social justice, equating those without the resources to adapt to failed farming or dry wells or rising seas as the modern-day equivalents of the widows and orphans of Jesus’s day.
Read the entire piece here.
This past weekend I was on the campus of Calvin College. On Saturday I was part of a capacity crowd at Calvin’s athletic arena watching the Knights defeat Hope College in a battle of nationally ranked teams.
While I was on campus I took a walk through the Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve. For those of you coming to Calvin next week for the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History, I highly recommend reserving some down time for a walk in the woods. One of the access points to the trails is located behind the Prince Conference Center.
Here are some pics:
As we noted last week, Scott Pruitt, the recently resigned director of the Environmental Protection Agency, is an evangelical Christian. But it is worth noting that not all evangelicals agree with Pruitt on the best way to deal with environmental issues or climate change.
Yesterday, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned because of numerous scandals. Sadly, we in the evangelical church are all too familiar with disgraces. Over the years, many Christians have lost their way and fallen, even some of our most visible leaders.
As evangelicals we will pray for Mr. Pruitt and hope for the forgiveness and restoration that only God can provide. However, we sincerely hope Mr. Pruitt will atone for more than his omissions of secret calendars, sweet-heart accommodations, and lavish spending. For us Mr. Pruitt’s most sincere lapse was his failure to defend the forgotten, especially our unborn and newly born children. While claiming to be pro-life, he did little to fulfill EPA’s mission: “To protect human health and the environment.”
Mr. Pruitt moved our nation backward, and our children continue to suffer as a result. According to the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air Report, over 41% of Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution 2016, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.
In 2018, 48 years after the EPA was established, 1 in 3 children in the US still suffer from asthma, ADHD, autism, and severe allergies with links to fossil fuels and petrochemicals. Enough is enough. We are calling on President Trump to direct his new acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to put our children first and defend the most vulnerable, keep his promise to be pro-life, and do what the Bible commands:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
In the wake of the Scott Pruitt resignation, historian Christopher Sellers of Stony Brook University explains how the Republican Party came to embrace anti-environmentalism. Here is a taste of his piece at VOX:
It’s ironic that today’s Republicans see America’s environmental state as such a liability, given that Republican presidents had such a big hand in constructing it. In the early 20th century Teddy Roosevelt pushed a federal system of parks, forests, and monuments. In 1970, it was Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed many foundational laws. Even during the last Republican administration of George W. Bush, longtime EPA employees have told me there was considerable if often tacit support by party leaders.
So how has the current Republican anti-environmentalism come so far so fast? Why this extreme Republican animus toward the environmental state?
For starters, it helps to recall where the strongest environmental support came from in the 1960s and 1970s, during the great bipartisan build-out of America’s environmental laws and agencies: those regions where urbanizing and industrializing had gone the furthest, across the cities of the coasts and the Great Lakes and especially in their suburbs. A new political language of “the environment” was born along urban edges; it interwove homeowner concerns about pollution and developer intrusions that state and local governments had failed to address.
Read the rest here.
Scott Pruitt has resigned as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump announced the resignation via Twitter.
Here is his letter of resignation:
Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.
That is why is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.
My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.
Your Faithful Friend,
As this letter makes clear, Pruitt is an evangelical Christian. He is a former deacon of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and served on the Board of Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. If you just change a few words in this letter it could pass for his resignation letter as a church deacon.
His appeal to God’s providence should not surprise us. This is pretty common evangelical language and Pruitt sees little difference between the church and the government. I am assuming that Pruitt means that God specifically chose Donald Trump to deliver His “chosen nation” from the hands of the Obama-Clinton threat. I assume he means that God brought him to the EPA to prevent climate-change advocates from actually doing something about climate change. He is sincere about all of this. This is what he believes. I have no doubt that he thinks that he was doing God’s will for a divinely-appointed POTUS. These appeals to providence, coupled with regular Bible studies that no doubt use the Bible to endorse GOP politics, is what passes for evangelical political engagement today among Christian Right politicians.
The satirist Ambrose Bierce described “providence” as an idea that is “unexpectedly and consciously beneficial to the person so describing it.”
The use of the phrase “bless” or “blessing” (used four times in the short letter) is also pretty common in evangelical circles. When evangelicals do something to encourage another Christian they are “being a blessing” to that person. It is a pretty common way of talking about showing Christian love to a neighbor or friend. When I was a teenager, I often listened to “Walk with the King,” the radio of show of The Kings College president and National Association of Evangelical president Robert A. Cook. He used to end every broadcast by saying “Until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today, and be a blessing.”
Pruitt no doubt believes that he was a “blessing” to Donald Trump. He was serving God’s anointed.
He also apparently received his own “blessings” by working for the EPA. I don’t think the prosperity gospel is popular in Southern Baptist circles, but in the context of this resignation letter it sure seems like Pruitt believed God was blessing him when he
- rented a bedroom near Capitol Hill from a lobbyist for $50.00 a night.
- tried to use his role at the EPA to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise.
- spent over $3.5 million on his security detail.
- asked an aide to get him a used mattress from a Trump hotel.
- paid $1560 for 12 fountain pens.
- lied about asking for a 24/7 security detail
- flew first class to avoid “lashing out from passengers.”
- spent $5700 for biometric locks.
- installed a $43,000 phone booth in his office.
- told his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens in order to get to brunch on time.
- went $60,000 over budget on an EPA trip to Morocco.
- sent his security detail to buy him lotions and pick-up his dry cleaning.
- takes a personal security detail on family trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl.
- spent $120,000 for opposition research on the media.
- hired a coal lobbyist to be his deputy EPA administrator.
I am glad Pruitt is gone for two reasons:
- The GOP will spin Pruitt’s resignation by saying that they agreed with his policies as EPA director, but disagreed with the ethics violations. This position fails to take seriously the Christian responsibility to care for the creation. Government must play a role in this work. Having said that, I am guessing Trump will replace him with someone else who believes that climate change is a hoax.
- Pruitt’s ethical violations reveal that he is unfit for this cabinet position or any cabinet position. The fact that he would make appeals to evangelical words like “providence” and “blessing” in his resignation letter is appalling.
And let’s not forget that many evangelicals have defended this guy.
Over at Pacific Standard, Kate Wheeling interviews Ben Goldfarb, the author of Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.
Here is Wheeling’s introduction to the interview:
Since I first picked up Ben Goldfarb’s Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, I haven’t been able to stop talking about these semi-aquatic rodents.
If you’ve interacted with me at all in the last several weeks, I might have mentioned that beavers have transparent eyelids so they can see underwater! That they secrete a musky oil that contains the active ingredient in aspirin! That a half-mile-long structure built by beavers is visible from space! That an ancient member of the beaver family the size of a small black bear once roamed much of the modern-day United States! (To find out just how seriously the U.S. considered using beavers as a defensive weapon of sorts during the Cold War, you’ll have to read the book.)
But none of those facts are what converted me into a “Beaver Believer,” as the group of scientists, land-managers, and environmentally minded folks who are working tirelessly to bolster beaver populations around the U.S. are known. It’s not that beavers need our help—the animals are not even remotely endangered, though their numbers are also nowhere near what they were before Europeans arrived in North America—but we certainly need them.
Beavers are not content simply to survive in the environment that nature provides them. Instead, the animals engineer it to ensure access to things like food and shelter, reshaping entire landscapes in the process. Sound familiar? Humans, for better or for worse, may be the most planet-altering species—but beavers did it first. To quote Goldfarb, “We are living in the world that beavers created.”
Before their numbers were devastated by the fur trade, North America looked much different. For one thing, it was a much soggier landscape. Beavers don’t just build lodges and dams, but entire wetlands. Thanks to the beavers’ efforts, streams back up behind their dams, forming ponds, marshes, and swamps, filled with stumps and dead or dying trees and bustling with frogs, fish, and otters, to name just a few of the countless creatures that rely on beavers to make their habitat possible. Beaver ponds help store water, recharge aquifers, filter out pollutants, mitigate floods, and stop wildfires in their tracks.
Read the interview here.
Scott Pruitt’s ethical problems are abundant. Here is how Aaron Weaver describes them in his recent piece at Sojourners:
A $50-a-night condo deal from a lobbyist pal. More than $100,000 for first class airfare and $40,000 on a soundproof phone booth. A twenty person 24-hour protective detail and emergency sirens en route to a French restaurant. Travel costs closing in on $3 million. Big raises for top aides and demotions for officials who dare question the spending habits of their boss and head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt.
Yet many evangelicals are standing by him, including Family Research Council president Tony Perkins.
Here is another taste of Weaver’s piece:
The evangelical leaders called Pruitt “well qualified” to head the EPA and said he deserved “the full support of the United States Senate in his confirmation.” These evangelicals aimed to counter the claims of climate change denialism leveled against their Southern Baptist brother, insisting that he had been “misrepresented as denying ‘settled science.’” Pruitt had just called for “a continuing debate” on the impact and extent of climate change, they said.
With this public defense of Pruitt, these evangelicals were continuing down a path started more than a decade ago as awareness about the urgent global challenge of climate change was increasing within evangelicalism. In 2006, a coalition of well known evangelical pastors and professors calling themselves the Evangelical Climate Initiative released a declaration urging environmental concern and imploring Congress to adopt legislation to curb carbon emissions. Shortly after, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement warning that climate change was “threatening to become a wedge issue to divide the evangelical community” and distract its members from “the priority of the Great Commission.”
Read the rest here.