My case for Joe Biden

Many have asked me to weigh-in on the election. Let me begin by saying that my choice of a candidate was not difficult.

Donald Trump is immoral. He is a pathological liar. He is a narcissist. He is a racist who empowers White supremacists. He is a misogynist. He disrespects American institutions. His presidency draws on some of the darkest moments of our national past. He has manipulated the Christian faith to advance his own unrighteous ends. I made this case in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump and I stand by it.

Trump has poisoned American culture and cannot continue as President of the United States. He is not a leader. He has no interest in bringing the country together. He is incompetent. He is a con-man. He is a rainmaker. Those who vote for him in 2020 are empowering another four years of this mess and, without another election looming over Trump’s head, it is likely to get worse.

For evangelicals concerned about life:

A Columbia University study recently concluded that Trump’s administration is responsible for up to 210,000 COVID-19 deaths. He continues to ignore the pandemic. Doctors and scientists say things are going to get worse unless the president starts taking this pandemic seriously. As Ed Yong recently argued at The Atlantic: “America is about to choose how bad the pandemic will get.” This election is about life. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus is promoting a culture of illness and death.

Black men and women are dying in America. Those who are still alive fear for their lives because racism is embedded in our culture. Donald Trump does not believe in systemic racism and does not want to address it. Trump does not even have the decency to condemn White supremacy at a nationally televised debate. A good economy will not end systemic racism. A plan to give money to Historically Black Colleges and Universities will not end systemic racism. More evangelical conversions will not undo the damage done by centuries of racial oppression, especially if such converts are taught that systemic racism is a Satanic lie that “cultural Marxists” are propagating on the nation.

Donald Trump wants to overturn Obamacare and replace it with his own healthcare plan. So far the public has not seen this plan. I doubt it exists. Meanwhile, the end of Obamacare will undermine the health care of millions of people. This is not a pro-life position. Joe Biden is the pro-life candidate here.

Many conservative evangelicals connect their “pro-life” convictions to their “pro-family” convictions. But Trump separated thousands of children from their parents at the Mexican border. More than 500 of those children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Is this how a “family values” president acts? Moreover, let’s not pretend that our children are not watching his flawed character, hate-filled speeches at rallies, and Twitter feed. Trump’s garbage has come into our homes via our television and computer screens. Finally, Joe Biden has championed policies related to health care, child care, taxes, working parents, family leave, and education that will help struggling American families.

Donald Trump’s views on climate change will eventually lead to more poverty, more death, and a planet that may be uninhabitable sooner than we think. This is a life issue. It many not affect us right now, but people will die in the future if we don’t care for the creation that God has entrusted to us. Narcissists are selfish. They only care about themselves in relation to the moment in which they live. Republican citizens, on the other hand, understand their place in the larger expanse of the human experience–past, present, and future. Biden’s plan for environmental justice and his pledge to rejoin the Paris Agreement will ultimately result in saved lives.

I am always struck by anti-abortion activists who admit that Roe v. Wade will not end abortion in America, but yet still support overturning Roe because it is part of the work of chipping away at laws upholding a women’s right to choose. Someone recently described this to me as “taking the long view.” I understand this argument, but why do we “take the long view” on abortion, but fail to take the long view on climate change?

And speaking of abortion:

Trump gives lip service to abortion. He knew in 2016 that he needed to be pro-life in order to get the GOP nomination. So he became pro-life. Trump executed the Christian Right playbook to perfection. He appointed the right Supreme Court justices, made an appearance at pro-life events, and mentioned abortion in his speeches to evangelical audiences.

In the process, Trump continued to promote the idea that the best way to end abortion in America is to overturn Roe v. Wade. For nearly 50 years, white evangelicals have funneled their money to, and casted their votes for, “pro-life” candidates who promised to reverse this Supreme Court decision. That is nearly a half of a century with no results. As I have argued multiple times here at this blog, and as Christian writer and podcaster Skye Jethani has shown in an excellent video, the pursuit of political power will not end abortion in the United States.

If Christians really want to reduce the number of abortions, they will elect a president who wants to fund health care for women, deal with the systemic racism that keeps many black women in poverty, raise the minimum wage, and address the income gap between White people and people of color. The abortion rate has been dropping consistently since the 1990s. Spend some time on the Guttmacher Institute’s website.

Christian and pro-life voters should urge Joe Biden, if elected, to talk more about how he plans to continue this reduction of abortion. I hope he changes his mind about the Hyde Amendment and goes back to his original position. But if you care about the reduction of abortions, Biden is still the best candidate.

Some will say that it doesn’t really matter if abortions are in decline because it is still immoral for a Christian to vote for a nominee of a party that supports the ending of a baby’s life in the womb. Ramesh Ponnuru & Robert George recently made this argument in a piece at The National Review. I agree with much of their article. Abortion is a moral atrocity. But they offer no realistic or pragmatic solution for ending the practice. Ponnuru and George want us to vote our conscience. It is an argument rooted in moral purity.

I am a realist on this issue. In an imperfect world, politics is about achieving things that are possible. Abortion has been part of American life from the beginning and our culture has inherited this immoral practice. We thus must do everything possible to reduce the number of abortions in America. But purity of conviction is not going to accomplish this. While we take our moral stand and wait for the Supreme Court to act, babies will continue to die in the womb. Without a change of strategy, more poor women of color, and families who don’t believe they can afford another baby, will continue to choose abortion as an alternative. We need to create a world in which abortion is not the default option for an unwanted pregnancy.

In Believe Me, I quoted theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Jonathan Tran:

When Christians think that the struggle against abortion can only be pursued through voting for candidates with certain judicial philosophies, then serving at domestic abuse shelters or teaching students at local high schools or sharing wealth with expectant but under-resourced families or speaking of God’s grace in terms of ” adoption” or politically organizing for improved education or rezoning municipalities for childcare of creating “Parent’s Night Out” programs at local churches or mentoring young mothers or teaching youth about chastity and dating or mobilizing religious pressure on medical service providers or apprenticing men into fatherhood or thinking of singleness as a vocation or feasting on something called “communion” or rendering to God what is God’s or participating with the saints through Marion icons or baptizing new members or tithing money, will not count as political.

We must accept the fact that legalized abortion is not going away. Pro-lifers will never have complete victory. This is why we should support candidates who are dealing with the social, cultural, and economic issues that lead women and families to consider abortions. Ironically, Joe Biden, a representative of a pro-choice party, is that candidate. Donald Trump, who has the support of the Christian Right, is not.

Finally, what should we think about potential threats to religious liberty in a Biden campaign? If Biden is elected, I will work to push the new president to consider what John Inazu describes as a “confident pluralism.” Inazu asks Americans to work at living together with people of different ideological commitments. This will require creative thinking about how to find common ground without abandoning our deeply held beliefs. Confident pluralism requires mutual respect and a willingness to tend to our democratic life. One example of such creative thinking is the legislative bill known as “Fairness for All.” We need to create a culture that takes such bills seriously as a way of moving forward.

There is a good chance that a Biden administration may threaten the deeply-held convictions of religious institutions. But the Supreme Court has a strong track record of upholding religious liberty. As conservative writer and former religious liberty lawyer David French said in a debate with court evangelical Eric Metaxas:

[On] Religious liberty things have been fine. But I’ve got news for you, they have been fine for a long time. There is a fifteen case winning-streak on religious liberty at the Supreme Court of the United States dating back to the Obama administration….Most of those cases are won by 7-2, 6-3, no matter what screaming voices on Fox News will tell you, your religious liberty does not hang in the balance.

And if we do lose, we should take John Piper’s advice to pastors seriously:

May I suggest to pastors that in the quietness of your study you do this? Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians? Christians who can sing on the scaffold, “Let goods and kindred go; This mortal life also; The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.”

That is the crux of my case. I delivered my sealed ballot today. I checked the box for Biden-Harris.

I like how Christian theologian John Stackhouse puts it in his book Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World.

Sometimes, then, some of us must improvise. As Bonhoeffer reminds us, in certain extreme situations we cannot settle for living ‘correctly’ according to some neat ethical calculus we have devised and congratulating ourselves for our integrity…We are responsible to care for the earth and to love our neighbor as best we can, and if we think we can do that better in an unusual way that leaves us vulnerable to second-guessing and maybe even to error, we nonetheless should do it. For what is the alternative? It is to shrink back from this possibility and settle for the safety of the rule book, the comfort of the clear but circumscribed conscience. Most of the time, then, we know what to do and must simply do it. Sometimes, however, the politician has to hold his nose and made a deal…So we hold on to God’s hand, and each other’s, and make the best of it.”

I’m holding on to God’s hand.

How did the court evangelicals respond to last night’s debate?

They loved it, of course.

Let’s begin, one more time, with American religious historian Grant Wacker from his biography of Billy Graham:

The crucial point is that Graham continued to defend Nixon long after most Americans smelled a rat. When the first hint of something amiss came to light in 1972, Graham dismissed it as pettifogery.

As I noted in an earlier post today, Ralph Reed said he condemned Trump’s policy of separating children from parents. Tony Perkins, on the other hand, wants to talk about cages. Let me repeat that, there are 545 kids without parents and family values guy Tony Perkins want to talk about who built the cages.:

The oil industry pollutes. it is bad for the environment. Tony Perkins mocks alternative forms of energy:

You can tell Perkins is getting desperate. It’s late in the election and his guy is trailing. He is condemning Biden for not meeting with a North Korean murderer and dictator. This is really getting sad.

Perkins mocks mask-wearing and claims that Biden is the candidate who “covers things up.”

If Napp Nazworth’s reporting is correct, Johnnie Moore, the guy who claims to be a “modern day Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is probably on the phone right now with The Christian Post asking them to do a piece on how Trump won the debate.

Like Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed tweets Biden’s view on fossil fuel and the oil industry as if reducing our reliance on these things is a bad thing:

The same goes for Charlie Kirk:

It seems like the court evangelicals are divided over the performance of moderator Kristen Welker:

I can no longer write about Robert Jeffress without thinking about his fellow court evangelical Richard Land’s line: “the most dangerous place in Texas to stand is between Jeffress and a television camera.” Expect Jeffress to repeat this tweet tonight on Fox News with Lou Dobbs:

And here is the Liberty University Falkirk Center crowd:

This weekend Charlie Kirk will be bringing this to an evangelical megachurch near you:

I am sure “Falkirk Fellow” Jenna Ellis will be pushing this narrative today on Fox News:

“No rational American believes this”:

No rational American believes this:

Again, these court evangelicals try to deflect from the fact that 545 kids are not with their parents by focusing on the construction of the cages. Where is the empathy and compassion among these evangelical Christians affiliated with Liberty University?:

I just wanted to get this on the record. It was tweeted at a moment when COVID-19 is surging again:

11 more days.

Michelle Obama’s DNC convention speech was deeply Christian

After the first night of the Democratic National Convention I tuned into Fox News. Laura Ingraham was on the air and, as might be expected, she was trashing the convention. I stopped watching after about forty minutes of analysis from Eric Trump, Ted Cruz, and other conservative pundits.

Cruz actually said that the reason the Democrats are pushing for mail-in-ballots and the funding of the United States Postal Service is because they know it leads to voter fraud.  Cruz has no evidence for this claim. Nor is there any evidence to suggest mail-in-voting leads to voter fraud. But I digress.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell was also on Ingraham’s show. He is a very patient man.

I was struck by the fact that none of the conservative, pro-Trump pundits mentioned Michelle Obama’s speech. They just couldn’t touch it.

Watch it:

Though Obama only mentioned “faith” and “God” a couple of times, this was a deeply Christian speech.

  • She talked about the inherent dignity of human beings.
  • She talked about truth.
  • She talked about the character of a leader.
  • She talked about health care.
  • She talked about care for the environment
  • She talked about racial justice
  • She talked about the evil of racism and white supremacy
  • She talked about empathy
  • She talked about caring for others
  • She talked about raising children with a strong moral foundation
  • She talked about the coarseness of our culture under Trump
  • She talked about selfishness
  • She talked about greed
  • She talked military violence
  • She talked about using the Bible for a photo-op
  • She talked about being a mother.
  • She talked about being a neighbor
  • She talked about meekness
  • She talked about confronting “viciousness” and “cruelty”
  • She talked about finding common ground based on the value of all human beings
  • She talked about the need to speak truth to power
  • She talked about family
  • She talked about compassion
  • She talked about grief

After covering Trump’s court evangelicals for the last four years, it was nice to hear such a Christian speech in this kind of public venue. I left the speech encouraged in my faith and hopeful for America’s future. Thank you Michelle Obama.

Does “End-Time Apathy” Explain Why So Many Evangelicals Don’t Care About the Environment?

The Gospel of Climate ChangeIf Jesus is coming back at any moment to “rapture” his church, why should evangelicals care about the environment? As religious studies scholar Robin Globus Veldman writes, this theory has been “widely accepted” by environmentalists to explain evangelical apathy about climate change.  But is it true?  Veldman is the author of The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why Evangelical Christians Oppose Action on Climate Change.  Here is a taste of her interview with Eric C. Miller at Religion & Politics:

Religion & Politics: This book offers an extended examination of what you have called the “end-time apathy hypothesis.” What is that, exactly?

Robin Globus Veldman: The basic idea is that evangelicals don’t care about the environment because they think that Jesus will return soon. It has been widely accepted, especially among environmentalists, but had never been empirically investigated. It was always just kind of thrown out there. E.O. Wilson, Al Gore, and Bill Moyers, for example, have all talked about the potential for end-time beliefs to discourage concern about climate change. As Moyers says, why care about the earth when you and yours are about to be rescued in the Rapture? But I wanted to treat it as a hypothesis because no one had actually examined it. Though I could have approached evangelical attitudes on climate from the angle of politics or theology or anti-science prejudices, this struck me as a more productive research question. There seemed to be a lot of lay interest, and it was something that I was curious about too. So that’s where I started.

R&P: Is the hypothesis correct?

RGV: My argument is that it’s onto something, but it’s not the best way to conceptualize what’s going on. End-time beliefs are a very important part of modern evangelicals’ religious worldview. They are a key element of the faith, and they play a central role in a lot of evangelical culture. But I found that end-time beliefs are deeply enmeshed in a larger matrix of influences from which they can’t be separated. They can’t be considered in isolation. I spend the rest of the book mapping that matrix.

R&P: The hypothesis relies on an end-times eschatology known as premillennialism, and you divide your subjects into “hot” and “cool” millennialist camps. What is this distinction and why is it important?

RGV: One of the tricky things about this research is that it required a deep dive into evangelical eschatology—the study of end times—and that required learning some jargon, especially as it concerns two key ideas. Premillennialism refers to the belief that Jesus will return to earth before the millennium, which is understood as a thousand-year period of righteousness over which Christ will preside. Postmillennialism, by contrast, refers to the belief that Jesus will return after a thousand-year period. Premillennialism suggests that the condition of life on earth will deteriorate until Christ returns, while postmillennialism suggests that it should improve. This is how evangelical theologians divide the different beliefs about the end times.

But when I went into the field and started speaking with people, I found that these categories did not map cleanly onto actually existing beliefs. Since most people who hold these viewpoints have not studied them in-depth or gone to seminary or anything, they don’t have this sort of erudite understanding. Instead, the clearest distinction that I saw in terms of how to categorize people was between what I call “hot” and “cool” millennialists. Hot millennialists are people who are really excited about the end times. They think that Jesus is coming back soon, they’re paying attention to signs, and the possibility gives them a feeling of hope. Cool millennialists are people who believe in Christ’s return but do not believe that it can be predicted with accuracy, and so are less directly motivated by the anticipation. As one gentleman told me, “We live like he’s coming today, but plan like he’s coming tomorrow.” This is by far the more common view, which ends up being very significant for attitudes on climate change because the end-time apathy hypothesis imagines a large constituency of hot millennialists. But these are far fewer, and I ran into a very small number of people who seemed to be enthusiastic about climate change as a harbinger of the end. If the hypothesis were correct, you’d expect to see a lot more of that sort of energy.

Read the rest here.

Why Christians Should Be Concerned About Climate Change

Climate change

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.

Overcoming Fear with Hope: On Climate Change

Bridge

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.

Katherine Hayhoe: Climate Scientist and Evangelical

Hayhoe

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.

Joseph Ellis: The Founding Fathers Wanted a Green New Deal

Mount Vernon gardens

Mount Vernon

Would the founding fathers have supported a Green New Deal?  I have no idea.

But historian Joseph Ellis‘s thoughts at CNN are worth considering here.  A taste:

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.

Evangelicals Call for Renewable Energy in Indiana

Kyle Schaap

Kyle Meyaard-Schaap

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.

 

Is Jimmy Carter an Antidote to Trump?

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.

An Alternative to a Border Wall

Wall solar

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.

FDR’s New Deal Was Also Green

CCC

Over at JSTOR Daily, Livia Gershon draws on scholarship by Neil Maher to remind us that the first New Deal was concerned with the environment.  Here is a taste of her piece:

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.

Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Evangelicals Call for Clean Air in the Commonwealth

Fracking

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.

The Effects of Climate Change

Climate change

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:

  1. Crop production will decline
  2. Cows could have it bad
  3. Food sources from the sea will decline
  4. Food and waterborne illness will spread
  5. Bugs will bug us more
  6. It will be hard to breathe
  7. Mental health will be challenged
  8. More of us will die
  9. We won’t be able to work as much
  10. We won’t be able to get around as easily
  11. Water infrastructure will be challenged
  12. Floods will be more frequent
  13. Wildfires will increase
  14. History will be lost
  15. There will be more snakes and other invaders

Read how Christensen develops these points here.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment Report is Here and it Doesn’t Look Good for the Planet

Wildfires

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:

  1. “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.”
  2. “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.”
  3. “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.”
  4. “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.”
  5. “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.”
  6. “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.”
  7. “Climate change increasingly threatens Indigenous communities’ livelihoods, economies, health, and cultural identities by disrupting interconnected social, physical, and ecological systems.”
  8. “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.”
  9. “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.”
  10. “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.”
  11. “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.”
  12. “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.”

Read more about all twelve of these points here.  Here is a Washington Post article on the report.

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.

Young Evangelicals and Climate Change

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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.

The college students behind Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) agree.  Check out Meera Subramanian’s profile of this group at Inside Climate News.  A taste:

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.

When at Calvin College…

Calvin 4

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:

Calvin 1

Calvin 2

Calvin 5

Calvin 6

Evangelical Environmentalists Chide Scott Pruitt for Failing to Live-Up to His Pro-Life Commitments

Pruitt

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.

Last week, Reverend Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network issued this statement:

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)

How did the GOP Become the Anti-Environmentalist Party?

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Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir at Yosemite

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.