The evangelical split over environmentalism continues to deepen, with Jerry Falwell announcing today via an e-mail list that tomorrow he will preach a warning against global warming worries. "This Sunday, February 25, I will preach a very unusual sermon," Falwell wrote. "My topic: global warming.
"This may seem a strange, possibly even unnecessary, subject to some. But I believe the Church must quickly get serious about denouncing the accelerating effort to promote the alleged catastrophic human-caused global warming.
"This is especially true since some members of the evangelical community have recently aligned themselves with radical voices within the global warming movement. I see this as unnecessary and, worse, dangerous."
Falwel's complaint is that concern about global warming is a distraction from the serious business of saving souls. "We need to give our total focus to the business of reaching this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stop running down meaningless rabbit trails that get our focus off of our heavenly purpose."
Falwell argues in the press release that the science is bad. His Moral Majority co-founder, columnist Cal Thomas, says the theology is bad. "There is no biblical expectation that a fallen world can, should or will be improved prior to the return of the One to whom evangelicals are supposed to owe their complete allegiance."
Thomas is probably right; after all, Christian theology holds unambiguously that man is an innately and irremediably depraved foulness whose very existence, ever since that misadventure with the bad fruit, soils God's perfect creation. What is more, Jesus' disciples never talked about the environment at all. No. They talked about how Jesus was coming right back. We all know how that worked out, though, so I'm thinking it would probably be smart to go ahead and pick-up after ourselves, just in case.
Why has something so Mom and Apple Pie-ish as environmentalism become a fault line between Christians? The differences between industrialists and tree-huggers are easy to understand, but why Christians? I'm only thinking-out-loud here, but I suspect it is because not-so-fundamentalist evangelicals - Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame, for example - are attracting church membership by acknowledging that the fights over abortion and homosexuality have been lost, and searching for other issues with which to engage the culture and win customers.
Churches are businesses; a very special sort of business, perhaps, but still businesses - and they need customers. Considered that way, the "Green Schism" may be no more than a reprise of the long-decided fight between Sears and Wal-Mart.