Climate change and Americanism

Katherine Stewart writes: Now, you don’t have to believe that Earth was created in six hectic days in order to be skeptical about climate science, but a large number of climate science deniers also happen to be evolution deniers.

What exactly is the theology of climate science denial? The Cornwall Alliance – a coalition whose list of signatories could double as a directory of major players in the religious right – has a produced a declaration asserting, as a matter of theology, that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.”

It also tells us – on the firm foundation of Holy Scriptures – that policies intended to slow the pace of climate change represent a “dangerous expansion of government control over private life”. It also alerts us that the environmental movement is “un-Biblical” – indeed, a new and false religion. If the Cornwall Declaration seems like a tough read, you can get what you need from the organization’s DVD series: “Resisting the Green Dragon: A Biblical Response to one of the Greatest Deceptions of our Day.”

Now, this isn’t the theology of every religion in America, or of every strain of Christianity; not by a long stretch. Most Christians accept climate science and believe in protecting the environment, and many of them do so for religious as well as scientific reasons. But theirs is not the theology that holds sway in the upper reaches of the Republican party, or moves your average climate science denier Chuck. As Rick Santorum explained at an energy summit in Colorado:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth … for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.”

For anyone with even the most basic knowledge of Christian teachings, one of the glaring contradictions in the vigorous defense mounted by many right-wing American Christians in response to what they present as secular threats to their faith, is the fact these defenders of the faith are clearly willing to discount many of their own faith’s foundational principles.

Love of God and to love your neighbor as yourself are, the New Testament declares, the supreme commandments to followers of Christ. But how do these commandments jive with declarations such as this, from Pastor John Hagee:

This nation was not built for atheists or by atheists. It was built by Christian people who believed in the Word of God. To the atheists watching this telecast, if our belief in God offends you, move. There are planes leaving every hour on the hour, going every place on planet earth. Get on one, we don’t want you and we won’t miss you, I promise you.

Maybe the way Hagee interprets the injunction to love ones neighbor is that it requires one to first evict those neighbors one can’t love.

What Hagee’s words and those that spout from the mouths of millions of like-minded Americans reveal, is that the faith they are defending is not Christianity. It is Christian Americanism. It is the worship of this country and its creators sustained through a theological ideology designed to sustain the myths that America is blessed by God; that it was a land with no people given to people with no land; and that its settlers’ right to take what was not theirs derived from their conviction that they were receiving gifts from God.

What naturally flows from this belief in God-gifted land is a conception of divinely ordained ownership and the belief: we can do with this land what we damn well please.

What those who warn about climate change and other environmental perils are challenging has less to do with an interpretation of scientific data and much more to do with a religiopolitical conviction: we own this land.

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4 thoughts on “Climate change and Americanism

  1. Steve Zerger

    Christian Americanism is only the most recent (and perhaps the most virulent) form of the ideology of domination which has driven civilization from its inception. But when Noah came off of the Ark, and God delivered all of the earth into his hands (Genesis 9), God forgot to mention one minor detail to him. Whenever any species dominates its habitat, eventually it will change that habitat to such a degree that it undermines the basis of its own existence. In the language of ecology, this universal principal is known as succession. But the earth will carry on fine without humans. We are certainly no more significant than a typical 100-million-year volcanic or astronomical event.

  2. rosemerry

    As an Australian now living in France, and having taught science throughout my career, I really find completely bizarre the American self-righteousness, sense of assuming they are in charge of the globe and alleged Christian behaviour quite unlike the mainstream Christians I have known all my life (and belonged to for my first 20 years). Individualism seems the main point of difference-they do not consider society really to exist, just “me”.Along with this goes “my way or no way” in matters of sexual or drug behaviour, whereas here in France, where most people are nominally Catholic, and many are practising believers,plus there are seven million Muslims, the Socialist government has now enacted its election promise that abortions are free (!), contraception is freely available to minors, and that is the situation-no compulsion! Gay marriage is not on, but legal rights are available, and since half the babies born here are now out of wedlock, marriage itself means little anyway. People accept differences in beliefs -sex is a private matter. Science education has an uphill battle in States like Texas, where teaching higher level thinking skills is banned as dangerous to faith. Not much hope for understanding of climate change when corporations rule the classroom.

  3. Norman

    Not all religions bend to the way the story goes. But considering who many of the religious right are, they follow the tenets of the Flim-flam man. After all, those televangelists are out to scam money from those who believe the talk, as well as those politicians who will sell the American public a bill of goods that on the outside looks good, but when you open the box, it’s just a pile of common rocks.

  4. pabelmont

    Rosemerry writes, above, that Americans seem to her to be about “me” rather than about “society”. True of many. One odd thing about many Americans is that the type of “conservatism” (so called) that they promote means freedom to do things the same way you always did things — but this is contrary to the other type of “conservatism”, that is, conserving the world and conserving human society and so-called civilization.

    If we are to be free to burn all the coal and oil adn natural gas that can be extracted, people (and many other creatures) will not be able to live on the earth. But, the “conservatives” might say, “we’ve always been able, allowed, to extract and then burn fossil fuels.” Correct. Until it was recognized to be suicide.

    But it is not a type of suicide that appears to be forbidden by the churches (which forbid so many other things!).

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