Environmental backlash

Mon, 10 Jun 1996 11:46:13 EST

Having been whipped personally a number of times by
"environmental backlash," I am greatly interested in the
Wright/Olsen dialog ["Tearing Down the Green" June 95/June
96]. I have a collection of well over one hundred pages of
correspondence with Calvin Beisner and the editors of "World"
magazine, so I have a quiver full. I will not release the arrows
all at once!

Edwin Olsen commented about his doubting there really is
much of a backlash -- that he had not really been able to detect
one. If he had been on the journey with me the past few years,
he would have no doubt. The reason it is not so apparent is
that we are not talking about equal adversaries. Those of us in
what is called the "creation stewardship" community are like ill-
equipped guerrillas pestering the rear guard of a massive
materialistic army whose ranks, unfortunately, are filled with
fellow believers. Most of the folks in the middle of that phalanx
don't even know we exist. Those who do are hardly concerned
realizing that the likelihood of defeat or even reversal is nil. But
on occasion, a few bother to turn their guns on us. Beisner and
World magazine are a part of that small number.

In a real sense, this is sad. For our weapons are not guns, but
knowledge and truth (as much as we can ascertain). Calvin
Beisner is a fellow believer with whom most of us share an
almost identical theology (We do tiptoe carefully around the
TULIP.) Most of us have been strongly influenced by Francis
Schaeffer. We also resonate to Wendell Berry and his concern
for community and "God's economy" as opposed to the global
economy. We believe that compassion and spiritual maturity
are tied to a willingness to live simply and as unencumbered
by materialism as we can be in a materialistic society. Not a
single individual I know in this camp has any New Age, liberal,
leftist, or socialistic agenda -- or even leanings in that direction.
We are seeking to come at the issue of environmental
stewardship strictly from the scientific and biblical perspective:
we believe that denying materialism and affirming stewardship
is right, wise, biblical.

Therefore, we are grieved by the constant attempt of folks like
Beisner and the World magazine group to demonize us by
putting us in the camp with New Agers, socialists, deep
ecologists, theological modernists, or political liberals. That is
untruthful. It is such propaganda that constantly keeps us
estranged from fellow believers who would like to listen and
join in, but don't have the courage to stand with us for fear of
losing financial support. This too is very sad.

If Dr. Olson is in doubt about such backlash, I would
recommend that he pick up the World magazine of May 11/18
and turn to a "news report" about the EarthCare '96 conference
in Chattanooga of which I was a part this past Earth Day
weekend. In an article titled "It isn't easy being green" and
subtitled "Earth Day meeting mixes bad theology with
pseudoscience," we were panned so badly that none of us who
were there would have recognized it was about us except for
the few facts they got right about the names and location.

According to World, it was a conference "where the themes and
tenets of secular environmentalism [were] gleefully recycled
with a Christianized twist." The conference "was supposed to
be about Christian stewardship of the environment, not about
science; yet conferees absorbed an environmental barrage of
pseudoscience as if it were the gospel truth." The "speakers
played a no-rules theological pick-up game when it came to
combining Christianity and ecology." Our "environmental
religiosity" was "often as weak on sound theology as it is on
scientific underpinning." In short, we were victimized by a
reporter who came there to obtain a few facts and take them
home to write sheer slander.

As a result of this article I was called into account by one of the
most influential members of our college board of trustees. He
had read the story and wanted to know how I could have been
part of such a radical event. I had to fax him my notes, my
response letter to World, and the responses of the two
organizers of the event: former professors at Tennessee
Temple with doctorates in biology and theology.

Being of conservative Baptist persuasion, I find I am constantly
panned by fellow Christians who have no idea of either the
truth from the Word regarding creation stewardship or the truth
from the world about environmental degradation.

Nuff for now.

Dean Ohlman
Cornerstone College