christian action (was: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science")

From: Tjalle T Vandergraaf <ttveiv@mts.net>
Date: Fri Feb 17 2006 - 15:09:23 EST

I think it's about time to change the subject title. Jerry Falwell has had
more than enough exposure, I would think. :-)

George admits that "Denominational statements aren't always very effective"
and that "many members of one's denomination . may not pay any attention to
even a well crafted statement." However, he adds, "statements by groups of
Christians without any official church authority are likely to have even
less of an impact."

In commenting on the recent news on the effects of global warming, Ken
writes, "We may quibble about whether or not it is responsible for churches
or other Christian groups should make public statements about such issues. I
suppose there were those who also questioned whether or not churches should
make public statements about slavery or about the holocaust or about Ruanda
or Darfur; in my opinion failure to address these issues with our
parishioners will mean the continuing marginalization of the church on
crucial social issues. I am not suggesting that churches engage in policy
making; but they should be calling attention to important social issues that
are being neglected or abused in the public arena."

In thinking about this, issues like slavery, the holocaust, and genocide in
Rwanda and Darfur crossed my mind as well. A few thoughts come to mind, and
I have to stress that I use the terms "churches" to mean individual
congregations in contrast to "denominations" that, as I see it, make
official pronouncements.
* Issues such as the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda are so clear
that very few people would speak out against it. In fact, one could
relegate these issues to the "motherhood and apple pie" bin. It's highly
unlikely that a church or denomination would be in favour of these crimes
and I can well imagine that a pastor would raise this issue in the context
of being one's brother's keeper and that a denomination might urge its
members to write their elected representatives. I cannot see much point in
a denomination issuing a formal statement denouncing the current genocide in
Darfur; it's rather obvious that genocide is not acceptable. I'm not all
that familiar with the stand taken by denominations on slavery in the US.
If denominations (especially in the South) spoke out against it, good on
them!
* Usually, in hindsight it's very easy to say that the "churches
should have spoken out about this or that evil." By remaining silent,
churches become accomplices to this evil. Although I cannot cite any
specific cases, it seems to me that, in many cases, churches or
denominations tend not to be leaders, but followers. Please correct me if
I'm wrong.
* When it comes to specific issues, denominations may find themselves
in a quandary. George hints at this when he wrote, "Among other things, the
more ecuimenical a statement is - without being watered down to avoid
conflicts - the more effective it's likely to be." I'll use the Rwandan
genocide as an example. This crime is so heinous that it would be easy for
many denominations to agree on an "ecumenical statement." Anything less
heinous runs the risk of needing to be watered down and, consequently, its
effectiveness decreases.

Now let's turn to the recent news about the increased rate of melting of the
Greenland ice cap that Ken raised. This is but one indication that things
up North are getting warmer. Until last week, the winter in Manitoba has
been so mild that winter roads, essential to ship goods up north, could not
be built and isolated communities stood the risk of sharply increased prices
for commodities that may have to be flown in. Now, what is a denomination
to do and what should the response of an individual congregation be? Even
more importantly, what should its members do?

And that brings me back to something I posted a few weeks ago in response to
the impending energy crunch. I was suggesting that churches (i.e.,
congregations) should contemplate how they would heat their church buildings
in the future. The response from this forum was a dead silence, if I
recall. And is this not where the rub is? ASA members could take the lead
here and formulate a position that reflects both our Christian stewardship
and our demands on our dwindling resources.

One option, and this is the one I favour, is for Christians to develop a
responsible and sustainable energy policy and start applying this to their
individual situations in their local congregation and their communities. The
other, as I think George favours, is to develop denominational statements
and hope that the members start paying attention to it. Ken's position, as
I see it, is 'whatever works.'

Another danger that I see is that any impact of a denominational statement
may be negated by the actions of the person in the pew. For example, if a
particular denomination issues a statement on responsible use of our fossil
fuels and I see the same mix of passenger cars parked at the parking lot of
a church in that denomination as I see at the local mall, where is the
message? Denominations may issue a statement on a more equal sharing of the
wealth by nations and advance "fair trade coffee" but member congregations
buy coffee in bulk at Costco, is the statement not compromised? To me, the
church is really marginalized if official statements are not reflected by
individual members and congregations.

If denominations want to issue statements on global warming, the least I
would expect is that the denominational offices take the lead role in
reducing their contribution to CO2 emissions and that the philosophy of
"doing more with less" would filter through to individual congregations.
This would include a drastic reduction in travel and a move towards passive
solar heating.

Let me end with asking George a question: should one expect that the
operational activities of the ELCA would have changed following the release
of its statement ""Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and _Justice_" and, if
so, have they?

Shalom

Chuck Vandergraaf

-----Original Message-----
From: George Murphy [mailto:gmurphy@raex.com]
Sent: Friday, February 17, 2006 7:22 AM
To: Tjalle T Vandergraaf; asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tjalle T Vandergraaf" <ttveiv@mts.net>
To: "'George Murphy'" <gmurphy@raex.com>; <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 6:30 PM
Subject: RE: Jerry Falwell -- global warming is "junk science"

> Rather than respond to each of George's comments, it seems to me that our
> differences may stem from differences in our traditions.
>
> I think we can agree that Christians have the duty to comment on all human
> activities and on the created world. Where we differ is on how this
> should
> be done. I favour doing this outside organized denominational structures.
> The danger with linking a denomination with a particular view on
> environmental matters is that this view then becomes intertwined with that
> denomination's theology. Let me give a few examples:
>
> Some years ago, the United Church in Canada came out in opposition to
> uranium mining in Saskatchewan and to nuclear power in general. This begs
> the question: if I were a member of this denomination, would I have to
> change my view on nuclear energy? Could I still support this denomination
> financially or would any money I donate be used to put my job in jeopardy?
> Would I feel ostracized? Would the pronouncement by the UCC drive an
> unnecessary wedge between proponents and opponents to nuclear industry?
>
> Some denominations have voiced their opposition to such things as
> genetically modified foods and the killing of seals. Not that I'm all
> that
> keen on killing seals but one has to wonder how a denomination can bring
> the
> Good News to seal hunters whose livelihood depends on this type of
> hunting.
> To me, it's all a matter or priorities. If a denomination runs the risk
> of
> having its message of salvation obscured by a declared stance on an
> environmental topic, what is gained in the process?
>
> To me, it seems far better if a group of Christians formulated a position
> outside the organized denominational structure.

OK, where we differ is on the practical issue of how Christians can be most
effective in speaking about the implications of their faith in the world.
Denominational statements aren't always very effective. For one who's been
involved in that process, it's frustrating to realize that many members of
one's denomination - let alone those outside it - may not pay any attention
to even a well crafted statement, & copies of it will gather dust in a
storage room somewhere. But statements by groups of Christians without any
official church authority are likely to have even less of an impact. Among
other things, the more ecuimenical a statement is - without being watered
down to avoid conflicts - the more effective it's likely to be. We did that

to a certain extent with the ELCA statement I mentioned: The PCUSA had
already gone through a similar process & we had a member of their task force

on ours so we'd stay in touch with what they'd done.

Shalom
George
http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
Received on Fri Feb 17 15:11:29 2006

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