The Parliament of the World’s Religions 2009 opened this week in Melbourne. “Major speakers” include Jimmy Carter, Joan Chittister and Michael Kirby.
Miss Jean Brodie said it best: “For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.”
A visit to the Parliament’s website makes it clear that environmental issues are a key concern:
The Melbourne Parliament will draw forth the sacred nature of the environment from all religious and spiritual traditions, led by the Indigenous peoples of the earth. It will also showcase the partnership between communities and other guiding institutions in pursuing practical approaches for reversing climate change and its effects.
John Cleary, who presents a religious program on the ABC on Sunday nights, says there are parallels between the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne and the climate summit in Copenhagen.
Cleary does not have in mind any sense of religious fervour, which I suspect will be more in evidence in Copenhagen than Melbourne, but the fact that both are concerned with “healing the planet”.
George Browning, former Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn, says in the document Common Belief: … if Christians believe in Jesus they must recognise that concern for climate change is not an optional extra but a core matter of faith.
But there is a huge leap in the claim that being a Christian means an obligation to take action to prevent climate change.
Being concerned for the responsible exercise of the Christian duty of stewardship for creation need not involve church leaders rushing to grab a share of the latest climate apocalypse action.
John Cleary said in his conversation with Derek Guille that the knowledge that “God so loved the world” should lead to a sense of global responsibility, and that such a sense of responsibility could add “real grunt” to the climate change debate.
Christians have two key things to offer to any debate about the environment and our role in it. But neither of them is a vague sense of responsibility, or “grunt”.
First is a right understanding of who we are in relation to the rest of creation. Because of the incarnation, we know that the material word is not evil, or something to be used or ignored. It is the product of a loving and rational God. It is good. It will be redeemed. On the other hand, it is not a god. There is no Gaia. Awe inspiring and beautiful as it is, the material world is not to be worshipped for its own sake.
Second, because Christianity is a faith based on reason and evidence, Christians ought to be buffered from, and help to buffer others from, ideology or wishful (or alarmist) thinking. Christians who are true to their calling will think, research, pray, consult and consider before arriving at a conclusion about how to respond to any particular issue.
Pope John Paul II pointed out that “Reverence for nature must be combined with scientific learning”. (Pastoral Statement, Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching.)
Maybe the church’s climate scare collaborators could try it.
And maybe, as the scarecrow did, they will think of things they never thunk before.
One of the reasons I was not able to post anything on Friday was that I had a number of clients whose computers I needed to attend to urgently.
The other reason was that I was writing a longish article on climate change discussions at the Parliament of Religions in Melbourne.
The lines above are a brief summary. Visit The Australian Conservative to read the whole thing.
The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, an informal interdenominational network of Christian congregations, has released a statement saying:
Global warming alarmism is based on biased science, sloppy economics, and misguided theology …
Global warming policies would produce unethical results that would:
•destroy millions of jobs.
•cost trillions of dollars in lost economic production.
•slow, stop, or reverse economic growth.
•reduce the standard of living for all but the elite few who are well positioned to benefit from laws that unfairly advantage them.
•endanger liberty by putting vast new powers over private, social, and market life in the hands of national and international governments.
•condemn the world’s poor to generations of continued misery characterized by rampant disease and premature death
The result of all these sacrifices will be at most a negligible, undetectable reduction in global average temperature a hundred years from now. …
such policies are wrongheaded, destructive, and detrimental to the poor.
Why is that kind of clear sightedness, attention to evidence, and moral sense so hard for mainstream Australian church leaders?