Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor
Biosociologist E.O. Wilson has written a "Letter to a Southern Baptist Pastor" as a means of seeking common ground between science and religion for the good of all for as he writes,
Because religion and science are the two most powerful forces in the world today, including especially the United States. If religion and science could be united on the common ground of biological conservation, the problem would soon be solved. If there is any moral precept shared by people of all beliefs, it is that we owe ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment.The full text is here Letter to a Southern Baptist Minister. In the letter, he lays on the line his own secular humanist beliefs, while making room for joining with those Christians who want to find common cause, particularly the most literal interpretors of scripture.
For the record here at Irenic Thoughts, I don't think I take scripture literally in the sense that is usually meant. But I take scripture so life-changingly seriously that I am always uncomfortable saying that I don't take scripture literally for that makes it sound like I don't think the Bible is true. On the contrary, I know it to be true. People ask, "Did it happen?" about this or that biblical event. I can say in reply, "It happens all the time." For the events in scripture such as the Exodus from Egypt are ones that repeat generation after generation as God calls people from slavery into freedom and from death into life.
With that said, I lament that many Christians have found reason not to follow God's command to be stewards of the earth and to serve and preserve the creation. As Wilson clearly states in his letter, some use Jesus' return as an excuse to not worry about the state of the planet. This is curious logic as we should want our Lord to find that we've been taking care of the place as requested. Martin Luther said that if someone said Jesus was returning tomorrow, he would plant a tree. If they were wrong, he would have prepared for the future. If they were right, he would be found by God to be taking care of the earth.
Wilson's impassioned plea is this:
Pastor, we need your help. The Creation—living Nature—is in deep trouble. Scientists estimate that if habitat conversion and other destructive human activities continue at their present rates, half the species of plants and animals on Earth could be either gone or at least fated for early extinction by the end of the century. A full quarter will drop to this level during the next half century as a result of climate change alone. The ongoing extinction rate is calculated in the most conservative estimates to be about a hundred times above that prevailing before humans appeared on Earth, and it is expected to rise to at least a thousand times greater or more in the next few decades. If this rise continues unabated, the cost to humanity, in wealth, environmental security, and quality of life, will be catastrophic.Separate from issues of whether global warming is good science or bad, anyone can see that we are raping portions of the earth rather than caring for them. The earth is resilient and may well recover, but it could do so with a billion or so less humans on board. If this happens, it may not be God's judgment so much as God's built-in corrective for us not following the command to care for the gift of creation we have been given.
The professor who taught me Hebrew, Ellen Davis, said in a recent NPR interview,
The biblical writers have always maintained that the world is not a permanent entity as we know it; it can change; is likely to change; for better, or for much worse.If our own free will leads us to saw off the limb on which we stand, we will not have God to blame. Perhaps this is yet another implication of this past Sunday's sermon When Fires Rage.
You will find some responses to E.O. Wilson at Washington Post and Newsweek's On Faith in Science and Religion. In the archives is the religion column Toward a Christian Ecology.
I think that Christians owe our creator the debt of caring for creation. For that reason, I do believe that I could easily find a good deal of common ground with E.O. Wilson. But then, he wasn't writing the letter to me. What do you think of Christianity and ecological crisis?
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor
PS: There is also the reasoning of the Rev. Linda McCloud who said, "Preserve the earth; as far as we know, it's our only source of chocolate."
Labels: Science and religion