Of Grudem, Green Dragons And Dr. Seuss: The Religious Right’s War On Environmentalism

Politicians simply cannot base crucial public policies on how a band of theocrats interprets the Old Testament.

Sunday is Earth Day, a time when a lot of us will be thinking about how we can better care for our planet to ensure it remains habitable for future generations.

Well, not all of us. Some people will be thinking about how the Bible says it’s all right to pretty much do whatever we want with the Earth and not worry about a thing.

A few years ago, fundamentalist Christian political types got alarmed because some of their younger compatriots were actually taking environmental stewardship seriously. The old guard formed a group called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation to promote the idea that God gave us the planet, and therefore we can do what we want with it, and nothing bad will happen.

To this crowd, global warming is a crock, overpopulation is a myth and there will always be enough oil, gas, water, food, etc., for all of us. Why? Because their interpretation of the Bible says so!

The Cornwall Alliance is holding a banquet tonight in Falls Church, Va., a Washington, D.C., suburb. The featured speaker is a man named Wayne Grudem. His name may not be familiar, but it should be.

In 2010, Grudem published a truly remarkable book (and I don’t mean that in a good way) titled Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture. Grudem’s belief is that the Bible, a book of theology written years ago in a pre-scientific age, answers every issue we might have to confront today.

And I do mean everything. For example, I didn’t know that the estate tax was unbiblical. Also, it appears that the Social Security system may violate the Book of Thessalonians. Who knew? In fact, according to Grudem, the Bible doesn’t allow us to stop working until we become incapacitated.

But it’s Grudem’s conclusions on the environment that concern us today. He writes, “Long-term trends show that human beings will be able to live on the earth, enjoying ever-increasing prosperity, and never exhausting its resources.”

Grudem further explains, “[I]f God put us on this earth to develop and use its resources for our benefit and with thanksgiving and for his glory, and if God is a good and wise creator, then it is completely reasonable to think that he would create in the earth the resources that we need and that there would be ways that we could discover to use these resources more wisely.”

I’m glad we cleared that up.

The Cornwall Alliance has an advisory board studded with Religious Right figures. “Christian nation” advocate David Barton is on it, along with homophobic California minister Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition; Barrett Duke, a top public policy official with the Southern Baptist Convention; George Grant, a leading proponent of the overtly theocratic Christian Reconstructionist movement; Gary Kass of Reclaiming America for Christ and a host of others.

What I don’t see on this body are scientists or experts on issues like the environment and population control. If you talk to those people, they are a good bit less likely to adopt a “don’t-worry-be-happy” attitude.

A recent New York Times article, for example, examined the possibility that Nigeria, a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada combined, might soon have a population of 300 million, which is the entire population of the United States right now. So far, God has not seen fit to give Nigeria an endless supply of resources to deal with this crush of humanity, and the country’s leaders are very worried.

The Cornwall Alliance was founded by a man named Calvin Beisner. He’s not a scientist (though he does hold an advanced degree in Scottish history). Beisner, whose group has produced a DVD series attacking environmentalism called “Resisting the Green Dragon,” recently got all bothered over the new film adaption of Dr, Seuss’ book The Lorax. Beisner claimed that the Environmental Protection Agency’s endorsement of the film was a violation of church-state separation because environmentalism is a religion.

I realize people disagree about some of these issues. Fair enough. But a lot is at stake here, so we need to base public policy on science, not some strange notion peddled by the Alliance that God gave humans “dominion” over the planet and therefore nothing can go wrong.

The Alliance seeks public policies that reflect its crabbed interpretation of the scriptures. Politicians simply cannot base crucial public policies on how a band of theocrats interprets the Old Testament.  

Thankfully, many religious people understand that and disagree with the Alliance. Among them is Rich Cizik, an evangelical leader who was ousted from the National Association of Evangelicals because he wouldn’t stop speaking out on climate change, civil unions for gay couples and other vital public policy issues.

On Earth Day, I hope all voices – religious and non-religious – drown out the chorus of those who believe that we have a God-given right to abuse our one and only home.