Recently a friend shared with me his concern that Christian leaders are not fulfilling our responsibility to address the great moral issues of our day. Sadly I agreed with his observation. Of all people, we who are followers of Jesus Christ should not be apathetic nor complacent as we see the huge problems that affect our world. Following in His steps we should strive to love our neighbors, at both personal and social levels. The Center for Applied Christian Ethics has chosen the theme that will guide our attention for this next academic year: “Environment, Economics and Equity.” In May our colleague Dr. Jeff Greenberg directed a faculty seminar helping us to understand specific environmental topics where the Wheaton community can deepen our love for our neighbors. To begin a conversation on a Christian view of the environment, we present to you the Evangelical Climate Initiative, signed by many Christian leaders including our own college president, Duane Litfin. In the same vein we present a review of the recently released movie “An Inconvenient Truth” in which Al Gore urges a strong response to global warming.
We also confess that we have not done enough to seek the well being of the people in the Middle East . This month CACE offers an opportunity to move us forward in that direction. We have invited Kathy Kelly and Dan Pearson to speak on Toward a Non-Violent Resolution of Conflicts in the Middle East: Iraq , Palestine/Israel and Iran . Kelly has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts for peace in the Middle East . She and Pearson represent the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence . The event will take place on Wednesday, June 28 at 7pm in Blanchard Hall #339. The presentation is free and open to the public.
It is not widely known that CACE hosts a breakfast three times a year for leaders in DuPage County who work towards making affordable housing available for our neighbors. On May 11 we met and heard three excellent speakers challenge us to consider affordable housing for the mentally disabled. We here present an invitation from Dawn Clark in which she invites college communities to become vitally and creatively involved with these members of God's family.
Director of CACE
Toward a Non-Violent Resolution of Conflicts in the Middle East: Iraq , Palestine/Israel and Iran
Kathy Kelly, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Dan Pearson of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Blanchard 339 June 28, 2006 7pm
This events is free and open to the public.
The Evangelical Climate Initiative
Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action Preamble
As American evangelical Christian leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsibility to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth, and therefore contribute to the well-being of the entire world. 1 Whether we will enter the public square and offer our witness there is no longer an open question. We are in that square, and we will not withdraw.
We are proud of the evangelical community's long-standing commitment to the sanctity of human life. But we also offer moral witness in many venues and on many issues. Sometimes the issues that we have taken on, such as sex trafficking, genocide in the Sudan , and the AIDS epidemic in Africa , have surprised outside observers. While individuals and organizations can be called to concentrate on certain issues, we are not a single-issue movement. We seek to be true to our calling as Christian leaders, and above all faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord. Our attention, therefore, goes to whatever issues our faith requires us to address.
Over the last several years many of us have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change (often called "global warming"). For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority. Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough to offer the following moral argument related to the matter of human-induced climate change. We commend the four simple but urgent claims offered in this document to all who will listen, beginning with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community, and urge all to take the appropriate actions that follow from them.
Claim 1: Human-Induced Climate Change is Real
Since 1995 there has been general agreement among those in the scientific community most seriously engaged with this issue that climate change is happening and is being caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence gathered since 1995 has only strengthened this conclusion.
Because all religious/moral claims about climate change are relevant only if climate change is real and is mainly human-induced, everything hinges on the scientific data. As evangelicals we have hesitated to speak on this issue until we could be more certain of the science of climate change, but the signatories now believe that the evidence demands action:
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's most authoritative body of scientists and policy experts on the issue of global warming, has been studying this issue since the late 1980s. (From 1988—2002 the IPCC's assessment of the climate science was Chaired by Sir John Houghton, a devout evangelical Christian.) It has documented the steady rise in global temperatures over the last fifty years, projects that the average global temperature will continue to rise in the coming decades, and attributes "most of the warming" to human activities.
- The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, as well as all other G8 country scientific Academies ( Great Britain , France , Germany , Japan , Canada , Italy , and Russia ), has concurred with these judgments.
- In a 2004 report, and at the 2005 G8 summit, the Bush Administration has also acknowledged the reality of climate change and the likelihood that human activity is the cause of at least some of it. 2
In the face of the breadth and depth of this scientific and governmental concern, only a small percentage of which is noted here, we are convinced that evangelicals must engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or humanity's responsibility to address it.
Claim 2: The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest
The earth's natural systems are resilient but not infinitely so, and human civilizations are remarkably dependent on ecological stability and well-being. It is easy to forget this until that stability and well-being are threatened.
Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods; increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions; and hurricanes that are more intense. It could lead to significant reduction in agricultural output, especially in poor countries. Low-lying regions, indeed entire islands, could find themselves under water. (This is not to mention the various negative impacts climate change could have on God's other creatures.)
Each of these impacts increases the likelihood of refugees from flooding or famine, violent conflicts, and international instability, which could lead to more security threats to our nation.
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem
While we cannot here review the full range of relevant biblical convictions related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:
- Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world, and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
- Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
- Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.
Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change—starting now.
The basic task for all of the world's inhabitants is to find ways now to begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are the primary cause of human-induced climate change.
There are several reasons for urgency. First, deadly impacts are being experienced now. Second, the oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create now will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efficient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In the United States , the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program. On June 22, 2005 the Senate passed the Domenici-Bingaman resolution affirming this approach, and a number of major energy companies now acknowledge that this method is best both for the environment and for business.
We commend the Senators who have taken this stand and encourage them to fulfill their pledge. We also applaud the steps taken by such companies as BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy, and DuPont, all of which have moved ahead of the pace of government action through innovative measures implemented within their companies in the U.S. and around the world. In so doing they have offered timely leadership.
Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals. These commendable efforts focus on such matters as energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, low CO2 emitting technologies, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. These efforts can easily be shown to save money, save energy, reduce global warming pollution as well as air pollution that harm human health, and eventually pay for themselves. There is much more to be done, but these pioneers are already helping to show the way forward.
Finally, while we must reduce our global warming pollution to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, as a society and as individuals we must also help the poor adapt to the significant harm that global warming will cause.
We the undersigned pledge to act on the basis of the claims made in this document. We will not only teach the truths communicated here but also seek ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort.
1 Cf. "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," approved by National Association of Evangelicals, October 8, 2004.
2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001, Summary for Policymakers. (See also the main IPCC website,) For the confirmation of the IPCC's findings from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, see, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001); http://books.nap.edu/html/climatechange/summary.html . For the statement by the G8 Academies (plus those of Brazil , India , and China ) see Joint Science Academies Statement: Global Response to Climate Change , (June 2005): http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf . Another major international report that confirms the IPCC's conclusions comes from the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. See their Impacts of a Warming Climate , Cambridge University Press, November 2004, p.2; http://amap.no/acia/ . Another important statement is from the American Geophysical Union, "Human Impacts on Climate," December 2003, http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/climate_change_position.html . For the Bush Administration's perspective, see Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005 , p.47.
More information can be found at http://christiansandclimate.org
Movie Review of "An Inconvenient Truth"
In Davis Guggenheim’s "An Inconvenient Truth" Al Gore brings his environmental message regarding global warming to the silver screen. The film is an unusual combination of documentary, thriller and power-point presentation, but most of all, it is a plea for action. The film follows Gore as he travels around the world to provide us with evidence that global warming is a fact. Pictures vividly portray where the snow has disappeared from Mt. Kilimanjaro and the dwindling ice sheet of Greenland. At times Professor Gore brings out the alarming statistics of carbon dioxide increases and the concomitant rise in air temperatures. At other moments he shows us a multitude of early warning signs (he labels these the canaries in the mine) of global warming: from Hurricane Katrina to tornadoes, from the Great Lakes to Antarctica, and from Africa to Latin America.
One important aspect of the film is that Gore brings the ethical dimensions to the forefront. Although at times Gore comes across as dry and nerdy, at his best Gore lays bare the moral consequences of our actions (and inactions). What kind of earth will we leave to our children and grandchildren? How does our consumption affect our neighbors in other parts of the world? What will happen if we continue along the same road without changing our lifestyles?
As followers of Jesus Christ we should be extremely concerned about the state of our earth. This world is the creation of our God and it is the home of our neighbors. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that our world is ill and getting worse. Of course, not all scientists agree on every point. But even if Gore’s scientific prognostications were only 20% accurate, this would require a change in the behavior of Christ’s followers. I was deeply challenged by this film, because it urged me to demonstrate better love for my neighbors around the world and in future generations.
More information about the film can be found at http://www.climatecrisis.org.
Affordable Housing for the Mentally Disabled (pdf)
By Dawn Clark, Director of Disability Ministries, College Church in Wheaton, Illinois
This country was founded, in part, by Christian men and women who were looking for a home—a place of safety; a place where they could build a new community and practice their faith freely. Today there is another group of people who are looking for a home, and I am not speaking of the millions of immigrants in this country. I am referring to men and women who have developmental disabilities, those who are frequently called “mentally retarded.” Their parents are aging and have difficulty caring for their adult children. Adults with developmental disabilities long for some independence. In the state of Illinois , there are not enough group homes to meet the needs and the waiting lists are long. Openings are reserved for adults whose parents are terminally ill or dying. Christian parents are looking for a place that will not only meet the physical needs of their children, but their spiritual needs as well. How do we as Christians respond?
Since there is much talk about diversity on college campuses these days, one answer might be for families, churches and Christian colleges to work together to form group homes near college campuses. Although inclusion and mainstreaming have been the elementary and high school experience of today's college students, there are very few opportunities for college students to interact in a natural setting with adults who have cognitive impairments. In this model, students and adults with developmental disabilities could live and work together and participate in extracurricular activities at the college. Students seeking degrees in higher education would learn the truth that “those parts of the body that seem to be less important are indispensable.” Not only do people with developmental disabilities need us, more importantly, we need them.
God tells us in Luke 14 that we are to invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” to eat with us, to be part of our community. These were the people who were marginalized by the society of the day. I believe that God still wants his house full of the people that society often marginalizes. Do we? Jesus cared so much for these people that he says in Matthew 25:40: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.' He calls them family.
Will we like the innkeeper long ago say that there is no room for Christ's family, that people with developmental disabilities just don't fit, that they are better off living with their own kind? Or will we prepare a place, a true home, for those society has marginalized and in so doing welcome the Lord Jesus into our midst? The choice is ours.