Consider the following two quotations. The first is from the New York Times in a Saturday, December 12th article about the Paris Climate Accords:
The great ice sheets remain imperiled, the oceans are still rising, forests and reefs are under stress, people are dying by tens of thousands in heat waves and floods, and the agriculture system that feeds seven billion human beings is still at risk.
And the second quotation is from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 13:
Pray that this does not happen in winter. For those times will have tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of creation until now. In those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Each quotation, one from the Sacred Scriptures, and one from the secular scriptures of the Times, are speaking about the end of the world- they are both apocalyptic in tone and nature.
The Green Religion Rises
One of them is based in Christian theology handed on from the lips of the Lord Himself. The other is based in science that has deified itself, crossing over into the realm of becoming a modern religion, complete with doctrines (“climate change”), high priests (climatologists), disciples (the green movement), heretics (Republicans and Big Business), synods (the Paris talks), holy days (Earth Day), sacramental observances (recycling), and an angry goddess (Mother Earth), who must be appeased by sacrifices (emissions reductions), so that she does not send a great flood with rising coastal tides. It’s the new Noah story, really.
In an amusing inversion of history, the fear-based 1950’s Catholicism that so many lapsed and older Catholics love to ridicule has now been replaced by the fear-based Green Religion of the 21st Century.
If you want to avoid the fires of Hell, which I think is something like a three degree average warming of the earth’s average temperature, then you must buy a hybrid car. (Disclaimer: I already have a hybrid car, and I have therefore now purchased an indulgence in the Green Religion. Disclaimer number two: I live in Wisconsin and am therefore safe from the coastal flooding that is coming. Consider this, therefore, a purely disinterested article from me).
Don’t get me wrong. It would be foolish to suggest that cleaner air, purer water, and the proper care for God’s creation is somehow a waste of time. On the contrary. And if we owe any debt to the fear-mongering pantheists at the Times, it is that they have forced us all to come face to face with the disturbing, and sinful, ability of human beings to do serious harm to the creation that God has entrusted to our care.
And, it would be an irrational sort of anti-Green atheism (so to speak), that would argue that humans cannot harm the planet and impact the world around us in ways that other species are simply not capable of.
Green Atheists? Green Agnostics? Green Believers
Are we solely responsible for all that is apparently warming around up around us? Hard to say. I am not a scientist. And I am only an amateur historian at best. But, I do know that in the Middle Ages we have well documented evidence of parishes and religious settlements on the coasts of Greenland because it was that much warmer then, and those same settlements died out a couple centuries later as Greenland grew too cold to support regular crops and comprehensive civilization.
This is known as the “Little Ice Age,” (to differentiate it from the “big one” that ended because the Native Americans burned too many fossil fuels and melted the glaciers…. or something…..). Maybe Mother Earth is just having another, long, hot flash or something?
So maybe I am, vis-a-vis the Green Religion, not exactly an atheist but an agnostic at best, and my agnosticism is validated by the frequently shifting claims of scientists concerning all sorts of things from cholesterol, to the status of Pluto (poor Pluto- in my short lifetime it has already been demoted from being a real planet), to the necessity of mammograms, etc, etc, etc.
Contrast all of that with the enduring Word of the Book of Genesis which, without fail, always seems to explain reality so much better than any of the secularists can.
The Bible has a very simple story to tell. God made creation good. He instructed us to care for it. We sinned. There have been problems ever since. And the remedy, as the Scriptures and all of history make abundantly clear, cannot be found in ourselves. No, it is found only in the conversion of hearts made possible by the grace of Christ who is the one true Savior. And he saved us by becoming man, raising our status as creatures to something lofty and grand in the process.
The Return of Human Sacrifice
But all of that is out of the reach of most of the Green Disciples because they, often intentionally, choose not to embrace the Christian narrative. What’s worse, is that as politics and policies evolve, as driven by the secularist world leaders of the moment, they run the risk of placing both the entire solution as well as the entire blame for environmental issues on humanity itself.
When that happens, humans- the person- is what gets sacrificed. The blame may be well-placed, but the savior role is mis-assigned. There is only one savior, and it is not us. To take that role upon ourselves sets us up as a competing god with mother earth, and in the end, she will be the more demanding one as the solution to nature’s problems requires removing the humans from the scene.
The Times is already on to this next chapter in their version of the biblical narrative. When the Paris talks were just heating up (yes, pun intended), the Times ran an article outlining how the only real solution to climate change is to scale consumption and the use of fossil fuels back to proportions of a couple centuries ago. They further concluded that such a roll back is not possible given our situation today. The entire global standard of living has risen too high to ever go back.
And so we are on the inevitable slide into Gehenna, and once that becomes more and more obvious (like in a few years when, in spite of Paris, the ice just keeps melting), then more drastic measures will be in order. Some humans are going to win, and some are going to lose. Some will be able to stay, and some will have to go. At that point, I really hope I am in the right group- we will call them “the elect.”
The Christian Solution, Once More
The genius of Christianity (besides the helpful fact that it is a real religion), is that it both guarantees the necessary protection of the human person with its truth of our redeemed nature in Christ, the God-man, while at the same time holding out the only real solutions to life’s problems both in the short-term (conversion of hearts in response to Divine love), and in the long-term (the Second Coming when God is going to fix everything).
The Green Religion offers none of that. Which means that rather than saving humanity like we are all supposed to believe it can, it is actually humanity’s next big enemy. There is a reason that Judaism and Christianity steadily replaced pantheism (which was frequently earth-worship) once upon a time: we brought liberation from the fear of making the earth gods and goddesses upset, and with it the end of (literal) human sacrifice to calm the earth deities down. All of that ancient pantheism, with all of its inhumane consequences, is on the rise again.
We have real problems on this planet, to be sure. And unfortunately I do not hear any world leader talking about the one thing necessary to try and stave off the dangers of environmental ruin, namely, the wide-spread rejection of a possession-driven consumerist lifestyle.
We buy, and build, and spend, and eat, and drink, and waste in such epic proportions because we misdirect all the appetites of the human heart away from God (their one true end) and into… stuff. Stuff that will all pass away. The only remedy to all this is the Gospel and the Cross. Fat chance that will be mentioned in any United Nations climate agreements.
Pope Francis has picked up on a lot of this, but unfortunately I fear he has, even if unintentionally, played into the hands of the secularists by adopting their language and lobbying for their bureaucratic solutions.
Even the light show on the facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica that he supported a week ago was ultimately a nod to the wrong agenda. Along with all of the lovely photos of animals, etc, that were beamed on to the front of the largest church in Christendom should have been equally as many photos of other endangered species: unborn children, refugees, the elderly, and married couples (of the opposite sex).
In any case, it is clear that any meaningful solution to all of this will be elusive for awhile, at least as long as the powers that be continue to run away from real religion, and instead insert their own brand of it in its place.
Meanwhile, I will go on driving my little hybrid, embracing the cross, and trying to consume fewer resources until the ice caps melt, or until Christ comes again- whichever comes first.