Planet Gore

Southern Baptists and “Creation care”

I’ve been under the weather — I think I caught the planet’s fever, but the test results aren’t back yet – so forgive me if I clear up some old business.
Last week, I sat in on the conference call the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative hosted to announce their Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change. Participants included, among others, former Southern Baptist Conference president James Merritt; his son Jonathan, a spokesman for the initiative; Danny Akin of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and the big draw, Virginia senator John Warner. I went into the call expecting the worst — testimony to another successful effort at making environmental policy about something other than verifiable environmental science — but I came away with a vague sense that the SBECI is playing the middle on climate alarmism.
Jonathan Merritt kicked off by asserting that “climate crisis is a theological issue” and that the Declaration marked “a new day for southern Baptists” and their commitment “to take seriously the biblical charge to preserve the work of God’s hand.” The Declaration itself notes that the love of God requires Christians to exercise prudent stewardship over the earth, but also lists love of neighbor as one of the principal motives behind their concern for environmental policy. Merritt reasserted that Southern Baptists were “proud of our deep commitments to life issues” and “biblical definitions of marriage” — and now, “Creation care is in the pot.” The younger Merritt must have said “Creation care” four times in his opening statement – some very deliberate biblical branding.
[I thought that was a buzzword record, until I saw Al Gore’s on-the-street interview with the New York Daily News yesterday following his flying visit with Mayor Bloomberg. The Goracle used the term “climate crisis” five times in the time it took him to walk from City Hall to his waiting SUV — a crash re-branding of “global warming” no doubt necessitated by . . . well, see Chris Horner’s piece below.]
The headliner, Senator Warner, finally doddered into the call after about 20 minutes, and it was about another minute — “Am I on?” — before he realized he had the floor. The senator was there to promote the Climate Security Act that he’s co-sponsoring with Joe Lieberman, explaining that after 30 years in the Senate, he’d like one more legislative accomplishment before he retires. Warner insisted that he was pushing the bill not for political reasons, but for the sake of his grandchildren. He urged Baptists to support the Climate Security Act — which he expects to be taken up in April or May — because, for those who care about legislative action on the environment, it’s “the only train that will move through the Senate this year.” Warner admitted that we still have a lot to learn about global warming and “this greenhouse gas” [sic] and he assured those who might be hesitant that future congresses will be free to modify the law — but that “we must have a start. We should make that start so the rest of the world can see us leading, and follow.”
The Q & A with the press was most notable for how few of the questions were answered. The Associated Baptist Press wanted to know why the SBECI didn’t say “climate change is real,” as the Evangelical Climate Initiative had done. The only response was that the SBECI initiative was not modeled on the ECI — which I thought a telling evasion. So I asked if they agreed with the Pope’s contention that “solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology.” No comment, but if you’re curious to know what the answer should have been: the Declaration resolves to “engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem” — apparently, the science is settled.
Several of the press questions came right out of the Goracle’s climate camp — a second entreaty to the SBECI to announce that “global warming is real” (I guess they hadn’t had a chance to install the “climate crisis” patch yet) as well as demand “mandatory emissions cuts.” One young lady went so far as to ask a bewildered Danny Akin whether “his campus had organized” yet — ah, journalism as activism.
The mantra for the day was that the SBECI Declaration was not intended to endorse any legislation, nor any particular set of scientific data — a reticence likely borne of internal wrangling. If SBECI members aren’t exactly devoted Planet Gore readers, they aren’t all squarely in the Gorite camp, either. “Love of neighbor” — particularly the poor, the “least of these” — is one of the Declaration’s guiding principles, which I can’t help but see as a poison pill that will preclude public support for regressive energy taxes.
The best question came from the Dallas Morning News’ Sam Hodges, who wanted to know how many SBC former presidents the SBECI approached to sign on to the declaration and what their “batting average” was (three former SBC presidents are signatories, including James Merritt). Again, no real answer: “we were surprised at how successful we were” — without saying how many were asked. I’d be interested to know the answer to that question — because, while Al Gore was named Baptist of the Year by his hometown Baptist Ethics Center, it’s clear that not every Baptist is in the climate-alarmist camp.

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