On June 1, President Donald Trump announced the United States is pulling out of the Paris climate accord. While environmental scientists say the consequences could be catastrophic for the planet, many religious Americans are taking the news in stride. Indeed, the deafening silence of many people following Trump’s decision bespeaks skepticism of man-made global warming as well as the government’s ability to address the issue.
The heated rhetoric, both in favor of and in opposition to such international treaties as the Paris Agreement, is but a byproduct of the politicization of the environmental movement. Climate change has become a flagship issue, similar to gun control and gay marriage, which are reliable indicators of Left and Right.
While global warming advocates and God-fearing Americans are perceived today as the strangest of bedfellows, truth of the matter is that religious language was very much present in early conservation movements. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and father of American environmentalism, believed in God. “[For centuries] God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,” Muir wrote in his 1897 essay, The American Forests.
As such, the conventional wisdom that conservationism and religion are inherently hostile towards each other is flawed. Calvinism, Congregationalism and Presbyterianism played leading roles in the creation of national parks, forestry and conservation efforts. In addition, our modern notions of nature are steeped in the morals and traditions of these particular denominations.
Moreover, the Bible sparkles with references to natural phenomenon that sound suspiciously like climate change:
Jeremiah 2:7 -”And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.”
Isaiah 24:5-6 – “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.”
Psalm 46:2-3 – “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.”
Another popular misconception is that perceiving our world through a religious lens automatically translates into a rejection of climate change. While there are those people who reject the very possibility that the earth is heating up, many more skeptics accept the possibility of climate change but challenge the veracity of its root cause: human activity. Others believe that global warming is evidence that the world will be ending soon and that we don’t need to worry about it in light of the approaching apocalypse.
While opinions vary within every community, the deep suspicion regarding climate change taps into a deeper mistrust that many Americans have of science over issues like abortion and transgenderism. Moreover, many climate control skeptics believe that scientists are both anti-religion and agenda-driven, more interested in providing an empirical justification for big government programs that will ultimately strip citizens of their freedoms.
Over the past 40 years, the environmental movement has transformed radically, from stewards of God’s creation to neo-pagan nature worship. The religious underpinnings of environmentalism, steeped in Christian intellectual history, have been weakened by an elite group of scientists, economists, politicians and journalists who have created an alarmist Climate Industrial Complex. By claiming that humankind is threatened by disastrous global warming, many scholarly fields have greatly benefited and whole industries have sprung up – dependent on government funding and regulation. Beyond the shimmering platitudes and virtue signaling, today’s environmental movement is in fact a serious threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.
In short, one can make the argument that many religious Americans didn’t abandon the environmental movement, but were rather abandoned by it.