Text: Mark 4:35-41
This week the much anticipated papal encyclical on climate change elicited a plethora of responses. In the lead-up to the release of the document, climate change deniers and conspiracy theorists have railed against Pope Francis, theologian and former chemist, for wading into the “political” issue of taking care of the environment.
The Heartland Institute, an organization known for its denial of climate change, got out ahead of the curve, publishing a piece back in May titled Is the Global Left Counting on Pope to Split the Catholic Church Over Global Warming? The piece asked the question:
Has the Left finally come out with a method that will destroy the power of the Church to cause further damage to an already weakened Church, having been busy for years preparing for this moment?
According to the article, the pope’s stance on global warming is part of a left-wing communist conspiracy to…do something.
Not to be left out of the spotlight, politicians have been making the rounds this week with their own opinions. What has been most shocking in many of their remarks is the sentiment that, “climate change is a political, not moral, issue” and that religion has no place in the conversation. One presidential candidate told reporters earlier this week that the pope should butt out of policy conversations. Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources concurred saying, “No, I’m sorry, it’s a political issue. Most people have their minds made up on this issue, so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn’t really add a heck of a lot more to it.”
Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, maintained the perspective that climate change is a belief, not a scientific fact, and said he disagreed with “the pope’s philosophy on global warming.” But it was another presidential candidate who got my attention. This candidate said, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”
As the New York Times pointed out in a piece they ran not all response has been negative. There has been significant praise for the encyclical from Germany “where the promotion of renewable energy sources and increased efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been a cornerstone of public policy for the past decade…” Michael Reder, a professor of religious philosophy at the Munich School of Philosophy, said of the encyclical: “It is an environmental encyclical, but not only. It also includes considering the interest of the poorest and those who suffer most from discrimination. Climate and development policy cannot be separated.”
But it is this latter quote from one of the presidential candidates that I want to come back to. The one who said, “We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality.”
Well, I want to take his advice. If the church is going to focus on what we are really good at (or what we are supposed to be really good at), theology and morality, then we CANNOT, and we must not, close our eyes and shut our ears and turn off our minds when it comes to the ecological crisis facing our nation and world. The ecological crisis we are facing is a theological issue with great moral implications.