Monday, March 10, 2008

Grinning and Greening

My last post was a little skeletal, so I thought I would offer a few more thoughts about the recent ecostatement by some Southern Baptists.

Global warming. Man! Is there such a thing as a QUATERNARY doctrine? Because, for all the talk about creation care and the like, can anyone identify a single Southern Baptist who's saying, "Pollute the land! Crank out the chemicals! Let it all BURN!!!"? I think that Southern Baptists are in consensus that God has commissioned us to have dominion over the earth. I think that Southern Baptists are in consensus that littering or pollution or the lacing of public drinking water with hexavalent chromium is wrong. Nobody thinks that God's plan is Love Canal.

"Creation care" we're in agreement on; global warming we're not so sure about. And we're not so sure about Kyoto and its "pollute all you want" pass to places like China. If I buy a hybrid car, will the electricity I use to charge it pollute the atmosphere more or less than the gasoline I was using to fill my old car? If I buy ethanol, doesn't that cause more chemicals to be sprayed all across Iowa to grow the corn?

Is there any substantial disagreement among Southern Baptists on issues actually touching upon the THEOLOGY of "creation care"? Or is it basically a difference over which of conflicting political approaches to endorse in trying to care for creation?

And if it is the latter, how important is that, really?

In my last post, I speculated that the recent statement was all about public perception. I offered that speculation without offering evaluation. I'll fill in the blanks now. I'm not sure that this action will help public perception of Southern Baptists at all. I don't think there's anything wrong with paying an appropriate level of attention to public perception. As a pastor, I sometimes consider public perception of my actions. We're foolhardy if we completely disregard public perception. I don't think that our ideology or the truth should ever be at the mercy of our quest for positive public perception, but a desire to improve public perception of Southern Baptists by the world is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.

But perhaps, just maybe, it harms public perception in some ways for a bevy of Southern Baptist employees to go out of their way to slap at a resolution just adopted by the SBC in the immediately preceding annual meeting. Global warming is a topic on which people are certainly free to arrive at their own opinions. But before I would rise up to rebuke the SBC in The New York Times, I would want it to be a pretty important issue, especially if I were regularly cashing a CP paycheck. [NO, I don't want ANYBODY getting into any TROUBLE over this. I'm just saying that it has a negative effect on public perception] Somebody should have rebuked the SBC on the issue of slavery, but on CO2 emissions?

I can't help but think that some of the people involved didn't anticipate that this statement would be construed as a rebuttal of our Southern Baptist messenger body. After all, Baptist Press is reporting that Frank Page endorses the past two SBC resolutions on the topic in addition to this statement. BP also reports that negotiations were ongoing with the ERLC involving some modifications of the document but not a final endorsement. Obviously at least some of the people generally in support of the idea were trying to achieve different wordings of the text.

And, of course, a great many of the signatories don't work for the SBC and can disagree any old time they want to, but let's do so agreeably, and preferably away from CNN.

While we're greening, let's keep grinning at one another.

34 comments:

Wade Burleson said...

Bart,

Is there any legitimacy to my feeling that one can usually know the subject of your posts on Praisegod Barebones by simply reading a couple of Southern Baptist blogs a day earlier?

Anonymous said...

Bart,

You are probably right about the perception issue. Note the following excerpt from a worldnet daily interview with Rick Warren:

"On global warming, Warren said he didn't endorse the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," as others did, to assert humans are causing it.

"I don't even care about that debate so much as I care that Christians should be at the forefront of taking care of the planet," he said.

"And actually, you tell me which side you want to be on, and I'll tell you which reports to read. OK. I can show you noted scientists who tell you we are near disaster, and I can show you noted scientists you say there is no problem at all."

Warren said he does not support the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement rejected by the U.S. requiring radical emission reductions opponents say would destroy economies and harm the poor – "not at all do I agree with it."

"I didn't sign on to say, I believe all things that the radical environmentalists believe. Not at all," he said. "I just thought Christians ought to be saying, We care about the planet too."

Christians, he said, should be leading the move to take care of the Earth "with biblical principles, not political principles. And a lot of people are making this a bouncing ball right now.

"I think a lot of people read into my signature on that that I bought into everything that's out there," he said. "I certainly don't. I don't at all."

I suspect that Rick has given the cue and others are following.

I'm still wondering what the most moral temperature is for this planet. I would also add that if I believe that global warming is a moral issue then I would be in sin every time I turn the heater on in my home or every time I start my car.

Tim B

Anonymous said...

Wade,

Is there any legitimacy to my feeling that you and your cohorts are actually lukewarm conservatives and that your real intent is an ecumenical SBC?

Doug in Memphis

selahV said...

Doug, we can't all be prophets, have original thoughts, AND squeeze lemon juice from oranges. :) selahV

Paul said...

Bart,

Actually I've known more than just a few Southern Baptists in my life who care very little about our stewardship of creation. They actually do believe that God is going to burn it all one day, so why bother now? In fact, I've heard that very thing recently from an older Southern Baptist deacon who fancy's himself a bit of a Bible scholar.

I've not found that same sort of sentiment among not just a few Dispensationalists.

Paul said...

That should be "I have found that sentiment...."

Bart Barber said...

Wade,

Well, obviously sometimes I write in response to you or Ben. Somebody needs to.

Other times, we're all following the news cycle. That's common for all sorts of media. I'm not normally the first one to get a post up, but that probably just reflects the differences in our situations. Blogging is a personal pursuit for me—I don't have staff helping me to get the first bite at the apple. So sometimes my posts on a topic happen to come later than some others.

Bart Barber said...

Tim B,

Thanks for mining a GREAT quote for this topic.

Bart Barber said...

SelahV,

You're so clever! Don't ever stop coming over here to comment.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Certainly there are people with different priorities. But are you telling me that you know Southern Baptists who think that it is a good thing to pollute? Who think it is not a bad thing to pollute?

Paul said...

Bart,

If you consider throwing trash in bar ditches and a general lack of concern for things like water pollution, air pollution that comes from manufacturing plants, etc., then yes, I know Baptist deacons who believe that businesses should be able to dump chicken waste into our local rivers and pour unrestricted gasses into the air because it helps the economy and "God's going to burn it all up in the end anyway."

I know you are from Arkansas. Perhaps you should talk to some of the good Baptist folk who work for Tyson in the northwestern part of the state (and who are dumping chicken waste into streams that run into northeastern Oklahoma). It really isn't that uncommon for people to defend the thing that makes them money and to come up with some theological justifications for it.

Again, my anecdotal evidence may not prove much except that I know Southern Baptists who do make just that sort of argument. I'm just saying that I don't think it is a given that there is no one who is saying, "Pollute the land! Crank out the chemicals! Let it all BURN!!!" Of course, they aren't exactly saying it in just that way. But they are saying it nonetheless.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Paul,

If what you say is happening at Tyson, why has the federal Government not intervened. I know Chicken Farmers around here have to build incinerators to burn the dead chickens. I also know they have to go and be trained one how to properly kill the chicken in order to keep it from any unnecessary pain during its death. Thank the brother organization to Green Peace for that one.

If that is your argument, I believe we all need to step back and say, we have the laws in place to stop that. How can a declaration so loosely worded cause Tyson to stop polluting?

Blessings,
Tim

Debbie Kaufman said...

Doug: We who wish reform may be responsible for some of the global warming we are so on fire and excited about the gospel. :)

Bart: Does it really matter in the scheme of things? Really? Malcolm Yarnell signed and then unsigned the document according to Outpost. Why do you think that was?

Paul said...

Tim,

The whole issue has been in litigation for quite some time and because it is an issue that is not limited to Arkansas one of the issues is whether or not Arkansas has any liability for the pollution of the Illinois River in Oklahoma because the waste doesn't just stay in Arkansas. Perhaps it is best not to assume that how things are done in North Carolina is how they are done everywhere else.

As to this initiative stopping Tyson from polluting I would simply say that it must start with the church, which is where this initiative is targeted. Then if there are any good Baptist deacons who work for Tyson we might rightfully expect that this perspective might become reflected in the policies by which they operate. If there are any good Baptist shareholders in Tyson, they might have some impact as well.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Sometimes (usually?) people's actions don't line up with their beliefs. People will commit adultery yet still admit that it is wrong. People will speed yet still admit that it is wrong. People will toss their Happy Meal carton out the window and still admit that it is wrong. The fact that Southern Baptists pollute is not evidence that Southern Baptists do not believe that pollution is wrong.

What I'm looking for is the actual importance of some point of difference between the 2007 resolution and this 2008 statement. Both embrace the theological concept of stewardship and dominion over the earth.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

To put a fine point on it, do you believe that the 2007 resolution condones purported pollution of the Illinois River by Tyson?

Anonymous said...

Paul,

It's not Tyson's dumping chicken litter in the streams. Tyson's doesn't do the litter spreading- their contract growers do and they are gov't regulated.

Your comment only goes to show that you bit hook, line, and sinker into media hype rather than actually experiencing how and why poultry growers do what they do.

I have worked with literally hundreds of poultry growers and have never heard or seen any dump chicken waste in their stream. Many of these folks drink from those streams. However, they do apply litter to the land, which has greatly increased productivity of that once poor ground. A side effect has been the eutrophication you spoke about.

But I would encourage you not to cast those stones so freely without knowing why it came to this point. I venture that you have oft enjoyed a nice, inexpensive chicken meal without having to raise, kill or pluck the chicken.

Maybe the ideology/theology guiding our practices, agriculture or otherwise, is one of subduing the earth and valuing human life over that of a chicken or an ozark cavefish.

I can attest that our family has no theological backing or justification for their chicken litter spreading rates. I do know that we take pride in feeding thousands of yuppies in Oklahoma who often gripe about chicken growers while their mouths and bellies are full of the product we produce.

Surely you don't believe that the use of chemicals, fertilizers, poultry litter, confinement animal operations, or aeresol hair spray for that matter indicates that the users or producers of those products are guided by some cynical "destroy the earth" theology.

Most of the things we do have been done for reasons of convenience, availability, pragmatism, and prioritizing of concerns. Sure I want to protect pristine environments and care for God's creation, but if it comes down to you having a nice place for you to float your boat or feeding a thousand families who are on limited budgets- I'll choose the latter.

But does it have to be either or? And is this even a concern that the SBC should be spending CP dollars addressing. No and no.

Bart Barber said...

Debbie:

Have you asked him? Did Outpost ask him?

Paul said...

Tim,

Perhaps this USA Today article will help you.

Paul said...

Anonymous,

Sorry, I didn't see your post prior to my last one. I think you have said it well. Your bottom line is more important than the health hazards of the waste equivalent of 10.7 million people (check out the USA Today article). I have no illusions that if Tyson quit dumping the massive amounts of chicken waste in the ground that poor people would starve to death. That's just ridiculous. Yes, thank you for the chicken I eat once every couple of weeks, but if it weren't there, or if I did have to raise my own chickens (which in the end might well be more economical anyway) I think I, along with both the poor and the yuppies, could survive. Yes, you've done an excellent...no...outstanding job of showing the motivation behind the pollution of Oklahoma's waterways.

Paul said...

Bart,

I wasn't responding to your more pointed point. You didn't initially raise that point. I was responding to your original point that there are no Southern Baptists who think that litter and pollution are ok. As you can see from my dialog with anonymous this isn't just about someone carelessly letting their happy meal box fly out of the back of their pickup (even regretfully so).

No. When studies indicate that chicken waste is creating health hazards in our lakes and streams, maybe even bringing the extinction of a member of God's own creation (as if God ever created an animal or fish with the intention that mankind would exterminate them from the earth so that I could buy a three piece extra crispy meal) it may not be codified in some SBC resolution, but I really do think that your anonymous friend has done the best job I can think of in proving my point.

Paul said...

Anonymous,

By the way, my dad was one of eight kids and my grandfather had a high school education. My grandmother did not work outside the home. They were very fortunate that none of them starved to death. They did, however, have chickens in their yard. They provided them with eggs and every now and then a chicken dinner. There's even a great story my grandmother used to tell about my dad and his twin brother chasing one of those chickens around hoping to catch it and stuff it in an enema bag (or maybe they thought the chicken was constipated, I'm not sure). I do know that no one's drinking water, or an area where people fish and swim, was at risk.

Anonymous said...

Debbie,

He probably actually read the thing and figured out what a load of nonsense it is.

Hopefully some of the others will follow suit shortly.

P.S. Does the "reform" of your friends include an ecumenical SBC?

Doug in Memphis

Debbie Kaufman said...

Doug: Your last question doesn't follow the intent of Bart's post so I'll only answer you to say I think you should do some reading of posts by those whom you accuse and then converse based on those facts. So far you haven't.

As for the first part of your statement, I don't think it matters whether one signs it or not. I don't think it matters that it was or was not sponsored or endorsed by SWBTS. This is from a young man who is obviously a thinker and has decided this to be a worthy cause. Sign it or don't. I will still think those Southern Baptists either way.

Bart: I will gladly ask Dr. Yarnell, in fact I know he reads this blog and comments so I guess I am publicly asking him now. He may feel free to email me if he does not wish to respond publicly. My email is kaufmd@gmail.com.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

I did not mention the bottom line or our personal profits. Of course, that is a motivating factor for anyone in any business. But you missed the point. The point was that way back down the line somewhere, the decision was made that confinement rearing of poultry was and is an effective and efficient means of food production that meets a primary need in our society. The negative- a lot of chicken poop. Then we had to do something with it.

The Bible even says where there is no oxen the stall is clean. Only so much manure can be spread on blogs, so the rest has to go on pastures or land.

Furthermore, none of the farmers or integrators or neighbors could've foreseen the water issue that has emerged. Now that they know, they have taken action.

Paul, is your house on a sewer system? Shall I send you the research on perils of municipal waste systems and the details on how your own waste is being served back to you to drink? Surely you know that. So why do you choose not to use that enema bag to carry out your own waste? The reason is that you are willing to take some level of risk for convenience sake. You've prioritized convenience over environmental safety. Either that or you had no choice of what to do with your waste. Kind of like chicken growers, corn farmers, gasoline users, etc.

As a side note, it is believed that urbanites have contributed a very large percentage of the phosphorous runoff due to yard fertilizing and other practices.


Ultimately, my post was about prioritization of the needs and concerns of society, but if you insist on making it about money I'm happy to let you know that the average SBC pastor makes much more than the average poultry grower after all expenses.

Paul said...

Anonymous,

When they send the waste from my house to the sewage plant there are strict regulations for what is done with it and the quality of my drinking water. No one that I'm aware of is calling our drinking water hazardous.

If your point really is that this is a matter of priorities then I'm afraid you lose on that count as well. Please give me Scriptural support for the extermination of any member of God's creation as somehow falling under having dominion over the earth? Are you really telling me that the God who created the Ozark darter has so little care for that part of his creation that he minds not that the human part of his creation is contributing to its extinction? Is that what God meant?

I brought up money because you are the one who said that we make these decisions based on "reasons of convenience, availability, pragmatism, and prioritizing of concerns." Most of that translates to the bottom line.

You see, anonymous, I'm not against companies making money. I just think you've presented a false dilemma. It's not a matter of, either we throw a chicken leg to the poor and pollute our waterways or we care for creation so that the poor can eat. We can do both. But it's often not "convenient" or "pragmatic."

By the way, that USA Today article is only 20 days old. If the chicken companies have already cleaned up their act then why is the Oklahoma Attorney General still taking them to court?

Paul said...

One more point, anonymous. We have a family in our church who raise their own chickens. He's self-employed and can't afford health insurance. She works part-time and is going to school. They have three children. Those chickens are actually cheaper for them than the ones they would buy at the store and probably safer as well. [See the January 2007 Consumer Reports article which states that a stunning 83% of store bought chicken was infected with either "campylobacter or salmonella, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease."

Boy, chicken companies are really doing the poor a favor, aren't they? They can get sick and die more cheaply than ever.

Dave Miller said...

Goodness, Wade.

That commnent was really snarky. Having a bad day?

selahV said...

Paul, well, I never! there are folks you know in your congregation saying such stuff? What do you say back? How dare they! I want you to know that I wouldn't just sit there and agree with them, condone their words. I'd pounce on them like a hungry flea on a mangy hound. Yes, I would.

Seriously, Paul. I would. I'm sure I'd temper my words a bit, but nevertheless, I'd let them know that just because we're all saved and sure doesn't give us the right to murder grandma and stick needles in our babies' eyes either.

As long as the earth is here, and people inhabit it, we will have the poor with us and probably a few ignorant folks who are too lazy to recyle their vegetable peelings. And I agree that Tyson shouldn't be dumping their chicken waste in the riverbeds. Disgusting! selahV

Wesley Handy said...

Bart,

I think you raise some good points about Southern Baptists. Other than the few remaining classical dispensationalists, I think you are right. We are not saying "Pollute the land! Crank out the chemicals! Let it all BURN!!!".

My question to those discussing the whole Chicken Waste issue is this: How can Southern Baptists put pressure on companies like Tyson if we don't own them? I suppose we could boycott them. Conscientious people do things like that. How much, though, can Southern Baptists influence pollution problems in the developing world?

Even with our statements, we have to be realistic and understand the complex nature of the problem. AND, if anyone has signed the document, you should be right now asking how you need to change your way of living to accommodate the actions of your pen (or computer). If it is only a signature, then you are a hypocrite. Keep that in mind.

Anonymous said...

As busy as everyone is with the in-fighting, has anyone stopped to notice how many recovering southern baptists have opted to quietly shoot the finger and walk away?

Ya'll have fun... We'll be doin' somethin' else...

Anonymous said...

Good riddance!

R. L. Vaughn said...

Just looked at the new Reader's Digest and found this environmental suggestion that is compatible with Christianity: "Turns out, staying together is better for the earth. Converting one household into two means bigger utility bills and, therefore, more greenhouse gases. Researchers at Michigan State University last year computed that the extra electricity consumed by divorced families amounts to 73 billion kilowatt-hours, which works out to about 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per household."

(From "Conserve Your Energy" By John Tierney, Reader's Digest, Aprill 2008, pp. 88-89)

Bart Barber said...

R. L.,

Great point. I remember when that came out in the newspapers. A giant cringe occurred among liberals.