On the Church and Society
June 14, 2006
Caffeine and chocolate. Heading into the movie theater, these seemed to be the only things that could get me through an hour-and-a-half of former Vice President Al Gore issuing doom-and-gloom warnings about the environment on the big screen.
I was wrong. They weren't enough.
The documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" is a lecture by Gore on what serves as a major motivating force in his life, that is, saving the Earth from the evils of so-called manmade global warming. Breaking up Gore's lecture are snippets of key moments in his personal life, and a few swipes at political opponents.
Several times in the film, Gore says that dealing with global warming is a "moral" issue or imperative.
Noting that he almost lost his son at age six after being hit by a car, Gore claims to have emerged with a deeper commitment to the global warming cause. He also highlights losing his sister to cancer as an example of the grave consequences of waiting too long to act. Gore even compares his climate warnings to warnings made by Winston Churchill about Hitler and the Nazis before World War II.
It's pretty clear that Gore is a zealot on a quasi-religious crusade. In fact, Gore, who briefly attended Vanderbilt University's Divinity School, has integrated his environmentalism into a liberal Christianity.
In a September 2000 profile before that year's presidential election, Christianity Today noted that Gore's book Earth in Balance "has attracted a great deal of criticism for being a compendium of New-Age Christianity, buttressed by universalism and pantheism."
Of course, if what the former vice president says during "An Inconvenient Truth" were true, then working to stop manmade global warming indeed would carry some moral implications. After all, Gore asserts that mankind's actions will send temperatures skyrocketing; generate stronger storms; foster more tornadoes, typhoons and hurricanes; lead to more and new diseases; bring about greater flooding and drought; melt the polar ice cap; and create rising sea levels that will submerge much of Florida, the World Trade Center memorial site and other locales around the planet. For good measure, Gore tells moviegoers that no scientific disagreement exists over these issues.
Yikes! But before we abandon our SUVs on the side of the road and damage our economy in the name of stopping global warming, it is critical to note that Gore's assertions are rooted more in an Earth-first faith than in reliable science.
There actually turns out to be much scientific disagreement over the issue of manmade global warming, including whether it exists or not, and/or what its effect might be. Many scientists note that some tiny warming has occurred over the past century or so, but add that man's contribution is unknown, and the temperature change lies well within natural fluctuations and trends.
Like many politicians, Gore assumes almost anything can be fixed with a wave of government's magic wand if only we had the political will, including his predicted environmental catastrophe. Naturally, he ignores the widespread agreement among economists that capping or reducing carbon-dioxide emissions could only come about through a dramatic increase in energy costs that would make recent energy price increases look tame.
In the end, Al Gore's moral imperative on global warming is based on dubious climate science and bad economics.
Among Christians, Gore is not alone in trying to lend great moral weight to environmental causes. He is following a trend infesting various Protestant churches and parts of the Catholic Church, for example, where Christian teachings get distorted to support specific environmental policies.
Gore does so in Earth in the Balance when he writes that "for those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible, it is hard to read about the predictions of hurricanes 50 percent stronger than the worst ones today, due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases that we have fostered, without recalling the prophecy of Hosea: "They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.'"
Also, recall that earlier this year various evangelical leaders called for "national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanism such as a cap-and-trade program" to deal with the global warming threat.
Gore left divinity school behind for an environmental crusade that has lasted throughout most of his adult life. Unfortunately, those actions merely echo various Christian churches that have come to view the Christian message about sin, redemption and salvation as an inconvenient truth, and seek to adopt instead an almost pagan-like worship of Mother Earth.
Raymond J. Keating, also a columnist with Newsday, can be reached at ChurchandSociety@aol.com.
Copyright © Raymond J. Keating