I was delighted and surprised when on Saturday Cal Beisner, a prominent global warming science skeptic, publicly distanced himself from over-the-top accusations aimed at Christian creation care activists.
On Friday and Saturday I went with my colleague Jim Jewell to the Value Voter Summit in Washington, DC, a right-wing confab sponsored by the Family Research Council and others. We wanted to hear the talk by our brother and sometime sparring partner Cal Beisner, whose presentation was offensively advertised with the title “Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the ‘Pro-Death’ Agenda“. The program description implies that Christians who care about climate change are being manipulated by top abortion funders and that coerced abortion will be part of a global warming “final solution.”
Given that Jim Jewell and I have been outspoken about the need to do something about anthropogenic global warming, and that we’re as prolife as any of the conference attendees (and have a longer history in socially-conservative causes than most of them), we wanted to be there if spurious charges were leveled. It’s not nice to be compared to Nazis, just because we have a different view of the science and policy behind climate change. Some would call it uncivil.
In fact Cal went out of his way to mention us and welcome us publicly, to express his shock at discovering the ill-conceived workshop title and description, and to admit that some Christians come to opposite conclusions about the validity of climate science and the need for action. He was gracious and civil.
[The conference organizers should probably fire whoever wrote the copy for the workshop description. It casts the conference and its attendees in an exceedingly bad light, slanders the work of Christian brothers and sisters, and does damage to the cause of Christ. If those outside the faith see us stooping to such low levels to fight with each other, how can we claim to be ambassadors of reconciliation?]
Cal proceeded to explain his concern that worries about overpopulation and admiration of population control strategies are regularly found in environmentalism, and on that he’s right. Enviros certainly aren’t universally agreed on those points, but they have been entirely too tolerant in the past of a mindset that views people as a blight on the planet. Many are beginning to repudiate that position, and at least one major environmental organization has actually quietly closed down its population program. Christians should rejoice that prolife values are beginning to be more clearly reflected in environmental circles, and we should continue to press the point.
It’s not hard to tell where the value voters at this conference stand–the session titles don’t leave much to the imagination. “Thugocracy: Fighting the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy”, “Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away”, “Activism and Conservatism: Fit to a Tea (Party)”, “The Threat of Illegal Immigration”. Sadly, those are the ones the secular media are most likely to cover, and the ones most likely to lead to Obama-bashing and to illustrate faultlines among more-broadly-defined value voters. Most of the time there was no admission that moderates or progressives could be voting truly evangelical values.
I wonder though, how many of these workshop titles were from the poison pen that authored Cal’s workshop description. They may not represent the hearts of the presenters very well.
“You can be anti-Obama without being racist”
Other presentations had a broader appeal, and showed areas where Christians might break through paralyzing and polarizing partisan politics. There were workshops and talks on many common-ground issues: adoption, marriage, defunding Planned Parenthood, fetal stem cell research.
A big theme repeatedly emerged, which the rest of the Christian church needs to admit. Conservatism and racism do not go hand-in-hand. Black leaders like Bishop Harry Jackson, conservative activist Star Parker, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell were joined by many of the other presenters to send the message that dislike of the president’s policies can’t be rebutted with mere accusations of racism. Some of the charges leveled against our most conservative brothers and sisters are frankly ridiculous, and we all should do what we can to stop them.
New Urbanism and Good Neighboring: I’ll be speaking in Portland OR, Sep 26 at Mosaic Church in Multnomah Biblical Seminary’s New Wine/New Wineskins fall conference.