Religion and Darwin…and Politics, Business & Environmental Stewardship

creation of sun and moonFellow Green Options blogger, Sam Aola Ooko, recently related that there has been a reconciliation of religion and evolution.

As written in that EcoWorldly blog post — St. Charles Darwin Unveiled: Catholics, Anglicans Finally Agreed on Evolution — it seems that the Vatican and the Church of England have decided that there is a place in the world for both beliefs, that Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and religious faith can coexist peacefully.

I’m fascinated.

I can understand, for example, the Christian view that the premise of evolution is faulty and can’t align with the belief that God created the Earth. Science says Earth dates billions of years back. The stories of the Bible say, “Oh, no it dih-n’t!”

Despite being reared in a Christian home, myself, I don’t agree with that view, given that it’s disproven by science. But I can understand a Christian’s uneasiness with accepting it.

Now, with the news that highly influential religions are accepting Darwin’s theories — the Church of England is even reportedly issuing a formal apology to Darwin — I am wondering if we can find pleasant compromise on some other heretofore headbanging differences of opinions.

How about…

  • Religion and Politics?
  • Religion and Business?
  • Religion and Environmental Stewardship?

Weighty ideas for sure. So I won’t plunge too deeply with my own thoughts, but rather want to know others’.

Religion and Politics

We’re seeing particularly heinous behavior in the United States right now, as the race for the White House revs up to wind down. Why is that? How do they balance that behavior with their God each night? And why do voters buy that crap, especially since the majority of voters are right-wingers bent on a religious president (even though he doesn’t behave in a Christian way)?

I can’t think of any presidential candidate in my lifetime who hasn’t waved his religious beliefs in America’s collective face, reassuring us s/he has the solid Christian values we need in a leader. Yet they lie, cheat, swindle, scare and just, generally, menace a half-knowing public into line to grant the candidate the power and wealth they desire above and beyond all that’s holy.

And let’s not get started on the idea of separation of church and state in the U.S. when, for just a recent example, the current administration runs the country using the Bible as its playbook and justification to commit every indecency known to modern man in favor of dollars over humans.

Religion and Business

Same issues. Why does a Bible-thumping, religion-trumping crowd favor personal wealth and prestige and luxury and security over the well-being of its general citizenry? Why can’t leaders balance their private wills to gain power and money with doing what’s right by their constituencies? Where in their Bibles does it justify sweeping neglect of the public in favor of material advantages for the few?

Religion and Environmental Stewardship

Shouldn’t this be one of the easiest balances to strike? If God created the Earth, then why don’t worshippers of God wish to be more respectful of god’s creation? Why can’t those so focused on following the “good book” recognize that Earth is a resource to be cherished, not senselessly laid to waste in the name of material “progress?”

These things are baffling. But maybe there is hope.

If religion can finally put a little faith in what has been determined as absolute fact, then maybe the religious can finally look back to their faith in God and remember that he never intended lying for the sake of politics to be acceptable; he never meant for un-Christian behavior to be justifiable for the sake of accumulating money and material goods; he never meant for his Earth, moon and stars to be blatantly trashed for the self-absorbed whimsies of his children.

I mean, really: Is that what Jesus would do?

And in closing, brothers and sisters, Galatians 6:7 says:

“God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow your own flesh, you will reap corruption… So let us not grow weary in doing what is right… Let us work for the good of all.”

Religious leaders who confuse God’s power with their own, selectively blurring its uses for their own gains for corrupt government/politics, corrupt business/economics and corrupt environmental policies… We all are reaping what has been, and continues to be, sown.

That’s too bad. It seems to me that religion should be — is capable of being — fully in sync with environmental stewardship. But what do I know? I’m just a liberal who thinks behaving for the good of mankind is merely logical, not Biblical.

Related posts:

Jesus Unplugged: Religious Groups Participate in Earth Hour 2008

Street Seders: Sacred Protest

The Positive Side of the Green Life

The Sensibility of Sabbaths for Sustainable Living

Image: face detail of God, by Michelangelo (Public Domain)

Written by adamwilliams

7 Comments

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  1. A few observations … Christians do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy, and non-Christians are not always good environmental stewards, including some who have made environmentalism their religion. The fact that some (not all) politicians don’t live their faith is a black mark against them, not religion, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, environmental stewardship is, and as far as I know always has been, absolutely central to the Christian faith. Also as far as I know, no religious leader of any denomination endorses the trashing of Earth, so I’m curious to know what religious leaders you’re referring to. “Religion” is not the enemy. An overly materialistic, morally relativistic culture that makes it easy to rationalize any sort of behavior — I think that has more to do with the destruction of our environment than religion, which is really a force to protect it.

  2. If everyone would be good, then the world would come to a hault. There are some bad people but most of the people are good. Unfortunately bad people are having most wealth, fame and power. Good people are poor and less powerfull. God has a created a balance, so that world can spin on and on. If you believe in God and accept the fact that we are God’s creature, you have to admit that good and bad both are created by God.
    When I look back and try to think who are the bad people, I get confused. If the people lies, kills/cheat others, we call them bad, but why? Who has defined what is good and what is bad? We simply forget that human minds are not machine, this is an unique creation of God. Human minds are uncontrolable. It moves on his own. That’s why, some people are behaving in such way, which are called bad by the Society. However, good and bad both are the creation of God.

  3. Adam – I think you’ve got some valid questions. And many of them are understandable considering how the media seems to only focus on one type of Christian – those they have dubbed the “religious right.” Those Christians who fall outside the confines of the religious right and use their faith as a reason to do good things rarely get a mention on TV. Apparently, we don’t bring in the ratings.

    There are so many Christians who are involved in environmentalism. I’m one of them. In fact, I spent this morning talking to my husband’s high school Sunday school class about why it’s not just the right thing to do to for our grandchildren, but it’s something that is our responsibility because we are Christians.

    In addition to the writing that I do here for Sustainablog, I also have a personal blog about being green. It’s basically practical advice for people who are trying to figure out where to begin. When I have the time (or when I don’t have the time but I’m putting off working), I often check out the blogs of people who write comments on my blog. When I started doing this, I was impressed to see that so many of the people who are looking for ideas on how to recycle wine corks or how to conserve energy in the kitchen are Christians. There is nothing blatant on my blog that identifies me as a Christian other than calling myself “a child of God” in my little bio blurb. It’s just a green blog, but it’s drawing many Christians to it. It says to me that there are many Christians out there googling some version of “how to be green.”

    I certainly can relate to your frustration with the whole political climate. Years ago, I declared myself an independent because I simply saw nothing honorable about being identified with either mainstream party such as they portray themselves. I also figured it would force me to take a deeper look at every candidate, and it has. Looking deeper hasn’t been pretty.

    I agree with Brad above when he says that “environmental stewardship is … absolutely central to the Christian faith.” But unlike Brad, I have been around a few Christians who believe that the earth is ours to do with what we please and we have the liberty to destroy it because, hey, after all, God’s gonna fix it all in the end times anyway. But having been surrounded by Christians all my life – in church, in my summer camps as a teen, at Bible college, at the Christian school I taught at…. – I’ve only met a handful of people with these beliefs. Yet, the media likes to hone in those Christians that believe that. I suppose in today’s terms, it’s more sexy.

    I’ve also been around many non-Christians who worship power and money and their quest for those things inadvertently lead to much destruction of the earth.

    I believe that the Bible makes it clear that Christians should be in “full sync with environmental stewardship.” I also believe that Christians should be front and center in the environmental movement, working side by side with those who think “behaving for the good of mankind is merely logical.” Which is why I write here, side by side with you.

    I’m always open to a respectful conversation/debate on all this. Thanks for starting one.

  4. Thanks all for the comments.

    Robin, I am glad to know the environment is something being talked about and focused on in your church in the ways you mentioned.

    As you said, the media has a major role in forming our perceptions, which become generalized across the public or segments of it based on the controlled information we get.

    But a big concern and point of bafflement for me is that very specific people who have chosen to identify themselves and their leadership of this country with the Bible and quite conservative religious values — George W. Bush, Sarah Palin — are insanely huge hypocrits about how they handle their politics, business and environmental policies…and a very significant portion of the public turns blind, deaf and dumb to their blatant lies about those things.

    When half the electorate sides with “Christians” who lead our country that way, it is very disconcerting to me and makes it much easier to generalize that the religious conservative wing of our country doesn’t care about the Earth, or God’s children.

    As for your comment about some non-Christians worshipping money and power…no doubt, no doubt! And I’ve not forgotten that, nor do I agree with that behavior. But in some way, they at least seem more honest than their Christian counterparts, in the sense that they make no bones about the fact they are in it for the money and power and prestigious life.

    Right wingers using their God as justification for their atrocious behavior is far beyond hypocritical. Palin lies time and again and again because it might win her the White House, but proclaims her faith in the next breath because religious conservatives want to hear that. Voters selectively listen to her faith-speak, and ignore that she’s decidedly, routinely behaving in ways that contradict that.

    It’s a sad state of affairs, really.

    But I do appreciate your confirming that there are some Christians who do care about the environment and value God’s Earth. I never assumed there were none, but they clearly aren’t the ones in high places in this country.

    I am curious though who those same folks might be voting for in the current presidential election, and why?

    Obviously there are more issues involved than those related to the environment, but I wonder how a Christian, especially those who are for the environment, could vote for “Christian” “leaders” who are blatantly, willfully non-Christian-like in their campaigning and governing. Those same “Christian” politicians think offering government help to the middle- and lower-class is not appropriate, but giving billions to millionaires and billionaires is? They put the burden of the wealthy’s greed on us in this broken down economy? It’s the Religious Right’s policy to let people languish, but help big business get bigger — and that only benefits the few, the few who don’t need the benefits.

    I don’t understand how those things get reconciled in a Republican/Religious Right voter’s mind.

    And, you’re right, it’s unfair that those are the “Christians” who are most prominent in representing Christians like yourself and my family. But if Christians didn’t vote those “Christians” into power, we could be having a different, happier discussion here.

  5. Adam,

    Thanks for a post that touches on one of the biggest questions of all time: why do intelligent, reasonable people with the same information appear to come to radically different conclusions? This question is central to all the biggest debates, especially anything having to do with religion.

    According to James P. Carse in _The_Religious_Case_Against_Belief_, such debates don’t arise through failed communication of vital facts, nor from any characteristic of religion (one, some, or all of them). The trouble rests entirely with the systems of belief that people formulate. As Carse describes it, systems of belief are boundaries that people voluntary impose on themselves in order to confine their thinking. He calls belief (as he carefully defines it) “willful ignorance”.

    Ironically, no one owns up to developing a system of belief: beliefs originate from beyond and simply exist to be “discovered”. Also, people are free to change their mind, and do so all the time: they undergo “conversion” from one belief system to another. Leaps (conversions) are always complete, and necessitate renouncing past articles of belief, a process that is similar to burning one’s old passports.

    What drives us to adopt systems of belief? Is it the desire to have our decision-making simplified for us? Is it a survival trait? I read somewhere that self-identified religious conservatives live longer and have lower stress levels than the general populace. Could it be that seeing the world in black-and-white is a positive survival trait for the individual (and perhaps not for the species)?

    Anyway, for those interested, I highly recommend Carse’s book http://www.amazon.com/Religious-Case-Against-Belief/dp/1594201692/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222197254&sr=8-1.

  6. Genesis 1:27, “So God made man in his own image”.
    Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”
    Genesis 2:21-22, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, …the Lord had taken from man, made he a woman, & brought her unto the man”.
    From the above verses, it is obvious that God formed man/woman from dust instead of transforming apes to human beings.

  7. It is an interesting view Jonathan.

    It amazes and confounds me what, who, how, and why people believe the things they do — all people of all persuasions.

    I must admit that I am putting a good deal of faith in science to believe their findings that man descended from primates. I mean, how do I really know, right?

    But then there are folks who believe God, an imaginary, invisible being, formed men from dust. Dust?

    Somehow the obvious similarities between man and primate, things any child can see on a visit to the ape section of a zoo, don’t make sense, but that man magically appeared from dust does make perfect, clear logic????

    Can you not see how silly that might seem to someone, if not yourself?

    Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong, anymore than I can say you are right, or that scientists are right or wrong. But I think we all have to recognize that individually none of us hold all of the answers, and we need to accept that. We need to accept that all of us could be wrong.

    I’m not sure how each of us is drawn to our particular set of beliefs and faiths. I guess, looking back to my initial question in this comment, that is really what I’m curious about.

    How and why do people believe the outrageous stories of the bible outweigh the “outrageous” findings of science?

    It’s an interesting world we live in, all the more because of the people that occupy it.

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