We might think that global warming is a given, and that anybody who cares, to any extent about the earth, would be concerned. Yet, there are groups of people who don't believe it, consider it a hoax, and want nothing to do with it. Many of these groups are conservative Christians. Why are they so resistant to caring, and so resistant to doing something about the problem?
The Bible (both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament) contain three different theologies about creation. Christians pick and choose, sometimes according to their own interpretations, other times, led by their preacher's or priest's viewpoint.
Many conservative Christians look at Genesis 1:28 which commands Man to have dominion over the earth and to subdue it. To some Christians, this means to conquer, to dominate, to have power over the earth, and to make the earth serve us.
"Subdue" (kadash or kavash in Hebrew) implies power and control. The word "dominion" ("radah", or "rdh") seems to reinforce this point, since this can imply a malevolent, or benevolent rule. Another meaning of this word is "to rule as God rules" which some Christians interpret as a benevolent rule, much like the sun and the moon in Genesis 1:16-18 are given power to rule over day and night. This is not about exploiting, but about working in harmony.
This idea of dominion is found in few other places in the Bible. The prevailing view can be found if Christians turn the page in their Bible, to Genesis 2:15. Here they'll find another view of our relationship to Creation: we are to cultivate and care for the garden. This view is reiterated in many places in the Bible - Noah showed care by saving two of every species so they wouldn't become extinct. We are told to show compassion to animals and to treat them properly, (Deuteronomy 22, Deut. 20) and Jesus spoke about God's care for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. (Matthew 6, Luke 12).
Some more mystical Christians speak of the Cosmic Christ - the Spirit that breathes and lives beneath and behind all of creation. This idea is expressed through Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem that says "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; And only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries." If Creation is filled with the Spirit, then clearly the many ways that we pollute, destroy, and ignore creation is contrary to this view of religion and spirituality.
There is one other Christian view of theology that often leads fundamentalists to a stance that doesn't care and doesn't believe that our Earth is at risk. This group believes that Jesus is coming soon, and that there's no point in doing anything because we won't be around long enough to worry about global warming's ultimate disaster. They take their theology from Matthew 24 which tells of signs of the Second Coming (wars, earthquakes, famines, etc.) and from I and 2 Thessalonians and Revelation which also speaks of signs and end times. Of course, the Second Coming didn't come fast enough to save the victims of Hurricane Katrina, or the victims of the recent tornadoes in the Midwest, or to save Canada from our acid rain, or to save the many victims in Third World countries who are starving from drought, and famine, and lack of clean water, and lack of resources which has led to wars. And Jesus made it clear that we don't know when the end times will happen. We are to remain responsible.
Although there are many Christians who refuse to consider global warming and its destruction because of their focus on dominion theology and the theology of the Second Coming, to me, this is an untenable Christian stance and an untenable spiritual stance, no matter what the spiritual discipline. It asks us to stop caring for the earth, and instead, to turn a blind eye. It lacks compassion, spirituality, and responsibility. Jesus might say to this, "Are your minds closed? Have you eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear?" (Mk 8). At this point, the problem is clear.
Linda Seger is the author of Jesus Rode a Donkey.