Monday, July 24, 2006

The Sins of SUVs?

From The Sunday Times (London)
THE Bishop of London has declared it sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a “gas-guzzling” car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home, writes Jonathan Leake.

Richard Chartres will encourage vicars to preach more green sermons and warn congregations that it is now a moral obligation for Christians to lead eco-friendly lifestyles.

Chartres, who chairs the bishops’ panel on the environment, said: “There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth and we need to make our lifestyle decisions in that light.

“Making selfish choices such as flying on holiday or buying a large car are a symptom of sin. Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions.”

Chartres, the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, has declared his views as it prepares to publish Treasures on Earth, a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution.

[…] The church is taking steps to improve its own environmental record and has asked vicars to carry out an energy audit so they can reduce their “carbon footprint”. It owns some of the largest and draughtiest buildings in Britain, including medieval cathedrals, gothic churches and ageing parsonages.

We have no right to appeal to our contemporaries on this issue if we have failed to put our own house in order,” said Chartres.

That last sentence carries a lot more weight than I suspect the good Bishop realizes. For someone of my “nuke’m till they glow, then shoot’em in the dark” political persuasion, I’m pretty enviro-friendly. I manage my yard for wildlife (for several years, now, we’ve had fawns born in the back yard), minimize the use of pesticides (just enough in the right places to keep the scorpions out of the bed linens), and landscape primarily with native trees and plants. (I also unapologetically drive a Ford F-150; if you want to put a thousand pounds of manure in the back seat of your eco-friendly microcar, go for it.)

My point is that, under the right circumstances, I might be willing to pay attention to the Bishop’s moral pronouncements about the environment and other matters. As a former practicing scientist and educator, I’m inclined to accept claims of human-influenced global warming as generally true; as someone trained in the life sciences, I’m favorably disposed to conservation and the protection and nurturing of endangered species. (I’ve always thought “conservation” ought to be a conservative and not a liberal issue, for etymological reasons if nothing else!)

What the clergy of the Episcopal Church and the Church of England seem to fail to realize is that, over the past decade or so, they have completely squandered their moral credibility. After years of moral equivocation, cultural pandering, leftist politicking, religious relativism, and the general dismissal of historic Christian belief, why do they expect me to believe them anymore? When a man who doesn’t believe Jesus when He says “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” tries to tell me that Jesus wants me to drive a Yugo, why should I pay attention? When the Bishops tell me the earth is warming up, my first inclination is to buy a new coat (preferably real fur). When the Bishops tell me the seas are dying, I figure it’s time to go marlin fishing. And when they tell me what it means to be Christian, I’m afraid I just flip my mind to “standby” until the sermon drones to an end.

It seems like, having declared all the old sins obsolete, they have to invent new ones in order to feel religious. But the “new” sins invariably seem to be the ones that will get everyone to nod their heads in agreement at the urban faculty cocktail party – using gas, spraying for bugs, wearing fur, eating non-union lettuce. It’s as if Jesus were to show up at the orgy and tell the Romans not to waste animal skins in clothing their slaves. It’s a hell of a situation – choice of words intentional.

By the way, as gas increases in price, it makes alternative fuels more economically viable. It’s a commodity, for heaven’s sake – demand depends on price and price depends on demand. My buying it doesn’t take it away from someone else, any more than my buying a burger takes food from the mouths of the poor. The reason we didn't start using alcohol in cars 30 years ago is that it was too expensive compared to gas, not because of some nefarious plot among the Big Oil Companies (hiss), Detroit (gasp), and - no doubt - Halliburton (gnash, gnash). Get a grip.