Senator Inhofe (set to become the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) quoted the Bible (Genesis 8:22) to support his thesis. “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous,” he said.
22 As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”
– New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Oh , my word. The literalist strikes again. Reminds me of the old argument that the Sun revolved around the earth, based on a similar passage, taken cluelessly literal.
Imhofe has it exactly BACKWARDS. “To think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous”. No, what is outrageous is MISSING the message throughout ALL of Scripture that life is interdependent and interwoven, and that we have responsibility as STEWARDS. “To have dominion” is in the sense of a responsible, just King over his subjects. To take the LITERAL here (“domination”) is to ignore WHY the word “dominion” came to be used to describe the “kingdoms” of “rulers”. That very question is embedded in the quarrels between God and the Israelites over the desire to have a “king”. God was against it. The message is clear: God intended the People of God to be of a different order than what the world knows as “Kingdom” or “Nation”. The “dominion” God desires is one where “the kingdoms of this earth have become the Kingdom of our Lord”; one where the “Sacrifice that God desires” is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
But like the saying goes, “One will have a difficulty understanding something when his livelihood depends on his not understanding it”. This can apply to the entire project of the selective literalist interpretative schools. The most “convenient” Biblical interpretation to disseminate to the masses is one which communicates a congruence with the earth resources as “product” to be taken as booty to feed the machines of progress. The earth as ecosystem is made subservient to the economic system.
The outrage is to turn the Biblical message on its head and insist that the earth is OURS as owners, as exploiters in an “I-It” relation rather than an “I-Thou” and an “I-as-participant-with-Thou”. To suggest that the earth is LIMITLESS in its ecosystem is to suggest that the Biblical writers had ANY INKLING of what technological reach humankind was to have in the centuries and millinea to come. (Which is one reason why “An omniscient all-knowing God” who dictates word for word the content of the Bible — and therefore it is to be taken as “science clues” about the nature of creation — has taken such hold. Reminds me of the movie “The Book of Eli” where the Bible was sought out by the malevolent, greedy forces that ruled part of the post-Apocalyptic planet, as a means of population control. The “message” was to be cast in a light which “proves” the right to rule of the interpreters. And so Western powers REALLY LIKE the dualisms of the Greeks, where spirit and matter are put at odds in the great battle between good and evil.
To deny the challenge to human hubris that should be plain with even a traditional “Read Through the Bible” (ie Babel, Noah, etc.) is to write yet another tale of the capacity of human societies to let greed and hubris take over the driver’s seat and proceed with reckless abandon. We could add the likes of Imhofe as one of those stories that continue the history of humankind’s insistence that “success” = “might” – “right”. But we have science that now brings home the message that we have again trespassed beyond the bounds of responsibility (and have been for AT LEAST the 80’s – which is only when we began to see clear indications of what was happening to the ecosystem).
Again, a clear and present danger; A call to re-examine “First Works” (as Larry Rasmussen says in his wonderful ecotheological work, “Earth-Honoring Faith”, where Rasmussen draws from James Baldwin’s The Price of the Ticket:
In the church I come from— which is not at all the same church to which white Americans belong— we were counseled, from time to time, to do our first works over. Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself but know whence you came. 6
Rasmussen, Larry L. (2012-10-02). Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key (p. 44). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Rasmussen goes on to elaborate:
our first works construct the mindsets and sensibilities with which we attend to the world in the first place. If we benefit from that world, our first works also flatter us with biases that favor us and turn our good luck and advantages into achievements we’re certain we’ve earned. Our motherboard is hardwired to favor the results we desire.
Rasmussen, Larry L. (2012-10-02). Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key (p. 45). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
(the notation – number 6 above in the first quotation which is from Baldwin – is also very instructive:
James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction, 1948– 1985 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), xix. Baldwin was not sanguine about white Americans’ ability to do their first works over. In a dialogue with Reinhold Niebuhr at the time of the civil rights movement, he had this to say: “The only people in this country at the moment who believe either in Christianity or in the country are the most despised minority in it …. It is ironical … the people who were slaves here, the most beaten and despised people here … should be at this moment … the only hope this country has …. None of the descendants of Europe seem to be able to do, or have taken it on themselves to do, what Negroes are now trying to do. And this is not a chauvinistic or racial outlook. It probably has something to do with the nature of life itself. It forces you, in any extremity, any extreme, to discover what you really live by, whereas most Americans have been for so long, so safe and so sleepy, that they don’t any longer have any real sense of what they live by. I think they really think it may be Coca-Cola.” From the audiotape of the dialogue, n.d., as reported by James H. Cone in The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 54.
Rasmussen, Larry L. (2012-10-02). Earth-honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key (p. 375). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
If it is true that “Our motherboard is hardwired to favor the results we desire.” , we have some hacking to do.