Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Social Gospel and the Environment

Read this: a speech by Bill Moyers, accepting Harvard Medical School's annual Global Environment Citizen Award.

The speech discusses Moyers' fear that those who believe in the infallibility of the bible are more than willing - if not actively trying - to exploit and destroy the environment in order to hasten the second coming of Christ. It is a chilling thought.
Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, 'after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.'
Given our commentaries about how the bible has been - and continues to be - used to promote incredibly selfish policy objectives, I am not surprised.

But after first scaring us about our future and that of our children, Moyers grabs us by the heartstrings with an impassioned call to action:
The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist, I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called 'hocma' - the science of the heart…..the capacity to see….to feel….and then to act…as if the future depended on you.

Believe me, it does.
You da man, Bill. Keep fightin the good (Social Gospel) fight. The battle is a long one, but knowing that your buddies are next to you on the front line gives us frail humans all the hope we need.


At 2:15 PM, Blogger DLW said...

I'm not sure we should cheer someone on, just because they are pro-poor people. One can, for good reasons, do the wrong thing, like pouring kerosene on the fires of the cultural wars that have been harming our country's democracy. I will agree with Moyer that he understands the problem, but I'm not sure if what he's doing is the solution.


At 2:45 PM, Blogger jj said...


The point where we may most fundamentally disagree with you is our belief that these "culture wars" should and must be fought.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger DLW said...

You can't win such arguments by reason, though. You're starting from different premises. That's why its such poison to deal with these things politically, because when particular issues get framed as part of the cultural wars they become part of an interminable power struggle that squeezes out other issues, including those that help the poor.

The cultural wars issues mainly end up poisoning our political system. Key to making changes that will give more gov't support for the poor is to break/weaken the alliance between the economic and religious/cultural conservatives. So long as the religious conservatives think that economic liberals are trying to squeeze them out, they will be more willing to give their support to the economic conservatives with relatively little in return.



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