Opinion: I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out.

Global warming will strike hardest against the very people we’re told to love: the poor and vulnerable.

By Katharine Hayhoe — Oct. 31, 2019 — New York Times

Dr. Hayhoe is a professor and co-directs the Climate Center at Texas Tech University.

I’m a climate scientist. I’m also an evangelical Christian.

And I’m Canadian, which is why it took me so long to realize the first two things were supposed to be entirely incompatible.

I grew up in a Christian family with a science-teacher dad who taught us that science is the study of God’s creation. If we truly believe that God created this amazing universe, bringing matter and energy to life out of a formless empty void of nothing, then how could studying his creation ever be in conflict with his written word?

I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.

I realized, distantly, that there were people on both “sides” who fundamentally believed and were even dedicated to promoting the idea that faith and science were in conflict. But it wasn’t until after I’d moved to the United States for graduate school that it dawned on me, to my disbelief, that divisions within the science-faith arena, originally focused on questions of human origins and the age of the universe, were expanding to include climate change.

Now, this discrepancy is pointed out to me nearly every day: often by people with Bible verses in their social media profiles who accuse me of spreading Satan’s lies, or sometimes by others who share my concerns about climate change but wonder why I bother talking to “those people.” The attacks I receive come via email, Twitter, Facebook comments, phone calls and even handwritten letters.

I track them all, and I’ve noticed two common denominators in how most of the authors choose to identify themselves: first, as political conservatives, no matter what country they’re from; and second, in the United States, as conservative Christians, because the label “evangelical” has itself been co-opted as shorthand for a particular political ideology these days.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Then there’s pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat fragmentation, species extinction: climate change makes all those worse, too. In fact, if we truly believe we’ve been given responsibility for every living thing on this planet (including each other) as it says in Genesis 1, then it isn’t only a matter of caring about climate change: We should be at the front of the line demanding action.

But if caring about climate change is such a profoundly Christian value, then why do surveys in the United States consistently show white evangelicals and white Catholics at the bottom of those Americans concerned about the changing climate?

It turns out, it’s not where we go to church (or don’t) that determines our opinion on climate. It’s not even our religious affiliation. Hispanic Catholics are significantly more likely than other Catholics to say the earth is getting warmer, according to a 2015 survey, and they have the same pope. It’s because of the alliance between conservative theology and conservative politics that has been deliberately engineered and fostered over decades of increasingly divisive politics on issues of race, abortion and now climate change, to the point where the best predictor of whether we agree with the science is simply where we fall on the political spectrum.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion,” or when Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said at a 2014 event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations that “the problem is Al Gore’s turned this thing into a religion.”

Why is this framing so effective? Because some 72 percent of people in the United States already identify with a specific religious label, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. And if you are a Christian, you know what to do when a false prophet comes along preaching a religion that worships the created rather than the Creator: Reject it!

So this framing plays right into the narrative that scientists are a godless bunch who have teamed up with liberals (and perhaps the Antichrist, according to some comments I’ve received) to rule the world and overthrow religion, an agenda that any right-minded believer will oppose until his or her dying breath. In fact, 51 percent of scientists said in a 2009 Pew survey that they believed in God or a universal spirit or higher power.

And that’s why my favorite question is the one I often hear from fellow Christians: “Do you believe in climate change?”

One of the first times I remember being asked this it was by a visitor to the evangelical church I attend here in Texas, who was surprised (and possibly a little horrified) to learn that the pastor’s wife was a climate scientist.

“No, I don’t!” I cheerfully replied.

A puzzled silence ensued. Wary of calling out the pastor’s wife, the man haltingly asked, “But aren’t you … didn’t you just say you study climate science?”

“That’s right,” I said with an encouraging nod.

“So how can you not believe in it?!” he asked, perplexed.

And with that question, he opened the door to an incredibly constructive conversation about science, faith and truth. As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering.

After hundreds, even thousands, of such conversations, I’ve grown to understand how much of this opposition to the idea that the climate is changing, that humans are responsible, that the impacts are serious and that the time to act is now, comes from fear: fear of loss of our way of life, fear of being told that our habits are bad for society, fear of changes that will leave us worse off, fear of siding with those who have no respect for our values and beliefs.

But as a Christian, I believe the solution to this fear lies in the same faith that many non-Christians wrongly assume drives our rejection of the science. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. Fear is not from God. Instead, we’ve been given a spirit of power, to act rather than to remain paralyzed in anxiety, fear, or guilt; a spirit of love, to have compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than us (the very people most affected by a changing climate); and a sound mind, to use the information we have to make good decisions.

And you know what? These are the very tools we need to address climate change.

Connecting our identity to action is key, and that’s exactly why I don’t typically begin with science when starting conversations about climate change with those who disagree. Rather, I begin by talking about what we share most. For some, this could be the well-being of our community; for others, our children; and for fellow Christians, it’s often our faith.

By beginning with what we share and then connecting the dots between that value and a changing climate, it becomes clear how caring about this planet and every living thing on it is not somehow antithetical to who we are as Christians, but rather central to it. Being concerned about climate change is a genuine expression of our faith, bringing our attitudes and actions more closely into line with who we already are and what we most want to be.

And that’s why I’m more convinced now than ever that the two most central parts of my identity — that of climate scientist and evangelical Christian — aren’t incompatible. They are what’s made me who I am.

Katharine Hayhoe is a climate scientist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where she co-directs the Climate Center, hosts the PBS digital series “Global Weirding” and is writing a book on how to talk about climate change with people who don’t agree.

To all my friends and detractors

By George Smith

To all my friends and detractors who are due-hard supporters of President Donald Trump: He is either not smart, senility is being thrust upon him…or  combination of both.

Wait! Don’t flip to the Cute Cat YouTube site just yet!

If he was smart Trump would know when to immerse himself in a cone of silence, he would know that imparting  his personal brand of wisdumb is counterproductive to advancing conservative values and he would stop lying about anything that can be easily checked.

His supporters can like his stances on abortion (on this issue he is a chameleon, changing sides like Jackie O changed White House sheets). 

He laments the influx of dark-skinned immigrants, which thrills rhe racists that help up his base. 

He embraces the worst of the world’s worst dictators. 

He undermines the security of this country by flubberlipping secrets to foreign powers.

Yet, to his faithful, he is the “stable genius” he proclaims.

Do stabie geniuses use terms like “powerful concrete” when talking about a border fence? 

Does a stable genius have to be told by an agency official he is making public classified information at a press conference?

Do stable geniuses lie spontaneously about issues and people that are easily checked with a Google search?

Are stable geniuses prone to publicly lambast individuals because of disabilities, skin color, religious preference or economic status?

Trump is a self-destructive buffoon, a spoiled rich man-child, a self-promoter with a one-sided dubious history of unethical business dealings, abusive  personal relationships and of demanding loyalty while never giving it in return.

Trump, as an ethical leader in business and in the business of politics, is a dismal failure.

As president he has let his country and the world down.

History will punish his childish antics harshly. Believers in democracy can only hope that American voters will punish him in 13 months.

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Stray thoughts from the brain pan

By George Smith

Every single person on this planet, now, then and in the future, had/has/will have  something that irritates the unholy hell out of them.

  • Jesus had his moneychangers;
  • Abraham Lincoln had a string of incompetent generals;
  • John Wilkes Booth had Lincoln;
  • Ike Eisenhower had Gen. George S. Patton;
  • Patton became disgusted over perceived weakness of soldiers;
  • Rosa Parks hated sitting in the back of the bus;
  • The U.S. colonists got piqued over taxation without representation, and;
  • I see red over incompetent, pulpit-pounding, blabber-headed politicians and talking hairdos who will do and say anything to get a headline or a verbal salute on cable news.

That is the poignant lead-in to this topic: People I want to shut the hell up!

Al Sharpton had been a go-to spokesman for the black community for decades. He’s gone from obese to ultra-thin but his constant dropping verbal bullets on most people who just happen to be white is so old, it’s moldy.

He lost his daily show on MSNBC because of his focused racism; he now has a weekend show that is a repeat of his thoughts and verbiage from the days he was dogging law enforcement for the 1980s case of the alleged rape of Tawana Brawley, a woman of color. In that instance, Sharpton created a riotous situation by believing a made-up story by a attention-wanting teenager.

His black vs. white rhetoric has caused more harm over the years than it has helped. The fact he is still considered a spokesman to minorities is astounding and dismaying.

Michael Moore was, at one time, a reasoned voice for liberalism and a constant irritant to Big Business and shoddy government tacticx. Now, he’s just a kook with an ancient resume and celebr9ty platform. His documentary films have won awards, created needed changes in corporations, offered up plausible opportunities for perplexing problems.

Now, he is a mere shadow of his former forceful presence; he mouths about darn near anything because of prior celebrity, just like a toothless politician recalling the heydays in the marbled halls of Washington-the-Deficit.

Mitch McConnell has too much power for a genetic defect who believes that his beliefs should come for more than that of a single citizen. He single-handedly killed a bill to protect the 2020 elections from foreign interference. Why? When asked, he gave an answer that blew up the International BS-o-meter: The federal government should not interfere with states’ rights to protect their own elections.

In other words, “Russia, welcome to the election fray! Let’s party like it is 2016.”

Finally, for Donald Trump, Rudy Guliana and Kellyanne Conway it’s past time to realize that every time their mouths open, their tongues waggle in high gear and words slip past their teeth, negative things happen.

Their combined blather has created more animosity toward the party they pretend to embrace, alienated countries that used to be our closest and most reliable allies and widen the ideological abyss that divides this country. There is no way to justify their actions which are undermining the foundations of democracy; their errant, baffling and incomparable words are helping sworn enemies of this nation.

All of you: Just shut up! Please and thank you.

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Without change, chaos will continue

By George Smith

Partisan.

Party.

Politics.

Those are the elements that are governing this country and until elected officials – like Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and First District Rep. Louie Gohmert – start working to govern for the entire country instead of an off-balanced off-shoot of so-called conservatives, the cauldron of corruption and chaos the U.S. is immersed tight this minute in will continue.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind this nation’s wounds.”

Those words, written on a sheet of paper while riding in a steam-powered locomotive by Republican President Abraham Lincoln, were uttered one month before the end of the Civil War.

Today, this nation is in another civil war that, once again, pits father against son, brother against brother; it is tearing families, churches, purveyors of all religions, institutions of learning and neighbors apart. This modern war is an internal struggle among peers, pitting mindsets and single-issue policies and beliefs against one another with no regard for the position of agreeing to disagree or “live and let live.”

The war of today is a tragedy of the upmost importance to the future of the people, the country and of democracy. This war is not about slavery or states rights or populist ideas vs. established traditions; is about the survival of the United States of America, once the most powerful and benevolent on the planet, but no longer.

Followers of and believers in Donald J. Trump fall into four main categories: Citizens who want to end abortion by any means; those who believe the hype that Trump the Businessman knows how to run a country better than a politician; believers that Hillary Clinton and left-wing “fruit-loops” are to be destroyed, and;  haters…those that hate what they cannot understand, what they fear, hate the position they find themselves in the totem pole rankings of life or what they believe is an abomination according to Old Testament scripture.

Most citizens with common sense can understand the primary conservative  “abortion” argument: It is a ideological concept that goes to the heart and soul of each individual. It is totally valid to feel a kinship with the unborn…any unborn, just as it is valid to believe that politicians (mostly white, old men) should not be  implementing laws that govern what occurs between a woman and her doctor.

Those that believe Trump is “brilliant” businessman have a valid point if only dollars and property accumulated is the lone factor considered.

Hating Hillary, to many, is second-nature to many; she is not overly charismatic, not warm and cuddly (like President Clinton) and holds grudges until the sun revolves around the Earth. Even many people that voted for her twice get it.

The hate-anyone-gay (or hating immigrants, people of color or because of personal religion) is harder for many to understand. We all come from immigrant families (even Native Americas); this country is, like it or not, a cornucopia of the world’s people.

For more than four decades, I have written newspaper editorials and columns declaring that this country needed a businessman as president instead of a born-and-bred politician or military leader. Where my reasoning and writings fell short was that I failed to distinguish what type of businessman should be elected.

What I envisioned in my finite wisdumb (spelled correctly) was that a common-sense businessman who would gather cabinet heads and advisers from both parties, the best of the best who truly believed in the reasons the United States was founded. Party politics be damned! Let’s create a nation of which we can all be prpud.

The last president to do this exact execution of filling the nation’s most important offices and executive positions (the best of the best and even some who hted the very sight of him) was Abraham Lincoln. Doris Kerns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” is a masterful insight into a man who many career politicians mocked, yet when he died, they all mourned his passing.

There is no more “party of Lincoln”. There is no more Republican Party. The 2019 version is the party of Trump and those that support him – the Cruzes, Cronyns, Gohmerts, etc. – will someday look back on the blind followers of this narcissistic political chameleon and shake their heads in sorrow.

We are witnesses, day by day, story by story, of the end of the Republican Party, the strong political organization that now believes in whatever Trumps dictates in important rather than in what philosophical path the party has traditionally followed.

Mark it down: When Trump leaves office, now that he’s tasted real power (and not just power obtained by the almighty dollar), he will not go quietly into that good night. He will start DJT Network, keep his base supporters glued to this electronic spiel of mistrust and hate 24/7 and the third party he will start (Keep America Great!) will ensure the Republicans will never, ever again win a national election.

If you are a Republican, this is the path on your party is headed.

“…all the people who were with him each covered his head and went up weeping….” 2 Samuel 15:30

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