by Walter Brasch
Rick Santorum, who is back in the race to be the Republican nominee for president after finishing second to Mitt Romney in 2012, is a devout Catholic.
So devout that he often makes bishops and cardinals appear to be tools of a liberal conspiracy.
This time, the liberal conspiracy is headed by Pope Francis.
Whatever could the pope do or say that would upset millions of evangelical Christians?
The pope asked Christians to become “custodians of creation,” boldly stating that a threat to peace “arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources.” He said, “Even if nature is at our disposition, all too often we do not respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.”
The pope also said mankind “too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.” He believes there is global warming, that mankind is mostly responsible, and that mankind must take steps to stop the problem to preserve what God has given.
Obviously, sacrilegious! Heresy of the highest order. Words spoken that do not align with the divine inspiration of Rick Santorum and the far-right.
God, so these conservatives believe, gave us fossil fuels to exploit. They wrongly interpret Genesis 1:28 as God giving mankind dominance over all life and the Earth, instead of stewardship. For many corporations and politicians, this means mankind has the right to drill and use Earth’s resources however they see fit, that fracking is God’s gift to humanity. To heat our homes. To drive our cars. To allow multi-billion dollar corporations to make gross and obscene profits.
But they are in a minority.
Every major religion has a basic tenet to protect and preserve the environment.
Many of the major Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Taoism, Shinto, and Buddhism consider all life as interdependent. The responsibility of government, according to Buddhism’s Kutadanta Sutta, is to actively protect the environment, and all its flora and fauna. The Koran of Islam warns, “And do not corrupt in the earth after being tilled.” Saudi Arabia in 1994, long before much of the world began to understand the long-term effects of uncontrolled gas emissions, cautioned, “Human activities over the last century have so affected natural processes that the very atmosphere upon which life depends has been altered.”
All indigenous people, from the aborigines of Australia to the Native Americans of North America, have shown respect for the land, which most believe is not theirs to own, but only to enjoy until passed to their children.
The World Council of Churches, which represents about 590 million Christians in 520,000 congregations, decided in July 2014 that to continue to hold fossil fuel stock would compromise its ethics, and recommended the 349 member denominations consider divesting oil and gas stock.
In the United States, the Eco-Justice Programs of the National Council of Churches, a coalition of about 100,000 congregations with 45 million members, declared fossil fuel extraction, “when used to generate electricity or power machinery, also pollute our air, land, and water.” The Council also determined, “In order to extract the oil from oceans or land we often put the needs of ourselves over the health and well-being of the whole of Creation and in many cases before the needs of future generations.”
The Unitarian-Universalist Association told us, “Oil and other fossil fuels are making the planet uninhabitable. We must work urgently to switch to cleaner alternatives and to convince our leaders to work toward that end as well.”
The Upper Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in the heart of the Marcellus Shale, noting that climate change could be human-caused, called for a repeal of all environmental and health exemptions that benefitted the oil and gas industry.
In their 6,000 year covenant with God, the Jews have considered themselves as stewards of the Earth. In Genesis 2:15 is the requirement to care for the Earth. In Ecclesiastes 7:13, the Jews are told by God, “See to it that you don’t spoil or destroy my world—because if you spoil it, there is nobody after you to fix it.” In the 14th century, Talmudic scholar Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet added strength to the command to care for the Earth. Based upon the writings of the Torah and subsequent discussions by Jewish leaders, he observed that mankind is forbidden “from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health.” The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism notes that Jews are “increasingly aware of the potentially negative environmental impact of extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels,” and its effect upon advancing the problems of climate change.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, basing his comments upon both science and theological perspectives, declared:
Nevertheless, even faced by theological and scientific evidence, Rick Santorum and the flock who believe as he does, claim that even if there is climate change, human activity is not responsible, and whatever the U.S. does would have no impact on climate change. He further believes the pope, representing 1.2 billion Catholics, should not comment upon climate change, especially if it differs from his views. Mr. Santorum believes only scientists should comment. Of course, Santorum, a politician who has commented on climate change, isn’t a scientist.
Here’s what scientists say. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “It is that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” About 97 percent of all scientists studying climate change attribute global warming to human activities.
One of those scientists is Pope Francis, who studied chemistry, understands scientific principles, and once taught in Argentine high schools.
[Dr. Brasch studied science as an undergraduate, and was, for a time, a science/health reporter. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania.]