Campus screening of Bill Moyers’ “Is God Green?” generates discussion on faith, environmentalism
By Elise Konerza
“Have you noticed that, um, it’s getting really warm in here?” Reverend Tri Robinson, a politically conservative Idaho rancher and pastor asked his evangelical congregation at Vineyard Boise Church.
The Students for Sustainability organization viewed “Is God Green?” a documentary by Bill Moyers, depicting a holy war contrived in the evangelical community.
Implications for the global environment and American politics make this documentary a hot button issue, exploring a serious split among conservative evangelicals over the environment and global warming that stand to reshape American politics.
For a long time, evangelical Christians have viewed the Bible as the way of life, the absolute truth. Some have viewed caring for the environment as a hippie, tree hugging liberal movement that conservatives are careful to cross.
However, many evangelical Christians are beginning to turn up from the crevices and voice their respects to protect nature.
Reverend Robinson made it his mission to preach to his evangelical congregation about environment at the pulpit, an apparent vice in the evangelical community.
“Our truth is that God created the world,” Reverend Robinson tells Bill Moyers on “Is God Green?” “He commissioned us to take care of it. And that’s that.”
Reverend Robinson continues that in the biblical story about Noah, God didn’t just get irate with the world and wipe it out, there was much more to it.
After a 6-month preparation period for his lecture, Reverend Robinson told his congregation it was time to “tend this garden.”
Members of his congregation were excited that they “got to play, and take care of something.”
The Vineyard Boise Church turned to sustainable efforts quickly by recycling paper and cell phones. Many began to view the Vineyard Boise Church as a pivotal change on other issues that would make for a dramatic effect.
Reverend Robinson said Genesis 50:2 actually depicts a description of hell as a “heap of garbage.”
“How can it reveal the glory of God?” Reverend Robinson said in reference to the earth and its mounting heap of waste that continues to grow.
Robinson wants those to take away a message that yes, the earth is in jeopardy; however, we, the people are in jeopardy. This holistic, humanistic view should be more than enough to take care of home base.
The documentary turns to the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, as coal companies are taking it under assault, blowing it up and mining from the tops.
Neighbors of the mountains were held hostage by the coal industry in its sludge and slurry creating open pools at the tops of the flattened mountains. Residents became unable to rely on clean well water. Carmelita Brown, a resident who lives downhill from a mountain top coal mine, said it became embarrassing when people came into her house saying, “What’s that smell?”
Another resident found a chemical reaction from their well water in conjunction with Pepto Bismol, turning the water black. Kidney stones are increasingly found in the residents of the Appalachian Mountains and doctors reported the cause for their kidney stones are a reaction of chemicals gathering inside their body.
“All I ask for is a water I can drink and take a bath – that seems far out of reach,” Brown said.
“Christians for the Mountains” is an organization that has the same mission as Robinson and the Vineyard Boise Church. The documentary traces the growth of the evangelical Christianity’s political power back to a Ronald Regan speech in 1980, where he referred to the Bible as the answer to all the world’s problems.
Residents and members of “Christians for the Mountains,” said it would be difficult to go to church when coal company owners would go to the same church, it created conflicts. And those who didn’t want to stand up and say anything because of the conflicts – what does that justify, Robinson said.
“7 million greenhouse gases pumped into the sky is a testament to human sin,” Robinson said.
Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelists said the laws of science “are God’s laws, because they’re the way he runs the universe.”
Cizik looks at preservation of the environment as a gift to his kids and grandkids.
Cizik spoke with Sir John Houghton, a British scientist and fellow evangelical and said, “I’m not spinning you, I’m telling you what is happening.”
After Cizik spoke at a 2002 conference of scientists and religious leaders in Oxford, England he continuously received criticism for being anti-American and defiant of capitalism.
The documentary looks into the political power justified by coal and oil industries when Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, rhetorically asked, “Could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?” and he answers: “I believe it is.”
Cizik, attributes Senator Inhofe’s answer in response to an approximate $400,000 impacting his decision from the coal and oil industries. He said Sen. Inhofe is a riverboat gambler of millions of lives turning his attention into ignorance.
Calvin Beisner, of Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. put forth a couple of curious ideas. One being that environmental devastation is God’s judgment on human sin and that global climate change is not relatable to excess resource use.
“Oh, see I wish I could stop Katrina, but I just can’t do it,” Beisner said in reference to God’s choice to control natural disasters and casualties.
Following the viewing, Students for Sustainability members and Green Party members discussed their own experiences with environment and religion.
Heather Bradford, president of Students for Sustainability, said she attended St. Benedict and nature was always taught as a good thing, and to be good stewards of the earth; even fair trade was started by Christians.
“Our founding fathers were very careful about it, they were afraid of huge pockets of power,” Jim Brown, Green Party activist, said in reference to comments made by republican Sen. Inhofe.
However, Kim Rademaker, a Green Party member, said now we are so polarized we can never have open discussions.
Katy Wortel, a Green Party activist said today it’s common to see people using religion to further politics rather than good ethics.
Blake Herricks, a Minnesota State University, Mankato student studying social studies, thinks conservatives who hunt would want to protect their woods, forests, land and lakes.
“Who wants to eat polluted game?” Herricks said.
Brown said there is so much infrastructure and investment in the capitalist system that there is no room for innovation in business concerning the environment. He referenced a film, “What happened to the electric car?” The film shows thousands of electronic cars that were pulled from the market and crunched in California.
“If no one says anything against the agenda of politicians, you are left with no choice,” Brown said.
Bradford agrees with Beisner that at some point, God could be letting this destruction happen.
Wortel said the earth’s destruction is all left up to free will and mistakes made lead us to climate change. Science and religion can coexist today she said. The Christian view of today is to take care of the earth, it’s our home.
“If we hurt the earth, we hurt the people,” Wortel said.
Wortel said those active for pro-life and against abortion in the evangelical faith, is in some of the same respects concerning the definition of life and death. The issue of climate change and wiping out all of mankind is just as paramount when thinking about political hot button issues.
“Is God Green?” is a part of the Students for Sustainability Ecology and Ideology Film Series and can be viewed on PBS.org. “Taking Root: the vision of Wangari Maathai” will be viewed Thursday, March 21 in CSU 201 at 5 p.m. A brief discussion about the environment, the third world and reformative change will follow the film.