The Religious Left’s Prophecies of Doom – by Mark D. Tooley

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


umc-logo6

In 1986, the United Methodist Church’s bishops tried to outdo the Catholic bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter on nuclear weapons by themselves endorsing the nuclear freeze movement, renouncing nuclear deterrence, opposing missile defense, and espousing Carl Sagan’s spurious “nuclear winter” theory.  The Catholic bishops had granted a “conditional” acceptance of nuclear deterrence and cited Just War teaching.  They also rejected moral equivalence between the West and the Soviet Empire, noting, “Free people must always pay a proportionate price and run some risks – responsibly – to preserve their freedom.”

Unfortunately, the United Methodist bishops, in their rush to disarm and condemn the United States, were incapable of such serious reflection.  Instead, their “In Defense of Creation” manifesto sanctimoniously intoned that “nuclear deterrence is a position which cannot receive the church’s blessing.”  And they derided any adherence to deterrence as “idolatry” while slamming Christians who believed in resisting Soviet nuclear superiority as guilty of “idolatrous loyalties to special interests and ideologies.”

Fortunately, the United Methodist bishops’ surreal nuclear counsel was largely ignored.  Arms control agreements with the Soviet Union were secured by following completely opposite advice:  deploying additional U.S. missiles in Europe and refusing to abandon missile defense.  Unable to match the U.S. militarily or economically, and having to failed to persuade Western public opinion to adopt policies that United Methodist bishops and other peaceniks advocated, the Soviet Union collapsed several years later.

Are the United Methodist bishops embarrassed by their 1986 call for strategic surrender to the old Soviet Empire and anxious to make amends with  spiritually more discerning guidance for their flock?  No!   In 1986, these bishops represented 9 million Methodists in the U.S.   Today, partly thanks to their frequent preoccupation with politics as  the expense of spiritual vitality, they represent fewer than 7.9 million American church members.  And they are determined to recycle their same mistakes by releasing a successor to “In Defense of Creation” that repeats a plethora of apocalyptic canards about global warming, diminishing resources and untrammeled capitalism.  It has all the freshness of a Paul Ehrlich fear-mongering jeremiad from the 1960’s.

Called “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” this pastoral letter is long on fear and short on hope.  “God’s creation is in crisis,” it portentously opens.  “We…cannot remain silent while God’s people and God‟s planet suffer.”  It’s unclear how inanimate objects “suffer,” but ascribing personality to the “planet” is a concern theme when prioritizing the earth over people.  The bishops are predictably distressed over “pandemic poverty and disease,” “environmental degradation,” and the “proliferation of weapons and violence.”   These ailments are not “isolated problems” but “related to one another” and demand a “comprehensive response.”

The bishops urge “environmental holiness” and challenging “those whose policies and practices neglect the poor, exploit the weak, hasten global warming, and produce more weapons.”  They proclaim a political agenda that purportedly will renew all of creation.  And naturally they fret that the U.S. “consumes more than its fair share of the world’s resources, generates the most waste, and produces the most weapons.”  These busy bishops will “advocate for justice and peace in the halls of power in our respective nations and international organizations” and will, on their way, reduce their own ecclesiastical “carbon footprint” and “our collective exploitation of the planet.”

Identifying leftist movements with Providence, the bishops announce that “God is already visibly at work in people and groups around the world,” fomenting land reform, inspiring “green teams” and  “demanding the major nuclear powers to reduce their arsenals, step by verifiable step, making a way to a more secure world totally disarmed of nuclear weapons.”

In their accompanying “foundation document,” the bishops warn that the “earth is heating up at an accelerating rate” after “several thousand years of a stable climate.”  Ostensibly reassuringly, “Learned scientists and experts monitor the changes that impact our very survival” and “are clarifying the measures we must take immediately to save our forests, oceans, air, human and animal ecosystems.”

Despite these scientific exertions, the “storm builds as powerful forces swirl together.”  This storm includes economic “systems built upon self-interest and fraud, “ the resource crisis as food, water and energy become scarce; the justice/poverty crisis as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen; the global health crisis as millions die of the preventable diseases of poverty like malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; and the refugee crisis as millions of people are displaced by violence, natural disaster, and loss of jobs.”  There is also “the energy crisis as oil reserves run out within two or three decades; the climate crisis as increasing greenhouse gases threaten to scorch the earth and desertification erodes productive land, polar ice melts, fire seasons lengthen, and coastal floods and severe storms increase in number; the bio-diversity crisis as at least one-fifth of all plant and animal species face extinction by 2050.”

Christian prelates more attuned to reality, and more prone to thanksgiving, might note that recent decades have in fact rescued hundreds of millions from millennia of poverty in China, India and elsewhere, that average lifespans are increasing almost everywhere, and that world food production is at record highs.  Oil reserves have been perpetually and inaccurately forecast for depletion for the last century, until new discoveries always overthrow this expectation.  And neither climate change, nor species extinction, are modern phenomenons.

The bishops naturally also bewail global military spending, which is actually at historic lows unseen since before World War II.  Of course they complain that the U.S. spends 45 percent of global military expenditure.  But would they prefer that other powers, like China or Russia, were spending proportionately greater amounts, creating another arms race and further global instability?  They point at “weapons and violence,’ as though these impersonal forces were the cause of war.  But they do not identify political movements or regimes (other than the U.S. of course) that are the real cause of conflict. Some regimes are tyrannical and have genocidal aspirations.  Some movements aspire to extinguish human rights and religious liberty.  Do they not merit mention in a decree supposed aimed at renewing all creation?  And what about statist economic, or failed international aid policies, that breed and perpetuate poverty?  What about extreme environmentalism that aspires to keep the poor in chronic poverty ostensibly to protect the planet from further exploitation?

Although laced with Scripture quotes and citations from Methodism founder John Wesley, this “God’s Renewed Creation” pastoral letter turgidly rehashes the cliches common to a thousand pleas from the United Nations or hundreds of secular NGO’s competing for dollars.  The 18th century Church of England evangelist who launched Methodism preached spiritual renewal, self-denial, thrift, honesty, human dignity and practical social reforms.  What his supposed spiritual heirs politically espouse would be more recognizable to a UN bureaucrat than to Wesley.  Thankfully, “God’s Renewed Creation” will be even more widely ignored than “In Defense of Creation” was 24 years ago.

  • bubba4

    Wow…ok….that was some good Tooley.

    “spurious “nuclear winter” theory”

    I know…right? Can you imagine more bunk science about how a full nuclear stockpile commitment by the major powers would kill most of the earth? Where do the leftists get these crazy ideas?

    “Arms control agreements with the Soviet Union were secured by following completely opposite advice: deploying additional U.S. missiles in Europe and refusing to abandon missile defense.”

    At the time there was no missile defense. It was however the time of Reagan's famous “Star Wars” project because that is what you would need to shoot down a Russian ICBM. We never actually launched anything because it makes about as much since now as it did then…which is none. Tooley writes FPM approved mythology in short hand, since you are already suppose to know that Reagan single handedly defeated Russia by projecting strength and calling them evil.

    “Christian prelates more attuned to reality, and more prone to thanksgiving, might note that recent decades have in fact rescued hundreds of millions from millennia of poverty in China, India and elsewhere,”

    This is another FPM favorite. Why is (insert enemy here) “remaining silent” or “ignoring” this other thing that is not the subject of the writings that FPM is criticizing.

    “that average lifespans are increasing almost everywhere, and that world food production is at record highs.”

    It better be…so is population.

    “Oil reserves have been perpetually and inaccurately forecast for depletion for the last century, until new discoveries always overthrow this expectation. And neither climate change, nor species extinction, are modern phenomenons.”

    Yeah but Tooley, we will run out of it at some point. It's a fossil fuel…remember…it wasn't carefully deposited around the earth like God's little Easter eggs. And I'm sure the last few years worth of barrels aren't going to go cheap. Species are going extinct every other day. Tooley is unconcerned because it's not a modern phenomenon? Yeah, you're a real child of God there Tooley. You aren't a dishonest cultic schmuck who's lost touch with his humanity…not at all….

  • Adheeb

    The United Methodist Church sold the farm years ago when it gave up on the Bible as its rule for faith & practice. When the Scriptures teach that women cannot serve as pastors but the Methodists ordain them ….. you know they don't believe the Bible. When the Scriptures condemn homosexuality as sin but the Methodists support them, you know they don't believe the Bible. If you reject the Bible as your authority regarding faith & practice …. what do you use as your authority? Well, I guess Carl Sagan will do.

  • patrickfish

    A couple of points: It wasn't Carl Sagan's nuclear-winter theory. He was part of TTAPS and was also the most valuable communicator of the science behind the theory.

    Next, the theory wasn't spurious. As science is supposed to work, the numbers were later adjusted to give a more accurate estimate of the megatonnage-exchange needed to start nuclear winter. Adjusting a theory doesn't mean it's discredited, it just mean it has been improved to more accurately fit the realities of physical law.

    It is almost religious dogma among the old right, to want to believe that nuclear winter cannot happen. This view is driven by an ideological need to believe,not by science. We have the basic precedents in science already: Evidence is strong that an asteroid-cause global “winter” contributed to the death of dinosaurs. We know that volcano eruptions can cool the earth. So even without a science degree, a reasonable person can see why a large nuclear exchange could scatter enough debris to block the photosynthetic processes that are the basis for the food web on Earth.

    My suggestion is to stick to religion and rhetoric. But if you do stray into science, be sure to cite definitive sources. Otherwise you look silly.

  • thomassino

    Wow – that's an impressive, scientific response. I think Mr. Tooley's purpose is to simply demonstrate the ineptitude of fake religion. The Methodists, generally speaking, abandoned God's truth decades ago and now they can't recognize scientific truth, either. Makes perfect sense to me!

    I take from the context of your post that you are a science-type. That's cool – there's a place for that. However, one thing you climate change, snail-darter, save the owls types miss – GOD IS SOVEREIGN and CONTROLS HIS CREATION. That includes the weather. That includes the extinction of species which has been occurring since the beginning of time. GOD IS IN CONTROL. Whether you believe that or not does not change it's reality. Anything that happens on the face of this Earth happens because He allows it. Do you think it's a coiincidence that our President returns from Copenagen – trying to convince people that the world is warming – to a 2 ft. blizzard in Washington? Or that Great Britain is freezing? God laughs at this foolishness!!! Can you not see God Almighty mocking the “wisdom” of this world that dares to challenge His Sovereignty?

    You can either convince yourself we're in control, or you can humble yourself and admit Somebody much smarter than us is running this process. The arrogance of human nature is astounding.

    Humble yourself and consider your Maker, otherwise – a day is coming when you will look much more silly than what you preceive Mr. Tooley to be.

  • KevinStowell

    So much for the church being the rock I guess. Morality never changes–just the way it is (mis) portrayed.

  • newbird

    Prophesy being fulfilled:

    Romans 1: 19-25 For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.
    20
    Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse;
    21
    for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.
    22
    While claiming to be wise, they became fools
    23
    and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.
    24
    Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts 15 for the mutual degradation of their bodies.
    25
    They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

  • A reader

    Having read the Catholic Bishops 1983 Pastoral Letter, I have to say I was struck by how reasonable it was. It dealt with an important subject in an orderly way. It condemned targeting of civilians with nuclear weapons, but then went on to say that deterrence may be necessary in some instances.

    It went onto say that leaders should figure out ways to get beyond deterrence.

    Reasonable stuff. They dealt with an issue in a prudent manner. Sounds like the Methodists are trying to use fear to draw attention to their church.

    Liturgy and evangelization transform the world. But these folks really can't be bothered.

  • http://www.4simpsons.wordpress.com Neil

    My primary issue was how the Bishops should be embarrassed for using Jeremiah 29:11 out of context:____"First, let us orient our lives toward God’s holy vision. This vision of the future calls us to hope and to action. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Christ’s resurrection assures us that this vision is indeed a promise of renewal and reconciliation . . ."____Go read Jeremiah 29:11 in context, or even just verse 4 of that chapter. It has nothing to do with some generic promise to all people or even Christians. It is a specific promise for a specific group (the Israelites taken into captivity by the Babylonians) at a specific time. God’s plans for those who die without trusting in Jesus do not involve increasing their welfare or giving them a future with hope. It will be an eternity in Hell. Under no circumstances is this some kind of catch-all verse to share with people.____Did none of the Bishops realize how this verse was taken wildly out of context (bad), did they not care (bad) or both (really bad)?____More here — http://tinyurl.com/yjghkto