Professor: Oil spill could be wakeup call
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
June 30, 2010

Professor: Oil spill could be wakeup call

Professor: Oil spill could be wakeup call
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
June 30, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The head

of a committee that drafted a recent Southern Baptist Convention resolution on

the Gulf of Mexico oil spill said on National Public Radio that the ecological

disaster could be a “defining moment” for evangelicals and the environment.

“I remember once an

evangelical figure spoke of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision as the Pearl

Harbor of the evangelical pro-life movement,” Russell Moore, dean of the School

of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said on NPR’s Weekend Sunday

Edition June 27.

“What he meant by that was

that prior to Roe, most evangelicals really thought of those issues of life and

protecting the unborn as being a Roman Catholic issue — somebody else’s issue,”

Moore said.

“But then after Roe v. Wade, suddenly evangelicals saw what was at

stake and became involved. I think that this catastrophe in the Gulf could be

that kind of defining moment.”

Moore chaired an SBC

resolutions committee that brought a resolution adopted by

convention messengers June 16 calling on industry, the government and churches

to work to prevent such a crisis from ever happening again. He explained on NPR

the rationale behind a statement that many observers view as out of character

for a conservative denomination that in past years has downplayed environmental

concerns like global warming.

Southern Seminary photo

Russell Moore

“There’s really nothing

conservative — and certainly nothing evangelical — about a laissez-faire view

of a lack of government regulation, because we, as Christians, believe in sin,”

Moore said.

“That means if people are

sinful, if all of us are sinful, then all of us have to have accountability —

and that includes corporations.” Moore said. “Simply trusting corporations to

go about their business without polluting the water streams and without

destroying ecosystems is really a naive and utopian view of human nature. It’s

not a Christian view of human nature.”

Moore, who also serves as

teaching pastor at Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church, said

the call to creation care is grounded in theology.

“God cares about the

Creation,” Moore said. “He displays himself in nature, and so the more that

people are distanced from the Creation itself and the more people become

accustomed to treating the Creation as something that is disposable, the more

distanced they are from understanding who God is.”

“People are designed to be

dependent on Creation and upon the natural resources around us,” he continued. “In

order to love future generations, in order to love cultures, we have to love

the ecosystems that support those things.”

“What’s happening is that

you have entire cultures and communities of people now imperiled,” he said. “That’s

an issue of love of neighbor.”

Moore is a native of Biloxi,

Miss., one of the communities under threat from the leaking hulk of the

Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig, which has been dumping oil into the Gulf

since an April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and destroyed the platform.

“I have to tell you this is

the most traumatized I’ve ever seen my hometown,” he said. “And I’m including

the devastation of Katrina in that. It’s kind of like a slow-motion hurricane

with no end in sight.”

Moore said he recognizes

that all evangelicals are not of one mind about the specifics of creation care.

“There are some

evangelicals, of course, who hold to a much more libertarian understanding of

the relationship between government and protecting natural resources, but I

think for the most part, evangelicals are ready to have a conversation about

protecting the Creation,” he said. “And especially younger evangelicals, who

are just as conservative as their grandfathers and grandmothers on many issues

but also understand that human flourishing means a healthy natural environment.”

“It simply isn’t good for

ourselves or for our neighbors to live in a world that is completely paved over

and in which every piece of green land is replaced with a Bed, Bath, and

Beyond,” he said. “That’s not how God designed human beings to live.”

Moore wrote recently on his blog

about evangelicals’ “uneasy ecological conscience,” which he said has

uncritically promoted free-market enterprise while viewing environmental

protection as “someone else’s issue.”

The SBC resolution and Moore’s

comments come at a time when many conservative leaders are laying the blame for

the oil spill on environmentalists.

“Why were we drilling in

5,000 feet of water in the first place?” Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics

& Religious Liberty Commission, said in his weekly radio

broadcast June 5. “Well, one of (the reasons) is the environmental movement.”

“As production from the

shallower Gulf of Mexico wells declines, we go deep — 1,000 feet or more, and

ultra-deep, 5,000 feet or more — in part because environmentalists have

succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all of the Atlantic coast

off-limits to oil production,” Land said.

“President Obama’s tentative

selective opening of some Atlantic and offshore-Alaska sites is now dead. And

of course in the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on

drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although it would have done

absolutely nothing to any of the wildlife in the area.”

Moore said he isn’t bothered

by a lack of consensus on the issue.

“I think it’s good for

evangelical Christians to be pulled in multiple directions, if being pulled in

directions means that we’re thinking through issues from a biblical point of

view, rather than from a purely political point of view,” Moore told NPR.

“I think that means

evangelicals can’t simply be anybody’s interest group,” he said. “We’re going

to have some disagreements, but we have to have that conversation. And it has

to be more complex than simply parroting slogans.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)