I know…. here we go again, taking the bait from Mr. Limbaugh and ensuring that his nonsense (and thus his brand) stays highly visible. That formula has worked well for him in the past and will continue to work for him in the future. So why do I do it anyway? Because: Rush Limbaugh is one of the world’s most interesting theologians.
Take his August 12 2013 comments about Global Warming.
Mr. Limbaugh is interested in theology, and apparently logic as well (okay you Atheists, save the jokes!). Let’s take him at his word and see where this goes.
Mr. Limbaugh’s inspiration comes from comments made by Secretary of Defense John Kerry, a person who often seems to inspire the roundish radio personality. At the end of a rather long run-on sentence, Secretary Kerry said: “[G]lobal climate change…. really is a challenge to our responsibilities as the guardians–safe guarders of God’s creation.”
And we’re off!
Note to reader… along with audio (above) from those lefty Media Matters people I grabbed the following text in toto, without further editing, from Mr. Limbaugh’s own web pages — just to make sure we’re “fair and accurate” (hehehe) in all we offer here.
John Kerry, our esteemed secretary of state, said that climate change is our challenge, “a challenge to our responsibilities as the safe guarders of God’s creation.” The safe guarders. It would obviously be the safe guardians. The safe guarders. So John Kerry says that climate change is a challenge to our responsibility as the safe guarders of God’s creation. What about God’s creation called a fetus, Secretary Kerry? What is your responsibility as a safe guarder there?
See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming. You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something he can’t create. It’s always, in fact, been one of the reasons for my anti-manmade global warming stance. The vanity, I mean, these people on the one hand, we’re no different than a mouse or a rat. If you’re listening to the animal rights activists, we are the pollutants of this planet. If it weren’t for humanity, the militant environmentalist wackos, if it weren’t for humanity, the earth would be pristine and wonderful and beautiful. Nobody would see it. According to them, we’re different. We are not as entitled to life on this planet as other creatures because we destroy it.
But how can we destroy it when we’re no different than the lowest life forms? And then on the other end, the vanity and the arrogance, we are so powerful and we are so omnipotent, that we can destroy. We can’t even stop a rain shower, but we can destroy the climate. And how? With barbecue pits and automobiles, particularly SUVs. It’s absurd. But nevertheless the esteemed secretary is running around saying that climate change is a challenge to our responsibilities as the safe guarders of God’s creation. Just ask him, what about God’s creation called a fetus?
There it is without interruption… Mr. Limbaugh on theology and creation, thank you very much. Let’s parse it now.
First, what did John Kerry say (or rather, what did Rush Limbaugh say he said)? “[C]limate change is a challenge to our responsibility as the safe guarders of God’s creation.” Well, sir. What Mr. Kerry says there is quite simply a reiteration of Genesis 1 and 2 where God places man in the garden to “keep” it (as in preservation of its essential characteristics), to till it, to (yes) subdue it (as in to co-participate with God in further enhancing the Garden of Eden, gardening, naming the animals). Nothing John Kerry says in the fragment of a quote Mr. Limbaugh finds such fierce delight in contradicts these biblical principles.
Rush Limbaugh’s first response, then, other than to attempt a grammar course (sigh) is to… change the subject. “Just ask him, what about God’s creation called a fetus?”
Let’s keep this simple. That’s known as a bait and switch. We offer radio listeners a quote about global warming and God’s creation that — it is darkly hinted — is profoundly unchristian. Then we bring up a topic which the quote manifestly does not address. Abortion. But we’re going to, in a way, take Mr. Limbaugh up on that sentence. Just not yet.
Next, Mr. Limbaugh “in his humble opinion” (!!!) makes one of the more stunning statements I’ve heard him utter (that is saying a lot!):
if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming. You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something he can’t create.
So. The claim here is that if I believe in God, I cannot believe in global warming as science posits it… because science says that global warming is primarily human-caused. Oftentimes when Mr. Limbaugh makes such statements, he doesn’t bother trying to explain how he arrived at his conclusion. Here, we are fortunate in being able to watch his theologically fine-tuned mind at work. You see, to believe in a man-made crisis such as global warming, one has to believe that “man controls something he can’t create.” Huh?! No, let’s follow Mr. Limbaugh out on this. He is suggesting that since God created the world — our total environment — then we cannot control what happens to it.
Do you see the problem yet with that argument? Let me now go back to his fetus argument, the red herring he tossed in at the beginning of his comments. I happen to agree with Mr. Limbaugh that a fetus is a creation of God. And — should that fetus be born and grow and reach an age of accountability, I further think that former fetus reaches also a place where she or he “controls” something that God made. That something is his or her life, including moral decisions, where to go to college or serve God or serve her/him self, whom to marry, how small an ecological footprint to leave, and so on.
If there is no one actually involved in creation care but God Himself — that is, humankind has no meaningful role in creation care — then that fetus as part of God’s creation has neither responsibility nor moral agency (the ability to choose right and wrong). it is as though the universe is empty and God is talking to himself while playing with puppets he made. And a sick sort of gawd he is at that. Thanks be to the Loving, Merciful God of Scripture that we are not puppets, not pawns, and are given the choice to love Him — living out his calling environmentally as part of our calling to love our neighbor and spread the Good News of Christ’s resurrection!
Why did Christ come? To call us to follow Him. And where are we called to follow him? To obedience to His Word. He is the Word and speaks the Word and fulfills the Word in us as we cooperate with his “environmental” project within our own selves. He takes up residence within us, his Holy Spirit indwelling our own being. But that project of “new birth” or being “born from above” is not autonomous, alone, separated. It takes place within, through, and in order to reach out toward the rest of the creation which also yearns for His full and final redemption.
The rest of Mr. Limbaugh’s comments seem less than skillful attempts to caricature those with whom he disagrees. This of course does make good radio for those who care for that sort of thing.
I — and most orthodox Christians I know — believe that humankind has moral agency, that while God sees and in the ultimate sense controls the future, he not just invites but demands we co-participate with him now in creating that future! If we instead choose to worship Mammon, to live for the present moment with no thought of our children and grandchildren (or our neighbors’ children and grandchildren), then in this we have failed God.
– + To Learn More + –
Evangelical Christians may be farther to the right than I am politically in many ways… but they, unlike Mr. Limbaugh, understand environmental stewardship in a deep and long-running public manner.
CreationCare.org, web home of the Evangelical Environment Network, is one great place to start digging into this subject deeply.
Evangelicals for Social Action is another wonderful ministry with which various members of Jesus People USA have interacted over the years. They worked toward a theology and practice of environmentalism back in the early 1970s and kept doing so through the present.
I couldn’t neglect Sojourners (a.k.a. Sojo.net) for their singular activism on behalf of our planet and those living on it.
Finally, if you haven’t seen the wonderful “Green Bible” — an NRSV Bible complete with study notes and sidebars regarding the environment — check it out on Amazon.com.