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Santorum’s Heresy

March 9, 2012

Santorum accuses the President of a “false theology” that “elevates earth above man [sic].” He repeatedly pits humans against the environment, always insisting on the dominance –– he and his fellow travelers call it “dominion” –– of humankind over nature. In the Christian right theology we humans are not really a part of nature, but outside it, over and above it. Endowing us with that near absolute power justifies environmental abuse and exploitation, the kind we’ve seen repeatedly from Hooker Chemical’s destruction of Love Canal to Pacfic Gas and Electric’s poisoning of a California town’s water system (of Erin Brockovich fame).

Putting humans outside and above the natural environment squarely denies the unequivocal Biblical declaration that humankind is a part of nature, having been formed from the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). God says we “are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Taking our embeddedness in nature seriously promotes care for the health of the environment as a crucial part of our concern for human welfare.

While the religious right pays lip service to the notion of stewardship, they spend all their energy working to discredit anyone who calls into question the abuse of nature. They don’t really believe restraint in exploiting natural resources is necessary, because, in the words of the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming from the right wing Cornwall Alliance, nature is “robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting.” Nature will take care of the mess we make. That belief conveniently allow us to deny responsibility for degrading the environment.

"The earth was corrupt in God's sight" (Genesis 6:11)

Espousing these beliefs, Santorum simply dismisses the mountain of evidence for the human impact on global warming as “junk science” and a “hoax.” In order to hold the belief that we are immune from the repercussions of environmental practices, you have to keep your head firmly buried in the sand. Because our survival is bound closely to the health of the natural world, this willful ignorance is lethal.

Using religion to disclaim environmental accountability and deny the mountainous damage we’re inflicting on nature squarely contradicts the Bible’s view of nature. Both the Jewish and Christian scriptures repeatedly celebrate the sanctity of nature in God’s eyes. Genesis mandates an ethic of care towards nature when it declares that humans were put here to “till and keep” the Garden (2:15). The covenant God makes with all life, not just humankind (Genesis 9:8-9), bestows divine blessing on the entire web of existence. And Jesus celebrates the beauty of nature as evidence of God’s care when he says that “even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like” the lowly lily (Matthew 6:29).

Most striking is the right’s anti-Biblical denial of the fundamental affirmation that the creation is “good,” “indeed…very good (Genesis 1:31). In their zeal to assert dominion and disparage those who speak up for the environment, the religious right demeans its goodness. In turning their backs on the harm we relentlessly inflict on the earth and its creatures, they deny its goodness. In promoting policies of unchecked exploitation, they subordinate the goodness of creation to the lust for material gain. Theirs is the false theology. And glorifying humankind at the expense of the natural world will, if it prevails, ultimately destroy us.

"Indeed, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)


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One Comment
  1. Could you direct us to any national faith faith organizations that are working to protect creation? Groups people might become involved with?

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