Opinion » Bill Cope


Fundamentalists ignore the fundamental problem


Good news for modern man! Evangelical Christians--some of 'em, anyway--are going green. A national coalition of Evangie leaders is speaking out against global warming and locally, as lately made a big deal out of by a Statesman feature article, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship (from what I gather, sort of a volunteer work placement service for Boise born-agains) has decided that the environment is as worth preserving as two-sex marriages and tax exemptions for church property.

The Vineyard people have a name for their eco-efforts--"Tend the Garden"--but I can't tell you if this means they have entirely abandoned the expectation that any day now, the End Times are going to move Spaceship Earth to the top of the demolition list. It's possible they figure as long as they have to hang around while God gets his Rapture together, they might as well straighten up the place so it doesn't look like a bunch of hillbillies lived here. Or maybe they just want to get the damage deposit back, should it turn out there was one.

Whatever their reasons, I welcome their emerging concern for the biosphere, as I'm sure do all those Earth-dwellers who have been on the biosphere bus for decades. Truly, I'm hoping their green consciousness spreads throughout the Evangelical community and turns Bible-chewers everywhere into active little eco-crews, even though I strongly suspect a great share of them would be resource-slurping slobs even if they were Lutherans, Scientologists, Shriners ... whatever.

But I mustn't disparage the ones who finally made it out of the Dominion over the Earth Ages. And now that they are so receptive to a healthier, cleaner planet, I'm going to suggest the number one thing they can do to promote the long-term wellness of Ma Earth. That's right ... the remedy to all the environmental ills that plague us. The penicillin answer to the degradation disease. The silver bullet solution to the werewolf of human pollution.

Here it is ... the very best thing you and your fellows in faith can do to fulfill your Christian duty to be good stewards of the Earth: Stop having kids. You heard me ... go forth and not multiply. Get thee to a vasectomy, Brother.

Since last I made this argument, I estimate the world's head count has grown by another quarter-billion bi-peds. So clearly, not everyone got the message.

Still, the message couldn't be more clear. Name your environmental poison--Mercury in your tuna? Trash on your street? Arsenic in your water? Carbon emissions in your atmosphere? PCBs in your soil? Fertilizer run-off in your oceans? Holes in your ozone? Your globals getting too warm? Your urbans getting too sprawled? Your habitat getting eliminated? Your favorite species getting extincted?--What is at the root of all these and any other environmental nightmares?

The answer is as obvious as the noses on the 250 homo sapiens born every minute. Let us, once again, review the dreadful numbers: in the year Christ was allegedly born, there were an estimated 300 million people. By 1900, they had begatted themselves on up to about 1.7 billion. One measly hundred years later, it's over 6.5 billion. Get it? There are just plain too many humans trying to occupy the same 57,511,026.002 square miles of dry land. And you know how humans are ... thinking they have to be housed, clothed, fed, and endowed with the latest doodad lest they feel left out.

If they were mice, for example--or sea cucumbers--it wouldn't be so bad. But humans have such a talent for extending their individual filth far beyond the confines of their personal space, don't they? Just one middle-class Idaho Baptist, for instance, might occupy roughly four cubic feet. But by the time you add in his snow-mobile ... w/trailer and the Dodge Ram to pull it, his riding lawnmower and storage shed, his 12 meals a week from a fast food joint, his big-screen teevee and his NASCAR collectibles--not to mention his 2,500-square-foot home, 36-foot fifth wheel, and the 2000-pew churchy barn he feels he can't worship God without--we're talking an environmental slime trail that stretches into five continents.

Before we proceed, I need to acknowledge that America--even though Americans individually consume far more of the planet than would be their fair share if life were fair--is not the most crowded country and is far from being the land with the highest birth rate. Furthermore, I applaud Evangelicals for not being the most notable litter bearers. When it comes to large households, Evangies must rank at least third, well behind those all-too-efficient child assembly lines, the Catholics and the Mormons.

With that said, though, Evangelicals have become the shrillest critics to any efforts to unplug the population pump, both at home and abroad. Name a reproductive alternative--abortion, birth control, sex education, Planned Parenthood, same-sex relationships--and fundamentalists are against it. Through the agency of the Bush Administration, they have even hinged a great deal of our foreign policy on keeping destitute third-worlders from the pleasures of not being perpetually pregnant. With the most absurd pigheadedness, they hang their entire procreative program on the "abstinence" hatrack, as though two billion years of sexual biology has taught them nothing.

Now, some say negative population growth would bring about an economic collapse, but we all would do well to remember: economies are something we invented to serve our needs. We were not invented to serve economies.

I have even heard people insist that there's plenty of room left on the planet for more people. Yeah ... if you don't mind being the only species left outside of rats and cockroaches. Or if you don't mind living in Antarctica or Wyoming. Or if your idea of living is rush hour in New Delhi. Or if you're just plain stupid.

No, Vineyard, at this point I don't think the rest of nature cares much that you consider yourselves good stewards. And I'm afraid living a simple lifestyle will no longer do the trick. Nor are recycling cardboard and driving a Prius much more than lipsticking the pig. The problem is our presence and the goal we, as a species, should be trying to reach is a steadily declining population. And we should only stop pursuing that goal until the numbers are such that we no longer have to bully the biosphere into meeting our demands--when we can truthfully say we are doing onto the world what we would have Nature do onto us.