Will Texas Become Turkana?

Turkana is the driest hottest county in Kenya. We have visited there on several occasions and have been struck by the friendliness of these hardy people who live in a challenging environment of high temperatures, low rainfall, and ever present food insecurity. As I read about the most recent dire predictions of our threatened environment I wonder of Turkana’s challenges could become our own in the future? Certainly we have more resources and infrastructure than they do but we are spending less on preserving what we have and ever more on well MORE!  You’ll see below that 90% of our citizens are unaware of the danger to our environment and civilization.   As William Butler Yeats predicted in the Second Coming, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” So when I think of Texas’ future, most likely after I am gone, I see Turkana. It is not a pretty picture.

Lodwar Airport Turkana

Scientists and the fossil fuel industry know that global warming is 1) true and 2) a likely human catastrophe threatening our very survival.

They have known for 40 years 1 and yet Exxon and other oil companies have used disinformation and outright lies to spread uncertainty in the public. 2   Why? Short term profits AKA GREED!

Dick Cheney
Lee Raymond

The UN report in October 2018 says we are running out of time. They target a temperature rise of 1.5 C⁰ (2.7⁰ F)  that is likely to be exceeded in the next decade. CO emissions now 40 billion tons annually must be halved by 2030 and reduced to near zero by 2050. According to the I. P.C.C. (even 1.5 C⁰ of warming “is likely to be disastrous. Island states like Mauritius (where our daughter and husband honeymooned) fear they will be underwater in the near future of nothing is done, which seems likely.3

Maritius

The current US administration predicts that global temperatures will rise by almost  4⁰ Celcius.

Which was used as a justification for rolling back EPA regulations for cars and truck that would reduce emissions by 6 billion tons over the life of the vehicle. Their reasoning if this is the scenario, who cares about 6 billion tons? 3

For Texas: 4

“North Texas (will be) one of the worst-affected places in the country.” Amir Jina University of Chicago

  • More record-setting heat in North Texas is a virtual certainty. 
  • North Texas will have longer and more severe droughts with profound economic impacts,
  • Rainfall patterns will become more extreme
  • Hailstorms and tornadoes may become more concentrated and less predictable.
  • North Texas economy is predicted to decrease by 10-20%

There are several contrarian websites that debunk climate change. Some of them sight reputable scientists but all seem to have a right leaning prejudice against Al Gore, the UN, and the threat of one world government. They favor business as usual – low taxes, low regulation, and limited government. To me they are not unbiased or persuasive.

From today’s NYTimes

Whistling past the climate crisis. In The Washington Post, Max Boot, a former climate-change skeptic, issues a mea culpa.“I’ve owned up to the danger. Why haven’t other conservatives?” he asks. His answer is that Republicans remain beholden to both ideology and to industries whose profit lies in ignoring the problem. “It is a tragedy for the entire planet that America’s governing party is impervious to science and reason.” 5

In The Times, Paul Krugman focuses on the financial incentives of the anti-science crowd: “Money is still the main answer: Almost all prominent climate deniers are on the fossil-fuel take.” 6

Can this greedy world be saved? Unlikely. We are short term oriented, pleasure seeking, selfish hedonists and that is going to do us in. To change would require a cataclysmic shift in our values, goals, and behavior. It would require a servant leader to motivate us to change. In my opinion FDR was the last leader with the moral capital to force change and he’s not available.

Politicians and citizens alike will say:

“Why didn’t somebody tell us?

BZZZZZZ Wrong question! Thank you for playing.The correct question is

WHY DIDN’T WE LISTEN? 7

References and notes

1 The climatologist James Hansen testified before Congress about the dangers of human-caused climate change thirty years ago.

Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, understood that its product was contributing to climate change a decade before Hansen testified. In July, 1977, James F. Black, one of Exxon’s senior scientists, said “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon-dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

In 1978, speaking to the company’s executives, Black estimated that a doubling of the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by between two and three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as ten degrees Celsius (eighteen degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles.

By 1982, they had concluded that even the company’s earlier estimates were probably too low. In a private corporate primer, they wrote that heading off global warming and “potentially catastrophic events” would “require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”

            How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the  Planet, The New Yorker, November 26, 2018

Turkana Village Houses

2 On a December morning in 1997 at the Kyoto Convention Center, after a long night of negotiation, the developed nations reached a tentative accord on climate change. An American lobbyist, who had been coordinating much of the opposition to the accord, turned to me and said,“I can’t wait to get back to Washington, where we’ve got this under control.”He was right.

On January 29, 2001, Lee Raymond, Exxon CEO, visited his old friend Vice-President Dick Cheney, Cheney helped persuade Bush to abandon his campaign promise to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Within the year, Frank Luntz, a Republican consultant for Bush, produced an internal memo, “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community, Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore,you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”

Downtown Lodwar Turkana

The strategy of muddling the public’s impression of climate science has proved to be highly effective. In 2017, polls found that almost ninety per cent of Americans did not know that there was a scientific consensus on global warming. 

Ibid

Turkana Countryside

7 The extra heat that we trap near the planet every day is equivalent to the heat from four hundred thousand bombs the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.

As a result, in the past thirty years we’ve seen all twenty of the hottest years ever recorded. The melting of ice caps and glaciers and the rising levels of our oceans and seas, initially predicted for the end of the century, have occurred decades early. 

This past May, a team of scientists from the University of Illinois reported that there was a thirty-five-per-cent chance that, because of unexpectedly high economic growth rates, the U.N.’s “worst-case scenario” for global warming was too optimistic. 

“Like it or not, we will retreat from most of the world’s non-urban shorelines in the not very distant future,” Orrin Pilkey, an expert on sea levels at Duke University, wrote in his book Retreat from a Rising Sea. We can plan now and retreat in a strategic and calculated fashion, or we can worry about it later and retreat in tactical disarray in response to devastating storms. In other words, we can walk away methodically, or we can flee in panic.”

But it’s not clear where to go. As with the rising seas, rising temperatures have begun to narrow the margins of our inhabitation, this time in the hot continental interiors. Nine of the ten deadliest heat waves inhuman history have occurred since 2000. …a heat index of more than a hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit in June 2018, …temperatures in July in Death Valley, recorded the hottest month ever seen on our planet.

The effects…will be “transformative for all areas of human endeavor—economy, agriculture, military, recreation.”

In late 2017, a study found that, by 2050, if temperatures rise by two degrees a quarter of the earth will experience serious drought and desertification.

All this has played out more or less as scientists warned,albeit faster.

            How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet, The New Yorker, November 26, 2018

Church and Hut near Lake Turkana 

I’ve seen the future. It is murder.                                                                  Leonard Cohen 

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Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

Christian Nation 2014

We heard John Fea, the Head of the History Department at Messiah College in Pennsylvania at SMU a couple of weeks ago. I decided to read Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?

While the early colonists and founders believed in Providence and that God favored America there are caveats that should give us pause. While most citizens probably believed that they were living in a Christian Nation, early behavior suggests otherwise.

Jamestown was founded in 1608 and mandatory church attendance was required. Conditions were harsh and survival uncertain until slavery was introduced and allowed efficient agricultural production. “Slavery brought wealth to the colony and made it possible for some of the leading lights of the American Revolution to protest against their own enslavement under British tyranny.”

The Puritans came to Massachusetts in 1620. John Winthrop, the first governor wanted to build “a Christian civilization that would stand as a city on a hill.” Only those who could testify to a “conversion experience” were allowed to be church members or to vote. All were required to attend church but most did not adhere to Puritan orthodoxy. Dissenters did not fare well – some were required to leave the community, others were killed. While the Puritans came to the New World for religious liberty they did not grant this to others. “The Puritan approach to Indians living in their midst must be viewed as embarrassing for a society that claimed to be Christian in orientation.” Indian conversion was tried but the Puritans needed land and the Indians were in the way of “destiny.” Violence ensued.

While both sought to follow Christian orthodoxy (proper belief) they failed in orthopraxy (correct practice). Public behavior was not guided by Christian principles.

Fea argues that the American Revolution was a product of the Enlightenment’s values of Toleration and Pluralism more than Christianity. In writings leading up to the Revolution Enlightenment political theory was cited much more than Biblical justification for rebellion from Britain.

There are members of my church who have reacted strongly to “politics from the pulpit.” Any comment remotely secular about the current state of affairs or the political climate from the pulpit is reason for a private meeting with the pastor for corrective instruction.

Fea makes a very convincing case that multiple clergy supported (and a few opposed) the Revolution from the pulpit. They often used creative Biblical exegesis to bend their message the desired way.
An example: John Carmichael, a Presbyterian Minister in Pennsylvania preached that Jesus ”can’t possibly have meant that we should love (our enemies) better than ourselves-that we should put it in the enemy’s power to kill us, when we have it in our power to save our own life, by killing the enemy.”
Loyalists (to England) preached from Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 to support submission to English authorities regardless of their moral character.
Polities from the pulpit has been present since the early days of America.

The Constitution makes no mention of God. The Declaration of Independence does, but it is not mention Christianity. It may be a theistic document but it is not a Christian document. It is a document of Independence, not a document of values or human rights.

Our founders were a mixed lot. John Witherspoon was the only clergy who signed the Declaration. While a professing Christian he also supported belief in an innate “moral sense” or conscience independent of the Bible or God’s grace that directed humans to virtuous behavior – a decidedly unchristian belief.
Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington believed in “Providence” but did not profess to be followers of Jesus. Patrick Henry, John Jay and Samuel Adams (here Fea includes Witherspoon as well) are the founders whom are identified as professing Christians. Samuel Adams was a proponent of Puritan Republicanism – the belief borne out by a study of history that “republics survived only when their citizens sacrificed self-interest for the common good and lived upright and moral lives.” He felt that the promotion of religion was the best way to achieve these goals.

Fea concludes by saying that history is complex and often does not give easy answers. In the early nineteenth century Christians believed they were living in a Christian nation. But our founding documents do not identify the United States as a Christian nation and proscribed the mingling of religion and state. But most state constitution did recognize God and Christianity and many required officeholders to be Christian well into the nineteenth century.

So Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?
For me the simple (and thus suspect) answer is unofficially yes but officially no. Has our nation lived up to Christian ideals? Absolutely not. But who among us has?

Christian Nation