This post isn't about global warming, but it starts there.
A while back I realized that I didn't know how a felt about global warming. I knew a lot of people thought it was a big deal, and others didn't. It was hard for me to accept that an issue this grounded in science could be so divisive. It's not like the abortion issue, in which one's position depended entirely on a question that can only be answered by the conscience (when does human life begin?). So I felt confident I could find the "right" answer to this issue. I began researching (OK, I'm using that term liberally). I rented An Inconvenient Truth. I watched The Great Global Warming Swindle. I read State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I checked out books from the library, and of course I googled it.
After about 50 hours of "research", I have made a decision on my position... I don't know. It's roughly the same position I had when I began, but now at least it's an informed "I don't know". Both sides of the debate have valid arguments, but both sides also misinform and are too quick to brush off the other side's arguments. The debate is too political to discover the truth.
There's something I love about the position of "I don't know". It's a position I hold for other issues as well, such as embryonic stem-cell research. The trouble with "I don't know" is that it's difficult to form a policy around, or to use it to figure out who to vote for ("I don't know" is not a popular position for politicians). However, "I don't know" is great fun for debates. Whenever the issue comes up (usually after being around extended family for too long), I can just take the other side from whoever is debating me. In my family, that usually makes me the global warming activist.
I was debating with my brother on this when he brought up an argument that both interested and disturbed me. While not central to his argument, it's the piece that I remember most, probably because I had never heard the argument before. It goes something like this:
Since we believe we live in the latter days (as evidenced from the name of our church), what we think might happen far in the future is irrelevant. When Christ comes, the earth will be transformed and global warming won't be an issue.
I have a problem with this argument for several reasons.
First, we don't know when Christ will come. If it's another 500 years, we can cause a lot of human suffering during that time.
Second, it's true that we believe that the earth will be transformed in some way when Christ comes, but it's not clear to me exactly what it will be like and how it will happen. Perhaps, instead of changing in the twinkling of an eye, the earth will require some help from us. I imagine a child waking up on a winter's morning to see snow outside. Excited to play he hurries to get on his snow pants and boots. Then his mother comes in: "You're not going anywhere until you clean up your room." Could that be what happens when Christ comes? "We'll start the millennium when you've cleaned up the mess you've made!"
Thirdly, and most importantly, are the implications of this argument on other issues (see, I told this post wasn't about global warming--it just took me a while to get to the point). Should we not worry about the national debt because when Christ comes, the fact that we owe China billions of dollars won't matter? Should we not worry about stability in the middle east, since we know when Christ comes all will be made well, and in fact it is prophesied that there will be wars in the latter times? We could apply the same reasoning to any other issue with long-term consequences. Surely we should not ignore every issue with the excuse of "When Christ comes, all will be well."
I felt confident that I had successfully recognized that argument as flawed and irrational. But today, over a year after my discussion with my brother, the scripture came to mind where Jesus is talking about the wars and great calamities that will happen during the latter days before his second coming when he said:
See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass. (Matthew 24:6)
So how exactly does one become anxiously engaged in a good cause without first being troubled by it? Would I be pro-life if abortion didn't trouble me? Could my brother have been right all this time? Should we all just not worry so much and wait for Christ to come? Something tells me that's not what Jesus meant, but maybe that's just how I want to read it.