By Mark Tooley
The Religious Left understandably relishes its memories, real and imagined, of heroic support for the Civil Right movement during the early 1960’s. It was maybe their last great and fully admirable moral cause that history still rightly salutes. So Religious Leftists frequently attempt to equate their political causes du jour with fighting Jim Crow 50 years ago.
Now, the chief of the United Church of Canada (UCC) is comparing the struggle against climate change with the Civil Rights protests of yesteryear. UCC Moderator Mardi Tindal even dramatically penned a letter that she self-importantly likened to Martin Luther King’s historic missive from a Birmingham Jail. Apparently she composed her letter through tears over the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Summit to agree to the massive shut-down of global capitalism for which the Religious Left has long prayed.
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“The day after I returned home from the climate change talks, I needed a place to go where I could safely cry tears of lament,” Tindal bewailed to Ecumenical News International (ENI). “I needed somewhere where I would be supported as I wrestled with the bitter disappointment I felt with the result of the Copenhagen talks.” Lest anyone still fail to understand her Civil Rights analogy, she read her letter from the pulpit of her home church congregation on January 17 to coincide with King’s birthday.
As ENI helpfully explained, her Ontario church is where she “she sought comfort immediately following her return” from the devastating disappointment of Copenhagen. Unlike King, Tindal has not been jailed, or faced growling police dogs, or tear gas, or death threats, for her ostensibly heroic struggle against carbon dioxide. But she still identifies with King as a crusader for justice. After all, Global Warming, like Civil Rights, is “one of the most urgent moral challenges in human history.”
“What if, instead of racial segregation, King had spoken about high greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere?” Tindal preeningly asked from the pulpit. “Would his words hold? It seems clear to me that they would ring loud and true.” The church lady’s rhetorical overreach is not untypical for her ultra-politically correct UCC. Although still Canada’s largest Protestant denomination, over 40 years it has lost about half its membership thanks partly to such obtuse political posturing. Naturally, emptying pews and Canada’s secularization did not inhibit the UCC Moderator from crusading in Copenhagen.
After all, the whole planet is at stake. “Our moment of opportunity came and then went, and here we are now, the fate of civilization and of millions of the planet’s life forms hanging by the frayed thread of inaction,” a “heartbroken” Tindal intoned. “We have no plan to reduce deadly emissions of carbon dioxide. Emissions that are a symptom of our broken relationship with the web of life. Emissions that are rising faster than at any time in human history.”
Terrifying! Perhaps Tindal’s listening congregation reacted as New England Puritans did when Jonathan Edwards read his famous 18th century sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” amid shrieks and howls and pleas for divine mercy. Edward’s hell-fire revivalistic appeal helped ignite America’s first Great Awakening. Surely the terrors of a warming planet are no less motivating than the threat of eternal damnation. Edwards warned his unsaved listeners that they were hanging over the nether regions like a spider dangling from his slender web over a fire. Even more powerfully, Tindal pleaded that not just individual sinners, but the whole planet is “hanging by the frayed thread of inaction” over Global Warming. No wonder the church Moderator is weeping.
Edwards, in his famous sermon, admonished the impenitent that they could face divine judgment that very evening. Similarly, Tindal told her church, after Copenhagen’s failure, “I too believe the time for waiting has run out.” Thankfully, she, as did Edwards, believes there is still some time for repentance. But unlike Edwards, who pointed towards God, she urged self-help. “I believe the answer…is that hope is in you. It is in me and in all of us who choose to reject despair and embrace hope. Together, we will replace the Copenhagen failure with success. It is up to us.”
It’s a heavy burden to believe that the whole planet’s salvation depends on self-initiated political action. But Tindal cited King for inspiration. “Watching the tens of thousands of citizens who gathered at the talks to exhort our world’s political leaders to act reminded me of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said it would be ‘fatal…to overlook the urgency of the moment.’” She liked King’s Birmingham Jail letter for describing an “inescapable network of mutuality.”
King was talking about struggles for voting rights and equality before the law. But of course Tindal applied the sentiment to planet activism. “Biologically, we live within an inescapable network of mutuality,” she explained. “As the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rise, the planet will fail to provide for us. Life as we know it will die. Millions of human lives are on the line, rich and poor, old emitters and new, vulnerable and strong. There is no inoculation against this except all of us changing our behavior all at once.”
In the wake of Copenhagen’s “fearful self-interest,” Tindal urged her Canadian parishioners to take immediate action towards planetary salvation. So much is at stake! She concluded with an almost imprecatory litany, fiercely declaring: “When our actions threaten the lives of millions of people and other creatures, that is wrong; When our lack of action endangers communities in every region of the world, that is wrong; When our economic systems jeopardize the well-being of future generations, that is wrong; When the lifestyles of the wealthy undermine the survival of the poor, that is wrong; If we fail to act, we are helping to doom millions of our species to abject suffering and death. That is wrong.”
King’s Civil Rights movement focused on tangible goals to alleviate specific injustices against a suffering people. In contrast, Tindal and other Religious Leftists apocalyptically warn of an impending cosmic calamity that continued enjoyment of modern conveniences ostensibly will ignite. King’s achieved his concrete goals because he aimed towards moral and social uplift. Religious and other leftists failed at Copenhagen, and will fail elsewhere, because they aim to impoverish humanity to evade an unproven threat against the ethereal goal of climate equanimity.