Or, so says Drew Sandlin, in a letter to Oklahoma Christian University’s student newspaper, ironically named Talon.

When I was a kid, I had an uncle who was a Franciscan Priest. I come from a long line of priests and nuns, mostly Franciscan. That’s why I’m good with animals. Anyway, I liked this Uncle because he lived in foreign lands, fished, was a ham (I was a budding ham myself) and he was kind of exotic, being a priest and all.

Someday, I thought, I’d be a priest too. But I also had other interests, and some times there was a conflict….


One day I made mention of the fact that we were cutting down too much of the forests. This was in the days when the six million acre Adirondack Park was being contemplated, and deforestation was just getting underway in the Pacific Northwest, but it wasn’t really as big of an issue in those days as the much more visible problem of air pollution.

Anyway, I expressed an interest in saving the trees and I got whacked by Uncle priest. As he hit me, he reminded me that the trees are there to serve man, and that god wanted man to “… rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth…” and shit.

A year or two later, when Earth Day was invented, I remembered back on that event and moved tangibly in the direction of Atheism.

These memories emerged on reading a letter from Drew Sandlin to the Oklahoma Christian University’s student newspaper, in which Sandlin toys with the idea that the environmental movement is a distraction from being a good Christian. While he stops short of advocating intentional destruction of the environment that god puts in our hands (Clause 1:26 of the Genesis Contract), he does his very best to denigrate the environmental movement and green activities in general.

I recently received an email asking me to fill out a survey evaluating the campus recycling program. …[and]… a thought occurred to me: “Why are we so concerned about recycling or how green our campus is?”

Over the past few weeks, there’s been some hubbub over how environmentally friendly our campus is, and how much energy each student here uses. To be quite honest, I find it a bit disturbing.

.. ah sorry to interrupt. When I read this, the first thought that came to me is “This guy is a neocon right winger and he’s about to make an excuse for using more fossil fuel. Probably plans to work for the oil companies after graduation. Probably a local kid. Everybody in Oklahoma owns at least one oil lease, right?” … ok, sorry, back to the letter…

I don’t know if we’ve thought about consulting God’s word on this subject, but it [sic] has some interesting things to say about our relationship with the earth. Since God created it, it’s only fair to see what he planned for us to do with it.

In Genesis chapter 1:26, God clearly puts man in charge of the earth…

If God gave us rule over the earth, there is absolutely no need to “save” anything.

Interesting. This is like a baby sitter … in answer to the hysterical query from the parents “Where did you put our baby!” … “Hey, like, I was in charge, man, in charge of the baby. What I do with it is kinda like, well, like, whatever, ya know?”

I find this whole “Green” movement dangerously secular in nature. Romans 1:25 reads: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.”

Well. The premise comes in the middle of the letter. A witch hunt for that which may be secular.

I wonder how many students at Oklahoma Christian University feel a greater obligation to the doctrine of “recycling” or “save the earth” than they do to the doctrine of baptism? I hope that they are few and far between.

The fact of the matter is this, and this simply: this earth is just a temporary house that we humans will live in for a little while until God burns it all up. There is no point in trying to save it.

… where do I start…

The overarching justification of the environmental movement is to rationally manage the earth’s resources … there are problems with doctrine to be sure (we can discuss that another time). But the contrast is clear. There is a reason to recycle, scrub the air coming out of a coal plant, save energy, seek energy sources that do not release fossil carbon, and so on. In contract, baptism is based on doctrine. This is a letter to a college newspaper. Surely, it is obvious why this is all quite troubling…

There is no point in trying to save the earth because the apocalypse is on the way. You understand, yes, that THIS is why so many Americans were about to move to Canada in the event Sarah Palin was elevated to power.

I realize that all of this is terribly politically incorrect. To be fair, recycling, if it is cost effective and done to keep our campus clean or to make a few dollars here and there for a good cause, is not a bad thing.

I’m not trying to say that it’s okay to litter, and that picking up trash on the ground is a sin. It becomes a bad thing when we let it eclipse the real work that God has put us here to do.

We need to stop trying to “save the planet” and start worshipping the God that created it. Can you imagine how much more effective we as Christians could be if we stopped wasting our time trying to be “green” and started doing some real work for God?

This is actually the most nefarious part of the whole letter. This is where the author does the two-step, sets up the situation so later he can deny or affirm whichever point of view is appropriate at the time. This is the first part of a two part lie. This is the windup, and later on, he’ll give you the pitch.

Why not take the resources that are being used to see how “green” our campus is through surveys and polls and allocate them for the Wishing Well program?…

… oh. I guess this was a pitch for money. A pitch for money from a christian yahoo holier than thou fundamentalist. Should have seen that coming.

I clipped the last few paragraphs, but you can read the whole thing here. And comment, if you like.

Hat tip: Jason.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    November 17, 2008

    Don’t forget, the other reason we don’t have to save the earth is that Jesus saved it 2,000 years ago. You know, most people would find it difficult to out-nutjob Bachmann. Not this guy.

  2. #2 Robert Jase
    November 17, 2008

    Godfrey Daniels! Read the comments too!

    Even the folks at Wishing Well, who he’s soliciting donations for, find his attitude appalling.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    November 17, 2008

    I realize that all of this is terribly politically incorrect.

    Anecdotally, I have come to the conclusion that whenever somebody lays the words “poltically incorrect” into an introduction of their key thesis, what is to follow is inevitably completely stupid. It’s kind of like saying “I don’t want to sound racist, but…”

    Incidentally, for those who take the 1:26 clause seriously, look up the word “stewardship.” It has meaning in the context of green evangelism.

  4. #4 Richard Eis
    November 17, 2008

    At the end of every christian speech is a begging bowl.

  5. #5 Crazyharp81602
    November 17, 2008

    This leads me to wonder, what if all of earth’s resources completely run out? Then what would a Christian Fundamentalists do, pray that God’ll stabilize the earth even when there’s no trees to hold the soil, no clean air for healthy breathing, no clean water for drinking, etc.? Sheesh..

  6. #6 EB
    November 17, 2008

    Indeed, Mike. To which I’d like to add that political incorrectness is the new political correctness, the new political esthablishment, if you will.
    Not too mention that it is a one-size-fits-all justification for idiocy.

  7. #7 Mimi
    November 17, 2008

    He needs to take an ecology class. But he probably thinks science is evil… even though science gave him the computer to email the letter with, and his plastic Wal-Mart shoes, and the ink his Bible was typeset with… argh!

  8. #8 Romeo Vitelli
    November 17, 2008

    And if Sarah Palin wins in 2012, he’ll become the new Minister of the Interior.

  9. #9 Matt Heath
    November 17, 2008

    I come from a long line of priests and nuns, mostly Franciscan.

    Celibacy: Ur doing it rong

  10. #10 Matt Heath
    November 17, 2008

    Well not actually “U” but these things require a certain format.

    That is an entertainingly crazy letter. I liked the comment comtaining this:

    We are not pagans; there are not spirits in the trees and rocks! Christianity does not call for rituals such as recycling. The Jews had to perform rituals to be saved, but since Jesus died on the cross, God will accept me into heaven without watching every move I make and worrying about miniscule things such as reducing the size of toxic landfills. As Christians, it is DOCTRINALLY UNSOUND to care what happens to this piece of waste we have been subjected to until we are rescued unto the New Zion!

    Never was Poe’s law more clearly demonstrated.

  11. #11 Matt Heath
    November 17, 2008

    @me: heh it was in fact a parody. But sincere believers at the site fell for it.

  12. #12 eddie
    November 17, 2008

    I realise it’s pretty pointless putting a comment in there if they can simply delete it at source, but I felt the need to try.

    I simply pointed out that their raping of the environment (our childrens’ future) was an extension of their raping of children. And no, I didn’t preface it with “This isn’t politically correct, but…”

    The hypocrisy is obvious when we see then dropping PC when they feel like it and then stamping out legitimate criticism they don’t like. It’s an excuse to avoid accepting that the criticism is appropriate. I mean, are they denying that they rape children?

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    November 17, 2008

    Matt: The parody angle occurred to me when I first read it. Maybe it is a parody, but as I pointed out, there is a technique in this sort of rhetoric to have it all ways post hoc. A real looking letter to the editor in an actual newspaper is never a parody unless it is the April 1st issue and the entire issue is a parody.

    But it will be interesting to see if the paper engages in that particular tactic later on after this thing gets pharyngulated….

  14. #14 Matt Heath
    November 17, 2008

    Greg: O I was meaning the comment I quoted from was a parody of the original letter (as the commenter admitted further down). The letter seems very sincere. I don’t think it’s even that extreme by the standards of evangelical anti-environmentalism; didn’t Ann Coulter explicitly say that God gave humans the Earth to rape?

  15. #15 Christie
    November 17, 2008

    What ever happened to:
    -Let the Earth be Glad (Psalm 96:12)
    -As for you, my flock. . . Is it not enough for you to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (Ezekiel 34: 17, 18)
    -But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all humanity. (Job 12:7-10)

    or… “Caring for and healing the environment is the most telling mandate of the bible, both old and new testament, as well as from the writing of the church fathers of the early church this “caring and healing” process must be at the core of congregational workings on the environment, because it is essentially what it means to be a Christian.”
    -Reverend Dr. Milton Efthimou, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America.

  16. #16 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 17, 2008

    Interesting, the idea that the verse in Genesis about giving humans dominion over the world had been interpreted by others to have a requirement of keeping things in good shape. My impression is that mainline(not such a great term I know) Protestants have been ok with that for some time and that variants of the idea show up in Judaism which are much older and predate the modern environmental movement.

    I’m reminded of what a friend of mine who is very Orthodox said a while ago when we were discussing whether there was any halachic obligation to deal with global warming. He had argued that there was not and towards the end of the conversation made a comment to the effect that “I don’t need a halachic reason when there are very good pragmatic ones.” I wonder how that sort of comment (with Christian theology replacing halachah in this context) would fly with the writer of this letter.

  17. #17 Brian X
    November 17, 2008

    Joshua:

    Remember, it’s not Christian theology in general, it’s fundamentalist-evangelical-dominionist in particular. Considering the severe intellectual stunting of that school of thought, I think the “correct” response would be pretty much as above — fundagelical thinking takes sola scriptura to such an extreme that anything that isn’t explicitly approved by the Bible (for values of “explicitly” equal to “whatever the hell I can shoehorn in and make it sound good”) is literally heresy. There’s a fair amount of Islamic fundamentalists who believe the same thing, cf the religious thugs who were trying to shut down falafel vendors in Iraq a few years ago because falafel doesn’t exist in the Qur’an.

  18. #18 Brian X
    November 17, 2008

    Incidentally, I think that’s one of the things that have traditionally set Christians apart from Jews over the centuries — I don’t think most Jews are under any illusions about the absurd strictness of the Deuteronomic Code, but two and a half millennia of interpretation have gone into modern Judaism to work around the most absurd parts of the law. (Whether the classic Jewish scholars want to admit it or not, a substantial amount of the Talmud is about mitigating the most brutal parts of the original Torah.)

    Christians on the other hand… well, I think the fact that one could live one’s entire life in medieval Christian Europe without having more than one or two baths says quite a lot. They took the separatist roots of the Torah and took them to such a ridiculous extreme that the Jews, who did make a point of keeping clean, stood out like sore thumbs.

  19. #19 Joshua Zelinsky
    November 17, 2008

    Brian, the truth of that claim depends on what you mean by “substantial.” The most obvious issue is how many apparently nasty penalties are interpreted to be really only paying the monetary equivalent of that penalty (so no chopping off hands, just pay the equivalent cost lost in labor etc.).

    There’s one really famous example which is the laws for the rebellious son who would be executed. The Rabbis end requiring the son to steal money from his parents and then use the stolen money to buy meat and wine in enormous quantities and then eat them all in a single meal. It is quite clear they never wanted anyone to activate that rule.

    But proportionally the total amount of material in the Talmud dedicated to such mitigation is very tiny. I doubt it would hit more than 1%. The fact is that any sane reader of the the Biblical law codes would see that they cannot function without additional interpretation and details. Many of them include objects or rituals which aren’t even defined in the text. Christians don’t pay that much attention to things like tephilin (phylacteries) and tzizit (not sure about the English here. Fringes?) since they don’t matter to them. If they did, the lack of functioning of sola scriptura would just jump out.

    I’m not sure in any event that sola scriptura is what is going on here. Even just reading the text with nothing else it is a reasonable pretty straightforward reading of the verse in Genesis to get the idea that the verse mandates some degree of oversight. Frankly, this strikes me more as a general reaction to anything being perceived as “new” and the fact that certain elements of evangelical Christianity like to read right-wing politics into the Bible.

  20. #20 Molly K
    November 18, 2008

    While I appricate your argurment against this article I would like to clearify the situation. The proposal for this suvey was my orginal concept in a Marketing Research course. My team and I created the survey in responce to finding more about the practices of Recycling and Sustainability on our campus. I am a Senior Interior Design major and I know that the demographic of students at my school could be my clients in the future. Thus, I wanted to know if they shared the same or even simular thought about Sustainability. Please Remember: THIS WAS A STUDENT SURVEY. There was absolutly no money spent on this project. In fact the survey was online and “green!” The results were infact interesting in our open ended responce and we had no idea we would have this much controversy in this topic.
    I also feel it is nessary to defend a few things here as well. Please note that these are the views of one student on our campus. I am proud to say that because of my education at OC I am more aware and concerned with sustainability and green design. Also, I do not know that Sandlin is directly affiliated with Wishing Well and I dont think that his responce was trying to raise money for them, rather just a vent of frusteration. I have also heard (this is not fact, though) Wishing Well does recycle.
    I say all this so that others are aware this is not how all OC students and/or Christians think. I think it is a poor represenation of my faith and how I will encorporate it in my future career. For more of my opinions you can see my response to Sandlin’s article.
    Thank You.

  21. #21 Susan
    November 18, 2008

    The person who wrote the letter to editor was NOT making a plug for the Wishing Well program. He was just stating that money towards this organization (which has raised money to create clean water sources in Africa and promotes the awareness of the water crisis there) would be a better way to spend money rather than spending money on recycling goods. I personally am not affiliated with the organization, but as a member of the OC student body have seen the amazing work they have done in Africa, and you cannot help but be impacted through their story in some way.
    I do not happen to agree with his article being one of the initiators of the class assignment we were given, in which we created, analyzed, and prepared a final report for our Marketing Research class. We honestly never thought all this would happen after sending it out. This will make for an interesting presentation to our class at the end of the semester!

  22. #22 Jed A. Lovejoy
    November 18, 2008

    As a member of the “Talon” editorial staff, I am excited that something in our small weekly paper has caught the attention of people outside our campus – it also raises my curiosity as to how you came across the article.

    I would like to echo something said in one of the earlier comments. The organization Wishing Well has put as much distance as possible between themself and the author of this article. Please remember letter to the editor in the “Talon” are just like those of any other news paper and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff or the campus of Oklahoma Christian and its administration.

    Personally, I disagreed with the article and I encourage everyone to read the article written by Alison Roberts in response to the letter.
    http://blogs.oc.edu/ee/index.php?/talon/cat/obligation_to_preservation/

  23. #23 Will Kooi
    November 18, 2008

    In addition to the other comments on here by OC students, I would like to point out the myriad of “green” steps that our campus is taking and no-doubt sparked Sandlin’s opinions letter. We have begun a Green Initiative headed by many of our faculty along with our Student Government Association, where among other things, we have expanded our recycling program, begun an on-campus bike program, worked to get rid of Styrofoam in our cafeteria, and will begin a self-sustaining garden very soon. I say this to expound on the fact that not everyone at our university thinks the way Sandlin does, and in fact most of us realize the dire need to care about environmental issues. In fact, we recently had acclaimed author and environmentalist Bill McKibben on our campus for one of our annual lectures. Please don’t judge our school or Christianity by one student.

  24. #24 Wes
    November 24, 2008

    I would also like to emphasize that these views are not the norm on the OC campus. One example: I am a chemistry major, intending on pursuing a career in environmental chemistry and alternative energy sources

    Also, I personally know many students who fully support the prospect of a ‘green’ campus.

    Please don’t judge Christians, or Oklahoma Christian, because of a single person’s opinion.