Evangelicals and Climate Change

February 21, 2018

Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment, by Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2016)

Paul Douglas describes himself as “a Christian, serial entrepreneur, meteorologist, Eagle Scout, and staunch Republican.” He forecasts the weather on Minneapolis-St. Paul TV. He believes that people “should be open to the facts, even when they make us squirm.”

Mitch Hescox comes from a coal mining family. In college he “encountered the truth, relevance, and mystery of the Bible.” He spent eighteen years pastoring a local church and then entered a national ministry centered on evangelism. He now heads the Evangelical Environmental Council.

These two authors believe that “there’s a place for science and a simultaneous faith in real absolutes, like a sovereign, all-powerful God. We believe in God. Science we test. And careful observations in the real world confirm that our actions are having unintended and profound consequences.” Their goal is “to turn down the volume of rhetoric, antagonism, and name-calling and focus on finding common ground: faith-based solutions that elevate personal responsibility and conservative values to tackle problems that face us” (p. 17).

Ideas discussed in this 169-page book (plus notes) can be summarized under three recommendations.

First, pay attention to what is happening to the weather, our climate, and the well-being of people and creation. They list six trends that got their attention and that readers should keep in mind; 1. Heat Waves, Droughts, and Wildfires; 2. More intense precipitation events; 3. Sea Level Rise; 4. More Intense Hurricanes; 5. Ocean Acidification; and 6. More “Weather Whiplash.”

Second, reaffirm the biblical doctrine of creation by a loving God and recover the God-given responsibility to care for creation.

Third, make creation care a major part of your life, thereby expressing your love of God and doing your part to bequeath the world to generations still to come.

The authors refer positively to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality. These two books have much in common, which means that people whose religious commitments differ significantly can find value in reading both books. The Pope’s analyses and proposals are more comprehensive that those given by Hescox and Douglas, but their book, Caring for Creation, is more focused on environmental challenges in the United States. Both volumes can be recommended as religiously sensitive and complementary studies of the environmental crisis facing the world.

For many readers, the most important chapter is the one entitled “We Can Do It—With God’s Help.” Its thesis is: “By working together with God as our guide, we can rebuild our land with unpolluted air, pure water, healthy kids, and good jobs powered by new energies. All of which can also be shared with all of God’s children around the world. . .Government can’t do it, business can’t go it alone, and we won’t be able to do it by ourselves. But we can do it together” (p. 141).

The chapter abounds with examples of actions now under way that are making the kind of difference that will accomplish the hopes that Hescox and Mitchell recommend. Although the author’s do not include a reading list, their thirteen pages of notes provide leads to a significant number of studies, reports, and statements of opinion.

Major Taylor: The World’s Most Popular Athlete

February 8, 2018

Major Taylor: The Inspiring Story of a Black Cyclist and the Men Who Helped Him Achieve Worldwide Fame, by Conrad Kerber and Terry Kerber; Foreword by Greg LeMond (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2014)

The cycling life of Marshall W. “Major” Taylor is inspiring, as the authors of this biography claim in the subtitle to their thoroughly documented and graphically written biography. He was born November 28, 1878, on a farm near Indianapolis, at a time when racist antagonism toward African Americans was at a high point and lynchings were public spectacles. At home he experienced love, developed good work disciplines, and learned to play the piano.

His father, a Civil War veteran and horse trainer, often took his eight-year-old son with him to the home of a wealthy Indianapolis family where he worked as coachman. Marshall played with Daniel, the owner’s son, and his friends, and the owner bought Marshall a bicycle, which had become the rage everywhere, so he could ride with the other boys.

Marshall quickly outperformed his companions. He also taught himself how to do trick riding. Along with Daniel, he was privately tutored and learned the rudiments of reading and writing.

When he was thirteen, Marshall took his bike to a bicycle shop, one of several along Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis, and was given a job that paid a little more than his paper route. A couple of years later, at another bike shop, he met Louis Munger, a thirty-year-old racer whose legs were giving out. Impressed by the scrawny teenager’s abilities on a bicycle, Munger became his trainer and friend, helped Marshall enter amateur races, and prepared him for the professional circuit.

About the same time, he met Arthur Zimmerman, one of the most celebrated cyclists of the era, who also befriended the young, inexperienced black athlete. With help from Munger and Zimmie, Marshall became an aggressive cyclist, specializing in short distance sprint races in which he clearly surpassed virtually every other rider. Taylor’s distinctive and powerful riding style won races, endeared him to spectators, and drew ever larger crowds, much to the delight of promoters.

The cycling establishment and most cyclists were opposed to allowing black people to compete in their sport. Much of this book details the terrible odds that Marshall faced. Other racers conspired against him, so that he would be boxed in, forced off course, and sometimes injured. A low point was when an enraged cyclist jumped on Taylor who was still lying on the track after an accident and came close to choking him to death. Despite the criminal character of the event, the assailant’s attack received only a modest penalty. Read more. . . . The World’s Most Popular Athlete