climate change

Yet more forecasting on what to expect in religion news and trends during 2019

Yet more forecasting on what to expect in religion news and trends during 2019

Those who read GetReligion on Dec. 20 (thereby postponing their holiday chores) may recall The Religion Guy’s list of the big three religion news themes for the new year:

(1) Ongoing debate over using the CRISPR technique to create human “designer babies” and manipulate genes that will be passed along to future generations. (The Guy – uniquely -- also proclaimed this the #1 religion story of 2018.)

(2) How Catholic leaders cope with multiplying cases of priests molesting minors, both at Pope Francis’ February summit and afterward. And don’t neglect those Protestant sexual abuse scandals.

(3) Reverberations from the United Methodist Church’s special February General Conference that decides whether and how to either hold together or to split over same-sex issues.

On the same theme, Religion News Service posted a longish item New Year’s Eve headlined “What’s coming for religion in 2019? Here’s what the experts predict.” This was a collection of brief articles commissioned from a multi-faith lineup. It turned out to be one of those ideas that seemed better in the story conference than in the resulting copy.

Understandably, no panelist expected an end to the persistent Catholic scandals.

Otherwise, the pieces predicted things like this:

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Failure of foresight? New York Times looks at globalization and the immigration backlash

Failure of foresight? New York Times looks at globalization and the immigration backlash

Funny thing about us humans. We persist in believing that we can have our cake and eat it, too -- notwithstanding the proof positive of an empty plate.

In its own complicated way, this also holds true for immigration, of course. (Have I mentioned previously that everything is connected to everything else and that this reality often involves religion? Repeatedly, actually.)

We delight in globalization’s immediate benefits -- cheaper foreign-made garments, instant international communications, exotic vacations that a generation ago middle-class travelers could only dream about, the transfer of capital across international borders to a degree previously impossible and more.

Yet we persist in ignoring that globalization is also a lure for those in the world’s poorest and most violent nations to seek a better life in the world’s wealthier and safer nations. They also want the good life that our globalized news and entertainment media have dangled before them.

We forget, or simply ignore, all this because as a specie we tend to prefer short-term material gains; quite frankly, the glitter blinds us. That is, until the day comes when we belatedly wake up and notice -- and then default into push-back mode -- that these globalized immigrants have different religious, social and political outlooks; that they speak foreign languages and have different skin colors, all of which are the stuff of massive demographic change.

This brings me to a recent New York Times business section piece that combined extensive graphics with solid reporting, a fast-growing online journalism trend.

The piece sought to explain the spreading trans-Atlantic backlash against the massive global movement of people over the last decades.

Here’s how The Times’  lede put the problem. This is long, but essential:

Immigration is reshaping societies around the globe. Barriers erected by wealthier nations have been unable to keep out those from the global South -- typically poor, and often desperate -- who come searching for work and a better life.

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Is climate change an excuse to not have kids? The New York Times focuses on half of this debate

Is climate change an excuse to not have kids? The New York Times focuses on half of this debate

Some of you are old enough to remember the 1960s, when books like “The Population Bomb” warned of coming mass starvation if people didn’t stop having kids. And some folks took that warning seriously and decided to forgo childbearing.

Places like China with its brutal, obscene “One Child” policy forced people onto birth control after one child (and aborting any further pregnancies) while none of the predicted famines occurred

Fast forward 50 years and while Africa is still booming, demographic drops in places like Japan and Korea are at near-crisis levels; China’s population is aging faster than anywhere else and half the world’s nations have fertility rates below the replacement level of two children per woman. 

Now there’s another reason not to have kids: Climate change. The New York Times tells us why:

It is not an easy time for people to feel hopeful, with the effects of global warming no longer theoretical, projections becoming more dire and governmental action lagging. And while few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43.
A 32-year-old who always thought she would have children can no longer justify it to herself. A Mormon has bucked the expectations of her religion by resolving to adopt rather than give birth. An Ohio woman had her first child after an unplanned pregnancy — and then had a second because she did not want her daughter to face an environmental collapse alone.
Among them, there is a sense of being saddled with painful ethical questions that previous generations did not have to confront. Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines flood, wildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally.

I’m glad they involved someone from a religious background and a Mormon at that, because of Latter-day Saints’ doctrine encouraging large families. Another few paragraphs later:

Parents like Amanda Perry Miller, a Christian youth leader and mother of two in Independence, Ohio, share her fears.

Please respect our Commenting Policy's take on climate change blames same old fundamentalist hobgoblins's take on climate change blames same old fundamentalist hobgoblins

I know journalists are seeking good click-bait headlines, but’s “The Fundamentalists Holding us Back from a Climate Change Solution” sounded overwrought right from the get-go.

But I wanted to linger, as I’m interested in what all these news/feature/opinion forums, aka millennial niche sites (Quartz, Vice, Vox, Vocativ, Mic, BuzzFeed, OZY, Fusion, The Ringer, etc.) offer in terms of religion reporting. Most don’t seem to have a specialist on staff.

So they get a freelancer or staff writer, who may or may not know anything about religion, to hold forth. Which is why I was interested in’s take on climate change problems. The use of “fundamentalists” in the headline is a red flag, in that this term is hardly used these days (and the Associated Press Stylebook says it should be used carefully). The folks described in the opening paragraphs are actually evangelicals.

It's unclear whether the writer knows the difference between the two, but our own Richard Ostling explains things for the uninitiated. Vice says:

Rachel Lamb grew up thinking that climate change was a liberal hoax. That's what everyone thought at the rural Michigan church where her dad was the pastor. The world was slowly getting hotter, but that fact was rarely mentioned in the Baptist social circles she spun through, and when it was, it was in the context of something Democrats blew way out of proportion. Her attitude about the subject was more wary than antagonistic. If someone were to come up to her clique and suggest that the climate was changing, their response would most likely be a sarcastic, Where'd you hear that from?
Although the 27-year-old used to go hiking in national parks with her family as a kid, she was taught to think of her love of Jesus and her appreciation of nature as being separate—two puzzle pieces that made up the larger picture of her personality but didn't fit together. Then she took a climate change politics course at Wheaton College, a Christian university in Illinois, where her worldview coalesced and she found her purpose.

We next learn that she is a member of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, but that progressive groups like hers are foiled by that:

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Media warming: How to — and how not to — report on evangelical skepticism on climate change

Media warming: How to — and how not to — report on evangelical skepticism on climate change

Many journalists were less than thrilled with President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. In fact, a commentary writer for the right-leaning Washington Examiner suggested that the news media "dropped all pretense of objectivity" in bemoaning the decision. 

A short USA Today story — published before Trump's announcement — illustrates the "It's settled science" approach to climate change coverage that's so common.

The report concerns a Michigan congressman who said he believes God can take care of any global warming.

The headline:

GOP congressman on climate change: God will 'take care of it' if it's real

And the lede:

WASHINGTON — Michigan GOP Rep. Tim Walberg isn’t concerned about the effects of climate change — if it exists — because God will “take care of it.”

Am I the only one who finds that headline and lede a little snarky?

Keep reading, and — to its credit — the national newspaper includes Walberg's full quote. That is helpful because it allows readers to assess for themselves what he said:

“I believe there’s climate change,” Walberg said, according to a video of the exchange obtained first published by the Huffington Post. “I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I think there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.”
“Why do I believe that?” he continued. “Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

But USA Today's short piece of clickbait offers next to no background or context on Walberg, the climate change debate or — this is a biggie — why a statement from one of 535 members of Congress is national news.

For readers interested in more serious reporting, Religion News Service had a nice roundup of various religious leaders' reactions to Trump's decision.

Moreover, The Washington Post's all-star religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey — a former GetReligionista — produced a quintessential take on "Why so many white evangelicals in Trump’s base are deeply skeptical of climate change."


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Anti-clickbait: This post won't mention YOU KNOW WHO. Warning! International news

Anti-clickbait: This post won't mention YOU KNOW WHO. Warning! International news

On my iPad the other day, I was checking the top headlines on a major news organization's app. 

A certain influential national elected official/former reality TV star was everywhere. I must have counted his name in 15 headlines before I got to one that didn't include him. Then immediately after that came a half-dozen more that did.

Social media is even worse: Twitter and Facebook have become a vast wasteland of folks on the right and left who don't seem to realize the election was over three months ago. Apparently, these people eat, drink and sleep U.S. politics and intend to wage online war until Jesus returns. (Soon, please?)

Of course, I'm the last one who ought to be preaching on this overkill. I've lost count of how many stories, columns and blog posts I've written, just in the last few weeks, about HE WHO (JUST THIS ONCE) SHALL NOT BE NAMED.

Alas, news is news. I know that. And there's no doubt that the guy with the world's most interesting (that's not necessarily a compliment) haircut is big news. The biggest. Yuuuuuuuggge!!! 

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After 75 years, evangelicals in science still debate Darwin, Bible and evolution

After 75 years, evangelicals in science still debate Darwin, Bible and evolution

This past July the annual conference of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christians in the sciences, offered a high-powered speaker lineup on the human brain and mind: Justin Barrett, director of the psychological science program at Fuller Theological Seminary; Audrey Bowden, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University; Edward Davis, historian of science at Messiah College; Douglas Lauffenburger, biological engineering professor at M.I.T.; William Newsome, director of Stanford’s Neurosciences Institute; and Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Roger Wiens.

The equally intriguing 2017 conference, July 28-31 at Colorado School of Mines, will focus on environmental science and -- yes –- “climate change.” And on Oct. 11 the organization will be marking the 75th anniversary of its founding with a banquet at Wheaton College in Illinois. The current issue of the ASA quarterly, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (check here), is devoted to the group’s history, and Colorado State University molecular biologist Terry Gray has posted a series of historical articles.

Full membership in ASA is restricted to persons with bachelor’s degrees or beyond in the sciences who affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and belief in “the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.” Most are evangelical-type Protestants.

Though members’ interests range from chaos theory to entomology to the morality of fracking, the most heated debates usually swirl around Darwin, evolution, creation, the Book of Genesis, origin of the universe and of earthly species and, therefore, what it means to be human.

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Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Science v. creationism 2.0 -- but this time, RNS stays at arm's length

Gold star for follow-up in the Religion News Service's story on scientist Bill Nye's visit to the Ark Encounter theme park. But a half-star for trying to do it by remote.

When last we saw Bill with  Ken Ham, the developer of the replica of Noah's watercraft, they were debating creationism versus evolution.  As I wrote on Friday, RNS' onsite story outperformed national media like The New York Times.

What a great opportunity to lengthen its lede, eh? Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The follow-up just pulls public statements, creating a follow-up with a detached, superficial feel to it.

Here is how the article tells it:

And it was "like the debate all over again but more intense at times," according to a blog post by Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers in Genesis. Ham also posted on social media about Nye’s visit, which occurred on Friday (July 8).
"Bill challenged me about the content of many of our exhibits, and I challenged him about what he claimed and what he believed," Ham said on Facebook. "It was a clash of world views."

Just a Facebook post? (Actually, Ham also posted the story on Answers in Genesis.) Well, hmm. What content did they discuss? On what topics did they most challenge each other?  

Good questions for a phone interview, no? But if RNS tried one, it doesn't say. Further down, the article has Ham quoting Nye saying "not crazy to believe we descended from Martians." Ham answers, of course, that it's no more crazy to believe that "we descended from Adam and Eve."

And what did the "Science Guy" say about the visit? We get another non-answer:

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Texas Monthly finds an evangelical who gets climate change, then drops the ball (updated)

Texas Monthly finds an evangelical who gets climate change, then drops the ball (updated)

Personally, I was agnostic about climate change until I spent last year in Alaska. Living in Fairbanks and hearing ordinary people talk about the winters getting warmer, how the cold isn’t what it used to be and hearing how “break-up” (the melting of Alaska’s vast rivers) is happening earlier and earlier each spring, made a believer out of me.

The winter I was there (2015), the Iditarod was held in Fairbanks for the second time in its history because Anchorage had no snow. When I visited the Alyeska ski resort to try some downhill just east of Anchorage, we had to schuss in a bowl near the top, as all of the runs at the base were bare.

All the evangelical Christians I met up there accepted climate change as a fact, so it’s intrigued me as to why so many in the Lower 48 are fighting it. Which is why I was attracted to this article in Texas Monthly that explains why one evangelical scholar is for it. It begins:

One clear day last spring, Katharine Hayhoe walked into the limestone chambers of the Austin City Council to brief the members during a special meeting on how prepared the city was to deal with disasters and extreme weather. A respected atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, the 43-year-old had been invited to discuss climate change, and she breezed through her PowerPoint slides, delivering stark news in an upbeat manner: unless carbon emissions were swiftly curbed, in the coming decades Texas would see stronger heat waves, harsher summers, and torrential rainfall separated by longer periods of drought.
“Why do we care about all of this stuff?” Hayhoe asked. “Because it has huge financial impacts.” The number of billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States had ballooned from one or two per year in the eighties to eight to twelve today, Hayhoe explained as she pulled up a slide with a map of the country. “Texas is in the crosshairs of those events, because we get it all, don’t we? We get the floods and the droughts, the hailstorms and the ice storms, and even the snow and the extreme heat. And we get the tornadoes, the hurricanes, and the sea-level rise. There isn’t much that we don’t get.”

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