Denying science in general and the science of climate change in particular is now an article of faith for white American evangelicals right up there with the divinity of Christ. Thus when Trump announced that he is withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he was not only doing the bidding of the Koch brothers and the oil, coal and gas oligarchs but was also keeping a promise to his white evangelical science-loathing core supporters.
Erick Erickson (the evangelical editor of the conservative website the Resurgence), proclaimed on Twitter that: “I worship Jesus, not Mother Earth… He calls us all to be good stewards of the planet, but doesn’t mean I have to care about global warming.” Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican Representative from Michigan told supporters, that, “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.”
Evangelicals have been at war with science since the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial.”
The American Civil Liberties Union defended a teacher convicted of teaching evolution. By the mid-20th century evangelicals found themselves trusting radio hosts and then TV hosts in the evangelical subculture more than scientists. Before that they’d learned to trust their intellectuals including my late evangelist-philosopher father Francis Schaeffer, and the writer C.S. Lewis, instead of “liberal academics.”
Dad and Lewis and many others made the argument that a literal belief in the Bible was still reasonable. In fact it was more accurate than science in describing the universe and its workings. An entire body of so-called apologetics was developed by people like Lewis and Dad wherein they used arguments to “prove” the “historic truth” of the Bible’s claims. They did this by using everything from rising crime statistics (see what happens when God is expelled from society!) to studies on happiness of married couples (see how “biblical norms ” about sex work out better!) or how “modern philosophy leads to despair” (see how sad Camus and Sartre were because they had no faith!)—to argue the Bible’s superiority to the world’s wisdom.
Thus evangelicals — already shaped by suspicion of “worldly knowledge” — were easily seduced by well-directed dollars spent to shape their existing bias against facts. People such as the Koch brothers deliberately fed the evangelical’s resentment of the so-called secular elites by telling them that global warming was a “hoax” and so forth.
Other conservatives with an agenda also cashed in to bring millions of evangelical votes to conservative candidates. For instance, long before Trump promised to abandon the Paris climate accord, the far right activist, and former lefty, David Horowitz, was using his tax-exempt group to rail against the science of global warming.
Among Horowitz’s anti-liberal targets was climate change. He’s attacked the science of climate change repeatedly as a “ruse by the left.” His Frontpagemag.com made fun of global warming with headlines such as “New Study Says Global Warming Is Good For Polar Bears” and “Global Warming Ended in 1996.”
Horowitz has been careful to sometimes use, evangelical code as he’s introduced his Freedom Center’s mission to evangelicals. He talks about defending“traditional American values”– in other words white heterosexual oligarchs running the world. (Horowitz is a “red diaper baby” of communist parents. By the late 1970s, he had decided that the left was a threat to the United States and become an activist on the far right.)
Just how far have evangelicals reshaped their call to save the world for Christ into bare knuckle power politics? Consider how even white evangelical women voted for Trump as 53 percent of white women chose to support Trump over Hillary. Trump’s life and words and actions demean women. Evangelical women know that but voted for him anyway.
Today my father (who died in 1984) would be shocked to see where his life’s work — among other things helping to launch the evangelical anti-abortion movement that led to the marriage between the Republican Party and the religious right — has ended up. Dad would hate Trump. He’d be sickened by Trump’s attack on our globe’s climate health.
In 1970 Dad wrote a book Pollution and the Death of Man, dedicated to convincing evangelicals that their Bible-based beliefs were the best reason to care for the planet. He was way ahead of the curve on this. He even folded his ecological argument into yet another apologetic “reason” to want to believe in God. Dad wrote: “The man who believes things are there only by chance cannot give things a real intrinsic value. But for the Christian, there is an intrinsic value. The value of a thing is not in itself autonomously, but because God made it. It deserves this respect as something which was created by God, as man himself has been created by God” (Chapter 4).
These days evangelicals rarely quote Dad’s pro-environmental book. Rather they talk about how my father led the way in “standing up to the secular humanists.” That’s code for denying the truth of science, facts and the reality and deadly threat, of man-made climate change. The Trump/white evangelical god is made in the image of Ayn Rand with–as it were–art direction borrowed from Blade Runner. The world according to these white evangelical anti-Christs and their false prophet is one of unrelenting disregard for all life on earth.
These days the evangelical mind has been so twisted and manipulated by the far right and the oil and gas lobby’s “think tanks” that they really believe that they are “standing up to those liberals” and “secular humanists” by siding with a molester of women who is now gleefully raping the planet that evangelicals used to believe God gave to humans as a beautiful gift.