May 21, 2011 has come and gone without any signs of the apocalypse, and some Christian leaders are calling for Family Radio’s Harold Camping to publicly repent for promulgating his armageddon theory, essentially destroying the many families who have spent the last of their savings spreading his doomsday message. I think more than anything, Camping should be held accountable for promoting the idea that God rains natural disasters down from heaven, causing volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as some sort of punishment for our disobedience. If anything, yesterday’s volcanic eruption in Iceland and the (minor) earthquake that hit islands off the coast of New Zealand should get us thinking about stewardship of the Earth, not being raptured from it.
Just as God doesn’t send earthquakes or make volcanoes erupt, man didn’t create these things, either. But our actions may be contributing to increased seismic and tectonic activity. In the wake of Japan’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, scientists have been trying to decipher to what extent global warming might be the catalyst for the extreme weather events in recent years. The Montreal Gazette reported in March that “some scientists theorize that the sudden melting of glaciers due to man-made climate change is lightening the load on the Earth’s surface, allowing its mantle to rebound upwards and causing plates to become unstuck.”
The Gazette notes that “the surface of the Earth is elastic. A heavy load such as a glacier will cause it to sink, pushing aside the liquid rock underneath.” Martin Sharp, a glaciologist at the University of Alberta, adds, a melting glacier “changes the stress load in the crust” and says “maybe it opens up routes for lava to come to the surface.”
Scientists in Iceland suggested the same thing after the enormous volcanic eruption there last Spring. Reuters reported, “A thaw of Iceland’s ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground.” Carolina Pagli, a geophysicist at the University of Leeds in England, told Reuters that “climate change could also trigger volcanic eruptions or earthquakes in places such as Mount Erebus in Antarctica, the Aleutian islands of Alaska or Patagonia in South America.”
What confounds me about all this rapture nonsense – and right-wing Christianity in general – is that if biblical living is so important to Camping and his ilk, why is it that they chose to ignore God’s commandment to be good stewards of the Earth? It’s written in Isaiah 11:9, “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Leviticus 25:23-24 says, “The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.” Of course both of these passages are from the Old Testament, and evangelical Christians tend to focus on Jesus and the New Testament.
I’ve often thought the problem with worshipping Jesus is that Jesus is supposedly God in human form. I understand the need to humanize God in order to swallow a concept so large and loose as an omnipresent spirit of good (or wrath, depending on how you see it), but what I can’t abide is the foolhardy notion some Christians have that the Earth’s abundance will never run dry. Some “prosperity preachers” even go so far as to suggest that God has given us the Earth’s resources to exploit for our own financial gain. I mean, remember Jesus throwing over the tables of the money-lenders in the temple and all that? It seems to me J.C. is not big into material wealth, what with his shoddy sandals and all. But the bible contradicts itself a million ways, so pulling one passage from it to counter another is all too easy, and therefore using it as a guide for living can be quite tricky. Does God want us to take care of the Earth or did he give us the Earth to pillage as we see fit?
If we don’t do our part to curtail global warming, end-of-days-style natural disasters may indeed someday strike. The Earth has gone through periods of warming and cooling before, sure, so it’s not as if humanity is entirely to blame. But why say that we’ve contributed at all to our own demise? Maybe we’re just gluttons for punishment who can’t handle beauty so we wind up being self-destructive. That’s what I think the never-ending need to pinpoint a date for the armageddon is all about. But if God really did create the Earth, as it says in the bible, shouldn’t Christians be doing all they can to preserve it, instead of waiting for its ultimate destruction?