Crisis talk is the currency of the mass (and niche) media, and it can lead to a mentality that is paradoxically anxious (always attuned to the next crisis) and numbed (unable to distinguish the crises that lead to serious and long-term problems from those of momentary urgency — or the events that are merely outrageous or scandalous). Sometimes a crisis becomes a turning point, for an individual or a group, but for this to happen, there needs to have been an already-established potential, and openness to the possibility of a new direction, an awareness of the problems and tensions in old approaches.
It’s hard to disagree with this statement by Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commenting on the Gulf oil spill: “Human flourishing means a healthy natural environment, and it simply isn’t good for ourselves or for our neighbors to live in a world that is completely paved over and in which every piece of green land is replaced with a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.” (For the full story, check out this story on the NPR website.)
When I brought this article to her attention, a friend of mine, a UMC minister and long-time environmentalist, noted that evangelicals are “late to the party” on the issues of environmental justice and corporate responsibility, and this is true. Once they are at the party, though, they may well reorganize it to suit themselves. At the very least, they have the potential to add a great deal of mobilizing capacity (making a bigger party, one that’s harder to ignore) via the formidable evangelical apparatus of overlapping elite networks across multiple institutional arenas.
Or at least that’s the hope of people like Dr. Moore. Of course, the traditional evangelical base, united around issues of human reproduction, gender, and sexuality, has not seen the same kind of unanimous embracing of the environmental cause (though there has been a growing passion for such issues among younger evangelicals). Will the Gulf oil spill be the defining moment that Dr. Moore hopes it will be?
Keep watching. . .