September 29, 2008
Imagine the media reaction if a prominent American Christian leader condoned vandalism at abortion clinics. Now imagine the reaction if he went beyond condoning vandalism and agreed to appear as a witness for the defense at the trial of those vandals.
Then imagine what would happen if he decided to export his religiously motivated crusade to another country.
Well, that’s exactly what just happened, except the religion wasn’t Christianity—it was environmentalism.
Last October, a group of Greenpeace members climbed a chimney at a power plant in Kent, England, and started to paint the words “Gordon Bin It.” The “Gordon” referred to was Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the “it” was a plan to build new coal-fired power plants at the site.
The group argued that they had a “lawful excuse” for their actions: They were trying to prevent even greater damage like “flooding from rising sea levels and damage to species” from man-made global warming.
They were charged with vandalism, and at the trial the star witness for the defense was James Hansen of NASA. That’s right, NASA, an agency of the United States government.
Twenty years ago, Hansen first sounded the alarm over man-made global warming. And as time has passed, his rhetoric has escalated. In June, he called for the CEOs of fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for “crimes against humanity and nature.”
These so-called crimes included spreading doubt about man-made global warming. In other words, disagreeing with Hansen.
At the trial, Hansen said that “somebody needs to stand up and take a leadership role” in the fight against global warming.
Avoiding “disintegration of the ice sheets [and minimizing] species extinction” requires “immediate action” he said—action that included getting rid of coal-firing plants like the one vandalized.
Hansen’s words apparently did the trick because the jury acquitted all six defendants.
Now, reasonable people can differ over the reality of man-made global warming, but it is difficult to see how what happened in Kent met the requirements of a “lawful excuse.” That standard, as the judge told the jurors, requires an “immediate need to protect property belonging to another.” Even the most enthusiastic proponents of man-made global warming acknowledge that their most dire scenarios are decades, if not centuries, away.
What happened in England is further proof of what author Michael Crichton meant when he called modern environmentalism “one of the most powerful religions in the Western World”—a religion that divides the world between “sinner” or “saved,” the “side of salvation” or the “side of doom.”
As if to confirm Crichton’s point, on the same day the Greenpeace members were acquitted, an English city council voted to impose “hefty fines” on people for using the wrong recycling bins.
So what we have here is an appeal to a “higher law”—made by a U.S. government official no less—calling for an inquisition of sorts, and zealous punishment of even the tiniest infraction.
And the media dares to call Christians “fanatics”?
Reasonable people can disagree about global warming or the role of religion in public life. But there’s no excuse—lawful or otherwise—for double standards. Especially with the newest of all religions, environmentalism.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
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From BreakPoint, July 31, 2008, posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.