Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

A group of 40 protesters rallied on the capitol steps in opposition to the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline which will carry fracked gas through Kentucky’s Bluegrass region. Participants quoted Scripture and cited their faith as their reason to oppose it. It’s laudable that some in the Christian community are actively engaging in policy discussions over the environment. Yet some ironic contradictions exist.

Faithful America— the group responsible for collecting 36,000 signatures in opposition to the pipeline, says on its website petition “Stand with Sisters against dangerous fracking pipeline.” To be accurate, the pipeline isn’t fracking, but it carries gas that is, which is no more dangerous transporting than gas recovered via conventional methods.  It’s the controversial extraction method that has opponents miffed.

Fracking may potentially cause groundwater and air pollution, and be responsible for small earthquakes. Long-term effects are unknown, hence the protests. On the other hand, fracking has created many jobs, provided cheaper energy and is moving our nation toward energy independence.  So who’s right?

Participants in the November 5 protest said their faith motivates them to care for the earth. Susan Classen of the Sisters of Loretto appealed to the Psalms “that the whole Earth is full of the steadfast love of God.” Unwittingly, the group behind the petition drive undermines the same Scriptures on other hot-button issues, namely the biblical understanding of human sexuality and ordering of human relationships. Faithful America has another petition drive critical of the Methodist Church which may defrock pastors who are performing gay weddings. They’ve labeled conservative Christians who are opposed to homosexuality as “haters”; and beaten up the Boy Scouts for their position on open homosexuality in the ranks.

Al a carte theology anyone?

A solid Biblical foundation indeed exists for Faithful America and the Sisters of Loretto who care deeply for the earth, after all care of creation is a mandate from God. But their moral authority is compromised when nary a word is said about ravishing the human ecology. Where is their voice on moral boundaries for human conduct? Are abortion, homosexuality and homosexual marriage norms that society should aspire to?  Too many human beings have been ruined from rejecting moral boundaries in the 21st century and when the caretakers of creation are hurt, creation itself suffers.

To put a finer point on it: if sexual rules are relaxed within our species, how can one tell a corporation they should not rape the earth? Sexual license and sexual violation are two sides of the same coin. Both are called sins in the Bible, otherwise known to our modern ears as that book too many conveniently brandish to prove a point, or neglect altogether when the truth hits too close to home.

What is lost in this battle for the moral high ground in this corner of creation we call Kentucky is that once mankind disregards transcendent rules for how it ought to conduct itself, it loses an authoritative basis to tell others how to treat the earth.

Moral relativism meet Wild West.

Here’s why societal morals should concern environmentalists as much as fracking: when people have so mismanaged human relationships such as marriage and fatherhood, they are less apt to husband the land. When they have so abused themselves with whatever drug or overindulged in whatever pursuit of pleasure, how will they find any energy or concern left to care for creation? In other words, how can one promote healthy human connections to the environment while dismissing the idea that there is a correct ordering of human relationships?

Faithful America is right in that the church has something to say about how people should treat God’s creation. Equally true is that Kentucky’s moral ecology has been mined to depletion and those crying in the wilderness for renewed moral life have been unfortunately branded as bigots. Where are the modern day Thoreau’s and Audubon’s standing up to a Philistine culture that is expert in the banal and knows so little of the harmonious?

Romans 8:19 says “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” One doesn’t need to be a believer to long for harmony here and now, but finding the moral authority is the challenge. It’s a good start for the Christian left to look to the Bible as an authoritative source for environmental renewal, but jettisoning passages about human relationships is like straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

This appeared in the Oak Grove Eagle Post on November 20, 2013: