Scripture, Science, and Weather

February 9, 2013

Recently I had an  interaction with an acquaintance that went something like this:

Him: The weather’s been crazy lately, hasn’t it?

Me: Yeah.

Him: In the 60s one day, the 20s the next, snow, ice, then warm again…”

Me: Yeah, hitting the hot days in the middle of winter is pretty crazy,  then jumping back down throws everyone off.

Him: Hotter this year than ever, right?

Me: Yeah, apparently it was the hottest year on record with some of the most expensive damage and repair costs associated with natural disasters in history.

Him: Yeah, climate change.

Me: Yeah.

Him: Well, if you read your Bible you know this is what’s supposed to happen, right?

*

This, as the generic wording hopefully tells you, was not an academic or “officially religious” interaction. This was a quick small talk interaction with an acquaintance. What’s interesting is the use of scripture by this person, this conflation of the text leading to an unlikely (if errant in arrival and analysis of) agreement with the scientific community on an environmental issue from a conservative religious perspective. Religiously speaking, we can say that many have always seen current events as signifying Biblical prophecy; Culturally speaking we can say that it has always been typical for a generation to see the unfolding of their following generation as the worst of all time. But scripturally  there are obvious holes in this particular analysis. If we look at what actually is in the biblical text, there are passages which speak of the end, the apocalypse, as being marked by signs–signs consisting of earthquakes, wars, and rumors of wars. [“And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”-Matt. 24:6-7] Personally, the meaning of this passage for me, for what a believing community could potentially take from it, is that these are things that continually happen in a fragile world–earthquakes have occurred throughout history and wars are sadly persistent. The take away, the way in which these recurrent events are signifiers for apocalypse is personal–any day could be your last, your own end could very well be nigh, thus make sure you are making the right choices now; don’t put them off until tomorrow (and of course this passage can be deconstructed historically-critically as pointing to the destruction of the Temple, etc. but those are all other issues than what we’re dealing with here). But of note also is that scientifically, data shows that non-ecological disasters are not more prevalent today than in the past–the number of earthquakes has remained steady for all of recorded history. What have increased in frequency and intensity are ecological disasters, “weather” events like hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc., which practically every member of the scientific community links to carbon use, the burning of fossil fuels, which hasresulted in global warming (a topic I’ve addressed repeatedly here and am not deeply re-visiting for this particular foray). The danger in the use of scripture to accidentally arrive at a similar position as a secular scientific position is certainly not that the two meet in the middle (for that is good and possible)–the danger is in the take away. For a scientist, human caused climate change can entail human patterns of change to avoid or repair some of the damage; for a conservative Christian who may wish for the end so that something divine and better may come, the current state is a fatalistic realized Prophecy that one should not–and would not be able to, anyway–attempt to correct.

That’s all I have to say in this introductory piece; this is the start of a thread which examines the ways in which people actively engage with and use scripture, positively and negatively, to inform their opinions and guide their actions.

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4 Responses to “Scripture, Science, and Weather”

  1. […] in America today. If you would like to take a look at the conversation so far, feel free to click here to read the prologue “Scripture, Science, and Weather” and here to read the first full article of the series, “Scripture in Common Use: Oversight 1: […]

  2. […] wants to read where it has gone so far feel free to click the following links. I began with a prologue piece recounting a conversation I had with an acquaintance on science and climate change that unexpectedly detoured into scripture. […]

  3. […] that may have–not just on those who adhere to a particular scripture, but to everyone. The prologue I did for this series briefly described a conversation on climate change; on issues such as that […]

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