Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

False Stewardship: Dobson's Is a Fringe Position Gussied Up in Mainstream Garb

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

False Stewardship: Dobson's Is a Fringe Position Gussied Up in Mainstream Garb

Article excerpt

James Dobson believes that Christians should be good stewards of the earth. He said so on his radio show in May--right after he harshly criticized the National Association of Evangelicals' Rich Cizik, who has led a tireless crusade against global warming. (Dobson's censure also included Jim Wallis and Sojourners.) According to Dobson, Christians should not let environmental "doomsday theories" distract there from abortion and same-sex marriage. Stewardship, while crucial, doesn't require any particular action on global warming.

Dobson's careful words fail to mask the familiar polities behind them. His claim that Cizik is "dividing evangelicals" points to the Religious Right's vulnerability to a curveball tossed into a field otherwise marked by partisan clarity. And his complaint that Cizik wants "to roll back the use of fossil fuels ... which would paralyze industry" is both unfair to Cizik's position and a reminder that the strange bedfellows of big business and the Religious Right seem committed to making their love last.

Yet Dobson affirms stewardship, a small comfort given his unwillingness to do anything about it. Conveniently, he cites the lack of unanimous scientific agreement on global warming--an unrealistic expectation, especially considering the high stakes.

And Focus on the Family is not simply ignoring scientific consensus and the many Christians (including evangelicals) convinced that the time to act is now--it's actively opposing them. Dobson's "stewardship" is pure lip service; his view of creation in fact fits into a theology of dominion. Dominionism's narrow reading of Genesis 1:269.8 emphasizes that Christians are to "have dominion" over worldly institutions and over the creation itself, and it dismisses any suggestion that the latter might not allow rank exploitation of the earth.

A 2005 Focus environmental statement rejects that the Genesis mandate "justifies pillaging the earth" but insists that environmental concerns should always be secondary to "basic human welfare." But environmental problems affect people, not just some notion of "the earth" that excludes them. Global warming has potentially cataclysmic consequences, especially for the poor. The distinction between exploiting the earth and merely valuing humans most may sound reasonable, but its neatness relies on the fiction that our lives are not dependent on the health of all creation. …

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