Christians v. the Environmentalists

Humanitarians are usually known for their kind words as much as for their good intentions. Not so with media mogul Ted Turner. Turner recently spoke at an environmental gathering in Chattanooga—and he didn't mince words. According to Turner, not only is Christianity "not an environmentally friendly religion," but Christians themselves are "dummies.” Turner wants the smart people of the world to get all these dumb Christians "to come along with us," as Turner put it. Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda, spend much time and money on so-called humanitarian causes. They blame Christianity for pollution and the alleged overpopulation of the world. Turner argues that the "Judeo-Christian religion" has turned cities like Calcutta into "hellhole[s]." Why? Because the Bible says humans are to have dominion over all the earth, and calls us to "be fruitful and multiply." But as Christian economist Calvin Beisner writes in the Atlanta Constitution, Turner's argument refutes itself. Over the centuries, Christians have had little influence on Calcutta. By contrast, Turner's home of Atlanta "arose in a culture dominated by Christianity," Beisner writes. If Christianity is responsible for Calcutta's miserable conditions, then Atlanta ought to be far worse. After all, it's part of the Dummy Belt—I mean, the Bible Belt. Well, the truth, of course, is that Atlanta's prosperity—and for that matter, Ted Turner's prosperity—can in large part be traced to the underlying Christian worldview of the West. This worldview brought about the rule of law and political stability necessary for thriving economic markets—the kind that nurtures companies like CNN. In the same way, writes Beisner, "the ethics of Hinduism and other such religions are among the most important underlying causes of Calcutta's poverty and that of the rest of the Third World." There are many reasons why cities like Calcutta are poor and dirty, but none of them is because of Christianity or overpopulation. India's problems can be traced to a worldview that entrenches poverty and political instability by promoting a caste system that values some lives less than others. By contrast, the Christian worldview makes possible the prosperity we in the West—and Ted Turner—take for granted. Only Christianity provides an understanding of the true value of human lives. Christians believe that all humans are created in God's image and thus have great value—no matter how many of us there are or the color of our skin. This Christian respect for all human beings provides the foundation for the kind of political structure necessary to eliminate poverty. But, this is not to say that Christianity has not had an impact on a city like Calcutta. Indeed it has. Contrary to what Ted Turner believes, however, that impact has been positive, and can be summed up in two words: Mother Teresa. If Turner truly wants to be humanitarian, he ought to carry on the legacy of this beautiful Christian saint, who lifted thousands of India's dying lepers out of the gutters and showed them God's love. In doing so, she gave the people of Calcutta a gift of far greater value than the birth control pills Ted Turner wants them to take. And that's something even dummies can understand.


Chuck Colson



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