An open letter to Dr. Dobson
Recently, I read the letter that you and others sent to the National Association of Evangelicals, urging them to step away from the issue of global warming, and to stop shifting “the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.” I also read some of the rebuttals you received from people like Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren.
Dr. Dobson, this whole thing makes me heart-sick. It troubles me that a man of your influence cannot see that the “great moral issues” might also include the fact that over 800 million people in this world are still living with hunger. What about the fact millions of people are dying of HIV/AIDS? And what about the fact that, because of the greed and excessive consumerism in “developed” countries, global warming is having the most profoundly damaging effect on the poor and vulnerable?
I have read through the gospels several times, Dr. Dobson, and every time I do, I am reminded that one of the things that Jesus talks about the most is that we should care for the poor. Where does that fit into your “great moral issues”? If someone does not even have enough food to eat and has to put their child to bed hungry every night, how can you have the audacity to tell them that the only thing Christians should be concerned about are morality, abortion, and the evils of same-sex marriage?
Your letter goes on to say that population control is a dangerous issue that Christians should not concern themselves with because the only way population control can be achieved is “by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere.” So, in other words you’re suggesting that your definition of morality should always trump the other issues in this world, like over-population in developing countries and the spread of HIV/AIDS? Might I suggest to you that if we first addressed the heavy burden of poverty, we might THEN be able to address the morality issues you’re concerned about? Take for example the situation where the men in the village need to leave the village to find work to feed their families. While in a foreign place, living with intense loneliness, they take up with prostitutes who infect them with HIV. They then return home and infect their innocent wives and children. Yes, you’re right of course, their immorality is wrong, but perhaps the whole problem might have been averted if the root of the problem – poverty – had been addressed in the first place. Preaching to them about the evils of immorality will not save their wives and children from death at the hands of AIDS or hunger-related illness.
Let’s go back to global warming. Not long ago, I visited a nomadic tribe in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Historically, this region faced drought every twelve years or so. Because they had sufficient rains in the years in between, they could usually survive the barren years and still maintain their nomadic lifestyles, following their cattle to drinking holes and grazing lands. But now, due to global warming, they face drought every 5 to 7 years, and their lifestyles are no longer viable. They can’t count on the in-between years to sustain them through the barren years, and most of them are living with extreme hunger. Add to that challenge the freak weather patterns that come along with global warming – like the flood that wiped out many of their roads and bridges last year – and you have millions of people left scrounging for food in desperate situations.
I saw the faces of the children, Dr. Dobson. I held their hands. I tell you that there is no way I could have preached to them about morality if I didn’t first offer them food and the promise that I would strive to play a smaller part in the global warming that is destroying them.
Dr. Dobson, I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, so I cannot “prove” global warming nor can I present a great theological argument about what I believe is our responsibility to respond. I can, however, tell you what I have seen and what is on my heart.
It is my prayer that the Christian church can someday set aside the divisions and together address what I believe are the great moral issues that you should at least consider adding to your list. If nothing else, Dr. Dobson, I wish you would at least consider Jim Wallis’ invitation to join him in a healthy debate on these issues. We all need to keep an open mind – myself included.