Bill McKibben at UNCA tonight


From Mountain Xpress:

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, The Global Warming Reader, and other defining books on the environment has become a galvanizing force in American politics. On tour, he will be visiting
Asheville on Wednesday, November 30 to speak at Lipinsky Hall, on the campus of UNCA. The program begins at 7:00 PM.

While McKibben is best known for his environmental writing, there’s a non-environmental essay from 2005 I keep going back to: The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong. McKibben examines that bizarre amalgam of Horatio Alger, Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ that for many Americans passes for Christianity, the same faith that informs McKibben’s environmentalism.

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical; it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans—most American Christians—are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.


And on and on. The power of the Christian right rests largely in the fact that they boldly claim religious authority, and by their very boldness convince the rest of us that they must know what they’re talking about. They’re like the guy who gives you directions with such loud confidence that you drive on even though the road appears to be turning into a faint, rutted track. But their theology is appealing for another reason too: it coincides with what we want to believe. How nice it would be if Jesus had declared that our income was ours to keep, instead of insisting that we had to share. How satisfying it would be if we were supposed to hate our enemies. Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell.

Categories : Environment, Events, Religion


  1. TJ says:

    ” Religious conservatives will always have a comparatively easy sell.”

    Well, yeah, and I find myself getting one of two reactions when I attend a Sunday School… one, I have people coming up afterward and thanking me for my questions, and encouraging me (in an almost low whisper, as if they are saying something subversive) to say what I think. Or, the more common, until recently, at least, is to get defensive and not have a response to my questions, such as “you’re talking about unity in the “body of Christ.” How do you define “unity,” when people seldom go outside the walls of their church and visit another? How often do you talk to that other Baptist church down the street (never mind the Presbyterian ones)?

    I think most are relieved when I get bored with the non-responsive reactions, and go on in search of a real thinking person in the midst of orthodoxy (is that an oxymoron?)

  2. Tom Sullivan says:

    Standing Room Only at Lapinski Aud.

  3. TJ says:

    Wish I had seen this before. Sounds like it would have been interesting. I wonder how many of the people there are the ones who REALLY need to hear him. I think they would feel too threatened by someone having an original thought.

  4. Tom Sullivan says:

    Writer Bill McKibben speaking in Asheville relates a story of visiting the man behind China having solar hot water in 25% of its homes. Shows Bill his “museum,” featuring a large, rusty piece of equipment.

    “Do you know what this is?” the man asks.

    Bill doesn’t.

    It’s one of the solar panels that Jimmy Carter put on the roof of the White House in 1979, and that Ronald Reagan took down in 1985.

  5. tombuckner says:

    If there is a Hell, Reagan is there.

    If the human race doesn’t make it, Reagan will be part of the reason why.

  6. Tom Sullivan says:

    The radicals in the environmental movement are not us, says McKibben. They are the people who get up every morning to deliberately change the chemical composition of the atmosphere to make money. You’d be reluctant to propose such a scheme for the villain in the next Bond film.

  7. McKibben was terrific (as usual).

    Short form: We need a carbon tax now or we are totally screwed. If we don’t take serious action in this decade the game is unquestionably over. And, it may be over already.

    If addressing the climate challenge isn’t on your to-do list every day, you haven’t been paying attention.

  8. Tom Buckner says:

    The bad news: I think we’ve been screwed for at least a decade.
    The good news: I am often wrong.