I’ll admit, I sometimes listen to National Public Radio. I’ve considered it to be a good source for news and current events. Recently though, church friends have challenged this practice as unwise – citing NPR’s leftward slant. I’ve withstood this challenge, suggesting that I’d like to think that the slant isn’t that substantial.

I’ll further confess this: Last Sunday morning, after I dropped off two of my sons at church for an early worship rehearsal, and as I was heading back to get the rest of my family, I dialed up NPR. Just, you know, to see what was happening in the world.


The story that started up, even as I was leaving the church parking lot, was this interesting piece from their “Sunday Conversation” series – “A Christian Climate Scientist’s Mission To Convert Nonbelievers.”

It was an interview with an atmospheric scientist who’s “also a devout Christian”. She’s “spent the last few years trying to convince other Christians that climate change is real.”

She described two anti-climate change arguments she’s heard from Christians-

One of the biggest issues I often get asked is if God is in control, how could this happen? Or to put it another way, doesn’t the idea that humans could change climate threaten the idea of the sovereignty of God? And the answer to that is actually pretty simple. It’s free will. God gave us the brains to make good choices, and there’s consequences to the choices that we make. And that’s what climate change is. It’s a consequence to the fact that we have an industrialized society that depends on coal and oil and gas for many of our resources.

And another argument that you hear a lot in Christian circles is, well, if the world is going to end anyways, why bother? In fact, won’t this just hasten the end of the world? And in that case, we can actually look directly to the book of Thessalonians where Paul wrote to people very strongly. And the apostle said, don’t just quit your job and lay around waiting for Christ to return. Go get a job, work, support your family and care for the poor. That’s what we’re intended to do, not just sit around and say, ah, it’s going to end anyways.

Comments to NPR:
So, is it your goal to be seen as having a liberal slant? Because this is the kind of piece that will do it. And it’s not primarily the story – it’s what’s in the subtext of the story.

Unspoken, but clearly conveyed were these ideas –

1. Generally speaking, devout Christians don’t believe in climate change (or if you’d like – A good percentage of climate-change-deniers are devout Christians). Katherine is shown here as an exception, fighting against the rule.
2. Those who don’t believe in climate change* are wrong.

And the ingenious attribute of subtext is that, since the underlying ideas are inherently understood to be true, the story writers don’t feel the need to give evidence to show they are true. The truth of the subtext is assumed.

But thoughtful people on either side of the issue can see through what you’re doing. And many non-Christians would disagree with both of these premises.

I might add another telling subtext of the story:

3. Conservative devout Christians merely lack understanding of the real issues and should be ‘converted”, “convinced”, and told that “each of us already has the values in our hearts that we need to care about this issue”

That seems just a little condescending.

In any case, this story (at the very least) could accurately be used as evidence of a left leaning slant in NPR programming.

Comments to Climate Change Advocates:
I’ve seen arguments from Christians (and non Christians) who don’t believe in climate change and they don’t use religious reasons as their defense. They are skeptical for logical, scientific and political reasons and they use logical, scientific and political debate methods to refute the ideas behind climate change.

You should deal with those issues. That’s the more honest approach. Strawmen don’t become you.

But I would commend Mrs. Hayhoe’s method here. It’s apparent that her approach is non-vitriolic and non-combative. And she’s trying to find common ground with those she’s debating. This is wise.

Comments to Christians:
I think one of the lessons from this NPR story is this – while debating political issues, especially when dealing with non-Christians (but even sometimes when dealing with Christians), be very hesitant to use arguments based on religion. Because if you use poor logic based on your understanding of God, or if it can be made to look foolish, it sure can be used against you.

In this story, the only two arguments the interviewee refuted were the above religious examples she cited in the beginning.

1. My God wouldn’t let climate change happen.
2. If it’s God’s will to end the world this way, nothing we can do can stop him.

I find myself wondering if these were the two least thoughtful comments she’s received in the years she’s made these presentations, and perhaps that’s why she’s using them on national radio. Because they are both very easy to dispatch**, and she does a pretty good job of it, too (even citing Thessalonians in her rebuttal – impressive, but I think she’s misrepresenting Paul’s words here).

If you’re arguing with a theologian, it’s wise to use theological reasoning. But if you’re arguing with a scientist, be more hesitant to use a God-based argument. And if you do, make good and sure it’s biblically thought out – not based on your general ideas of what God is like.

And everyone should take a cue from this devout Christian/environmental scientist. Finding common ground with those you are debating is always a good first step.


* I had ‘global warming’ here, but I just noticed that they don’t have ‘global warming’ anywhere in the story, so I changed all of my references to it to ‘climate change’

** I sure hope these arguments weren’t from the same Christian, because as anyone can see who thinks about them for more than a half minute, they are contradictory to each other.