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Did I Meet Evangelicals or Emergents at “Seizing an Alternative” Conference

August 22, 2015

I can’t believe I did that! I guess I never got back to answering the question I posed before attending the “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization” conference in early June.  And I gave only one short report on the conference a few days after it.  Sorry!

I’m not going to do much reporting on old “news” now, other than to reiterate that the conference was a unique and particularly important event.  Mainly for the focus on not just the civilizational challenges facing us but what we can do about them… and right away!  The broad consensus seemed to echo what is now coming out of the Federal Government, delivered by President Obama: That the chance to at least potentially make a reversal in lethal trends is quickly slipping away.  We may be the last generation with the chance.  

The consensus, in this setting, was not coming from mainly climate scientists (this was not a technical conference for “insiders” like that).  Rather, some of the brightest and most ethically, compassionately motivated people in the world (China and other nations, not just the US) were sharing out of the insights of their own disciplines, as they interact with others on climate change, ecology, economy, etc.  People like Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, Herman Daly (world-class retired economist), John Cobb and David Griffin (world-class retired philosopher/theologians) and many others.

By the way, for any climate-change-deniers you may know, you might make them aware that many of the presenters (and I know particularly so in John Cobb and David Griffin) are extremely skilled in critical analysis and are “skeptics” about the good will of government in many cases.  They are not ones to be snowed if indeed, as people like U.S. Senator, Jim Inhof of Oklahoma claim, there is a massive collusion among scientists that amounts to a hoax… or even just sloppy work.  Deep skills in philosophy/theology are very akin to those in science.  Science emerged from the “Queen of the Sciences” in primarily the 17th century, initially as “natural philosophy”.   Only later did its naturalistic assumptions cause a deep rift with much of religion.  There is no careful and deep analysis, that I’ve ever been able to find (and I’ve looked some), in the “denier” position… just psychological or loyalty (think $, mainly) resistances.

Anyway, to finally answer my own question, I did indeed find a few people at the conference who self-identify as Evangelical.  But very few.  And the only two I can recall are both clearly more progressive and open than most of their counterparts or institutions they are a part of.  One of them, Dr. Thomas Jay Oord, had recently been fired by the school he had taught at for many years, Northwest Nazarene University, over theological issues.

Now, I met only a tiny portion of the 1500 people who attended.  There were about 12 sections with about 70 “tracks” so I imagine there could have been a few Evangelicals scattered around.  However, many of the participants were not religious at all… some from engineering/ecology or other scientific disciplines may actually be anti-religious though willing to work with partners where they can find them.  Overall, not a place I had expected to see many from the more conservative side of Christian faith, and those expectations seemed confirmed.  This is a sad situation.  But I do see many, particularly younger Evangelicals, making moves (often out of Evangelical circles) that are beginning to make a difference.

What are your observations, especially if you also attended?

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