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Letter 39 | American Values Religious Voices

Letter 39

William P. Brown

William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament
Columbia Theological Seminary

February 27, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

As an ordained Presbyterian minister and teacher, I love the Bible, as I know many of you do too. Its authority teaches me to respect other authorities, including those who practice science.

The Bible praises Solomon for his knowledge of nature and the way he spoke about trees and animals (1 Kings 4:33). Biblical wisdom draws heavily from the natural realm for its insights, as when Ecclesiastes observes: “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth endures forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4; also Proverbs 30:18-31; Job 38-41; Psalm 104).

The Bible also mandates care for God’s creation. When Genesis speaks of humanity having “dominion” over creation (Genesis 1:26-30), it does not mean domination or exploitation of the earth and its creatures. If there were any doubt about that, the very next chapter clarifies that Adam’s job is to “serve” and “preserve” the garden (Genesis 2:15). The Bible makes clear that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1). We are only tenants on the vast and beautiful land God has loaned to us (Leviticus 25:23).

Today I worry about our world as ecological crises continue to mount. Make no mistake: these are not hoaxes. As we enter into what some are calling “the long emergency,” we are at a crossroads that requires wise and courageous leadership, the kind of leadership that has the long term in view and strives to preserve the health of the planet and “all that is in it.” The only way forward begins with trusting science and acting accordingly. Making sure “the earth endures forever” means implementing policies that encourage conservation and a greater reliance on renewable energy. Should not the conservative party of our democracy champion the cause of conservation? Energy independence is a laudable goal, but it can only happen through independence from fossil fuels. An economy without a healthy planet is a failed economy.

I pray that you will exercise the kind of leadership that will ensure the well-being of our planet for future generations. Otherwise, our children and their children will never forgive us.

Sincerely,

William P. Brown

William P. Brown
William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament
Columbia Theological Seminary

 

About the author

William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  He is the author of several books and numerous essays on biblical interpretation and theology, including Sacred Sense (Eerdmans), Wisdom’s Wonder (Eerdmans), The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (Oxford University), Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor (Westminster John Knox). He was a founding member of Earth Covenant Ministry in Atlanta, now part of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL).