Notes On An Idol

The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit this earth and the kingdom of heaven, too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer

A great many of our attitudes and principles which we adopt as Christian are nothing but products of our subjection to the world.
Jacques Ellul, False Presence of the Kingdom

Marxism thought itself to have progressed from Utopia to science. Environmentalism makes a corresponding claim for itself.

Dimitri Stakhevich Moor. Have You Volunteered? Poster, 1929.
Dimitri Stakhevich Moor. Have You Volunteered? Poster, 1929.

In his 1981 foreword to The Captive Mind, written some thirty years earlier, Czeslaw Milosz observed that the West, no less than Eastern Europe still in the Soviet bloc, was burdened with ideological pressures to conform. But he cited one essential distinction between them: “The difference is that in the West one may resist such pressure without being held guilty of a mortal sin.”

Some thirty four years later, that distinction is close to disappearing. Growing mightily all the while is the cult of environmentalism, a burgeoning state religion summarized in the catechism of sustainable development. It is the ascendant idol of our time, as magnetic—and totalizing—as the Leninist-Stalinist doctrines were to Milosz’ contemporaries. What the poet referred to as “the magic influence of the new faith,” is replicated among ourselves with a new, seemingly benign, identity.

Think Green


Orthodox environmentalism is about very much more than saving giraffes or cleaning up the Hudson. The faith we are asked to embrace is the holy cause of building a new social order—a just, sustainable, and harmonious global society—by means of messianic environmentalism. We are pressed on all sides to shun skepticism and align ourselves with the ectopian gospel.

A populist pope, Peronist by culture and inclination, is preparing to lend magisterial heft to the Green creed. In the minds of the faithful, assent will become a quasi-infallible demand. Cached in theological language designed to legitimize a premature, scientifically unsettled judgment, a politicized—essentially materialist—agenda will assume the mantle of God’s will.  False knowledge, already given sanctuary in academia and the press, will receive immunity to criticism on high moral grounds. Agnosticism toward the diktats of climate-change evangelists will be further marginalized. Its tincture of depravity will deepen. Catholics will find themselves pressed to enlist on God’s side in the cosmic war against demon unbelief.

Francis’ encyclical will arrive as a call to conversion.

Conversion here is key. Redemption is of ultimate significance, too urgent to be left to the reasoning mind and the risks of frank, unfettered argument. It is far, far too pivotal to wait for the raw data on which conviction rests. Empirical results might not come soon enough. Or at all. The only thing that can save is a prompt change of heart and habit: pre-emptive metanoia.

A.R. Golenkina. The Torch of the Third International Inflames the Whole World. Porcelain Plate, 1922.
A.R. Golenkina. The Torch of the Third International Inflames the Whole World. Porcelain Plate, 1922.

On November 10, 2014, Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic from 2003 to 2013, spoke in London at an event commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Standpoint published his address under the title “Communism’s Comeback?” Klaus lamented a post-Communist lessening of democratic and economic freedoms in his homeland:

It was caused partly by the victory of social democracy in our country and partly by the importing of the European economic system, with its over-regulation, high taxation and redistribution, welfare state, and fascination with all kinds of anti-market measures, connected nowadays mostly with environmentalism, with its anti-democratic social ideology which successfully hides its real substance while pretending to care about nature, the environment and our Blue Planet. We may be oversensitive in this respect because of our long Communist experience but we see many similar phenomena, tendencies, ambitions and arguments around us today.

Gustav Klutsis. Let Us Fulfill the Plan of the Great Project. Poster, 1930. Russian State Museum, Moscow.
Gustav Klutsis. Let Us Fulfill the Plan of the Great Project. Poster, 1930. Russian State Museum, Moscow.

There is little need to wait for the climate encyclical to know which way this trolley is headed. On its website, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences announces an April 28th conference: Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: the Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Humanity. Its mission statement is steeped in the received wisdom that enchants today’s collective mind. Discernible within the Academy’s rhetoric, buoyant with exalted intention, is the will to dominion that drives the global environmental movement:

The goal of this workshop is to raise awareness and build a consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable; to elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical; and to help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change throughout 2015 and beyond.

John Heartfield. Capitalism Robs You of the Last Piece of Bread (1932). Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich.
John Heartfield. Capitalism Robs You of the Last Piece of Bread (1932). Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich.

The Vatican’s slouch toward salvation-by-ecology did not begin with Pope Francis. Daniel Stone, writing in National Geographic in 2013 stated that one lasting legacy of Benedict XVI, dubbed the “Green Pope,” was how he steered the global debate over climate change:  ” . . . the pontiff has made environmental awareness a key tenant of his tenure.” In Caritas in Veritate (2009), Benedict signaled his hope for a “world political authority.” This global political body—a Brussels universalized and sacralized—would dictate procedures governing multiple global issues, environmental among them.

World political authority. It is a chilling phrase, one that runs counter to Christian understanding of the limits of politics. It is also an odd one, coming from as astute and subtle a theologian as Benedict. The mission of the Church is to keep man mindful that he has another life to live. When the Church maneuvers to be counted a player among the principalities and powers, the subversion of Christian truth and charity has begun. The true object of Green globalism is not human needs, but those of the planet. The culture of death wears many guises. Among them are the anti-humanist assumptions of environmentalism.

Two is enough
Yesterday’s Gospel reading (John 6: 28-29) hovers over this discussion:

Then they said unto him: What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God: that you believe in him whom he hath sent.

All the rest, with its time-bound, tragic burdens, is the work of man. And men of good will, in their God-given freedom, differ in definitions of the common good and in means to achieve it. Turning stones into bread is not a work for the Pontifical Academy.

Trufim Lysenko speaking at the Kremlin, 1935.
Trufim Lysenko speaking at the Kremlin, 1935.

Remember the Lysenko affair. It was the twentieth century’s most notorious instance of the scandal—and tragedy—of politically correct science. By stacking the deck in favor of a manufactured “consensus” over the still-contested issue of man-made global warming, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences risks comparison with the ideologically driven postures of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era.

You might not like the comparison. But it merits consideration.