Via T19 and Hot Air, respectively, a pair of terrific pieces by Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest. The first is a smack-down of the bishops of Mead’s Episcopal Church, whose penchant for political pronouncements over pastoral work is helping to kill the denomination. He makes clear that it’s an affliction that plagues the leadership of the mainline churches in general. It’s worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the money quote:
The job of a bishop isn’t to make statements about the minimum wage or the Iraq war. It’s to help the clergy in his or her diocese form communities that produce dynamic, committed and intelligent laypeople who will shape political debates on these and many other matters. A bishop isn’t here to inject Christian values into public policy debates; a bishop is here to inject mature, thoughtful and committed Christians into public life. The Diocese of Long Island shouldn’t be taking stands on the minimum wage; it should be producing people who transform the life of the region at every level of engagement.
If the bishops were already doing this pretty well I would be much more tolerant of their occasional ventures into public debate. But it’s as plain as day that en masse the American bishops are catastrophically failing at that core task — as indeed are their colleagues in the other mainline denominations. In the parlous state of today’s Episcopal church, every dime a diocese spends and every minute of a bishop’s working day needs to be focused on local congregations. The church is melting before their eyes and many bishops seem to be passively watching it happen; at most they hope to manage decline as smoothly as possible.
The second is an obituary for the climate change movement from one who sympathizes with what it was trying to accomplish, but is appalled at the way it did it business. Mead is a political as well as religious liberal, but he’s also a clear thinker, and recognizes that regardless of the science, the politicians and scientists who tried to turn a scientific enterprise into an apocalyptic hysteria screwed up on behalf of all of us:
The Washington Post this morning has a strong story on the collapse of the movement to stop climate change through a binding treaty negotiated under UN auspices. And even the normally taciturn New York Times is admitting that the resignation of the top UN climate change negotiator suggests that no global treaty will be coming this year.
As the Post story shows, the mainstream media is now coming to terms with the death. Environmentalists are still trying to avoid pulling the plug, but the corpse is already cool to the touch and soon it will begin to smell. As the global greens move from the denial stage of the grief process, brace yourself for some eloquent, petulant and arrogant rage. Tears will be shed and hands will be wrung. The world is stupid, uncaring, unworthy to be saved. Horrible Republicans, evil Chinese, demented know-nothing climate skeptics have ruined the world and condemned our grandchildren to lives of sorrow and pain. Messengers will be shot; skeptics will be blamed for asking questions and the media (and the internet) will be blamed for reporting the answers.
The climate change movement now needs to regroup, and at some point it will have to confront a central, unpalatable fact: the wounds from which it is bleeding so profusely are mostly its own fault. This phase of the climate change movement was immature, unrealistic and naive. It was poorly organized and foolishly led. It adopted an unrealistic and unreachable political goal, and sought to stampede world opinion through misleading and exaggerated statements. It lacked the most elementary level of political realism–all the more egregious given the movement’s politically sophisticated and very rich opponents. Foundation staff, activists and sympathetic journalists cocooned themselves in an echo chamber of comfortable group-think, and as they toasted one another in green Kool-Aid they thought they were making progress when actually they were slowly and painfully digging themselves into an ever-deeper hole.
Again, read it all. The point is not that the scientific conclusions are necessarily wrong–there is evidence of warming, though that evidence is not definitive and has some questionable elements; there is evidence of a human contribution, though that evidence is weaker and is plagued by politically motivated handling. The point is that the advocates of the theories (here think Al Gore, Mead’s chief target) have come across like something out of a science fiction novel, when they haven’t come across like religious fanatics (or total lifestyle hypocrites–think Gore or the Prince of Wales).
Mead’s a guy I’m going to be reading more in the future. For now, Joe Bob says check it out.