Turn or burn? A new liberal hell?

June 19, 2008

burn in hellTurn or Burn T-shirtWe’ve all met them. The “turn or burn” type evangelicals. Those who give evangelicals their bad name. Those who drive the idea that faith is about a fear for hell. But time has passed, most of us don’t take them very seriously, few people I know actually still try this take on evangelism, and even with someone like Kimball that still try to make hell and important concept, it’s important that hell should not become the motivating factor for evangelism.

But more and more we are getting the “turn or burn” message with global warming as well. Those angry liberals (and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep moaning about the conservatives (and yes, I think this is stupid labels) who only worry about heaven (and more often than not more about hell than heaven) and is of “no earthly good” now have there own hell. It’s a hell on earth. And if you don’t turn… well, you will burn. If you don’t change your ecological lifestyle then you will have it hot in a couple of years time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I feel very strong about the ecology. I accept what scientists tell me about global warming (yes, I know that there isn’t consensus). I took a lot of trouble this year to make global warming a larger part of the Engineering curriculum at the University of Pretoria (OK, it’s just one week’s worth of ethics lectures more, but I tried!). Sometimes I even think an extremist like James Lovelock might be right!

What I’m concerned about is when the motivation for change become fear, which just cause people to again react against it (what I think underlies a post like this). Global warming should be feared, but when that is all that motivate the changes we make, then I doubt how deeply we really change.

Now, those not converting people by making them afraid of hell, could either tell them of the utopia of heaven, or tell them about a story by which to make sense of life. This isn’t a post about evangelism, so I’ll not go into that too deeply. Point is that I believe that there is some deeper reason to change why we do things the way we do. Not because of our fear of a hell on earth, neither because we are promised an earthly utopia when we do change. Rather because there is a way of making sense of our lives which call us to live different.

Our Green Spirituality should be based on respect for creation, on a love for creation. If ever we do find ways of undoing every bit of damage we do to the earth, would that give us a pass to do whatever we want? If fear is all that drive us, then yes, it will. But if we live life in a way which search for harmony with creation, then a different approach is needed. Oh, and with harmony we obviously need to remember to humans are part of creation, so human extinction projects is not what I’ll be proposing.

As followers of Jesus we should talk about ecology, but then remember that there is a positive motivation for change. Global Warming seem to be the result of humans not living in harmony, not the motivation for changing our lives which is not in harmony. And this can be true whether Global Warming is the issue or not!

This post is a part of the June Synchroblog on “Green Living and Spirituality.” 

Other bloggers:

Is it All About the Green? by Phil Wyman
Rediscovering Humanity’s Primal Commission by Adam Gonnerman
Bashing SUV’s for Jesus by David Fisher
Little Green Man by Sonja Andrews 
Saints and Animals by Steve Hayes

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8 Responses to “Turn or burn? A new liberal hell?”


  1. […] About the Green? by Phil Wyman Rediscovering Humanity’s Primal Commission by Adam Gonnerman Turn or Burn? A New Liberal Hell? by Cobus van Wyngaard Little Green Man by Sonja Andrews  Saints and Animals by Steve […]


  2. […] About the Green? by Phil Wyman Rediscovering Humanity’s Primal Commission by Adam Gonnerman Turn or Burn? A New Liberal Hell? by Cobus van Wyngaard Little Green Men by Sonja Andrews Bashing SUV’s for Jesus by David […]

  3. Adam G. Says:

    So, go for a positive spin? Makes sense, though I would suggest that a strong sense of urgency needs to be present, particularly with regard to island nations most immediately impacted by warming.

    Great contribution to the synchroblog.

  4. sonja Says:

    Cobus, have you read No Exit by French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre? I think maybe you’d find it a good read …

  5. Cobus Says:

    Yip, a positive spin. I think the Christian tradition and the message of Jesus is rich enough to be both positive and radically urgent!

    But in the ecology department we are going to need more than urgent, we are going to need long-term as well. We need to make some changes urgently, but it’s gonna take some long-term planning to get humans back onto an ecological track.

    In this long-term journey we are going to need more than fear.

  6. EJ Hill Says:

    Regarding those “‘turn or burn’ type evangelicals. Those who give evangelicals their bad name. Those who drive the idea that faith is about a fear for hell” — I’ve been one of those… thank God He released me from the “ETERNAL TORMENT CAMP” … I posted some stuff regarding “the idea that faith is about a fear for hell” at http://www.ejays.co.za/index.php/Subjective_Emotional_Impulses and http://www.ejays.co.za/index.php/The_Immortality_of_the_Soul_and_the_Final_Condition_of_the_Wicked_Carefully_Considered

  7. Jim Says:

    The false prophets (or emergents if you will) of Jeremiahs day also went for a positive spin… it is still turn or burn, especially for those who claim to be “Christ followers”. Just ask John the Baptist.

    -www.fleebabylon.com

  8. Lourens Says:

    Good post Cobus, I could not agree more with what you said, which we both know is an ocation to be celebrated.


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