On global warming and sin

PUBLISHED: 12:25 28 July 2006 | UPDATED: 22:00 28 May 2010

Everyone with a grain of sense understands the need to look after our planet by taking steps to reduce global warming. And while many industries and governments seem to pay little heed to the consequences of subjecting it to consistent abuse, it is reassu

Everyone with a grain of sense understands the need to look after our planet by taking steps to reduce global warming.

And while many industries and governments seem to pay little heed to the consequences of subjecting it to consistent abuse, it is reassuring to know that the Church of England is taking a stand on this vital issue.

Or is it?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is on record as describing global warming in moral terms, but last week the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, labelled buying gas guzzling vehicles or flying on holiday as a sin.

Dr Chartres is the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, so his views ought to carry some weight.

He said: "Sin is not just a restricted list of moral mistakes. It is living a life turned in on itself where people ignore the consequences of their actions."

Giving that one accepts the concept of sin, I suppose no-one can argue with that. But an extension of that argument, in another statement attributed to him, may well upset a lot of people, including churchgoers: "There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly on the earth and we need to make lifestyle decisions in that light. Making selfish choices, such as flying on holiday or buying a car are a symptom of sin."

Is it really? There will be many millions of people, inside and outside the church, from governments, board rooms of big business to the humble man in the street, who will take issue with that.

This is a classic case of a man who does not live in the real world coming up with what he, and probably his equally-sheltered cronies, consider to be a stunning pronouncement.

In truth he has shot himself in the foot.

We do need a moral lead from the Church. The world would be a far safer place if its basic tenets were more firmly printed in people's minds.

But such specious and half-baked statements do nothing more than make the church a laughing stock in the eyes of the majority.

The Church's 'senior management' should be bright enough to recognise that. The fact that it almost certainly isn't is a genuine cause for concern.

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