Woke Oregon Professor Blames ‘White Christians’ for West Coast Wildfires

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires leap above Butts Canyon Road on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, as firefighters work to contain the blaze in unincorporated Lake County, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
AP Photo/Noah Berger

An Oregon State University professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies has alleged “white Christians” are to blame for West Coast wildfires because of their “denial of climate science.”

As revealed by the attentive folks at Campus Reform in an October 2 essay, Prof. Susan Shaw has insisted that “the West is burning while most white Christians turn away from the root causes of the devastation.”

Shaw writes that “the intensity and scope of these fires are a result of climate change” and its spread is due to the fact that “many Christians, especially white Christians, have embraced denial of climate science.”

“Just over half of white mainline Protestants agree that climate change is a crisis or major problem,” Shaw declares. “Only 44% of white evangelicals say the same. Nearly a quarter say it’s not a problem at all.”

The problem is not just religious but is also political, Shaw predictably asserts.

“The disturbing link between white evangelical support for Trump and disregard for climate change that disproportionately affects poor people of color around the world should probably not be all that surprising,” writes Shaw, who states that her “current research interests are in feminist studies in religion.”

“Not surprisingly, more than 70% of Democrats accept that human activity causes climate change, while only 22% of Republicans do,” Shaw laments. “Scholars suggest that politics more than religion may drive these beliefs, especially in such a partisan context as we presently have.”

Shaw fails to mention the role of forest management in the rampant spread of the fires. Last month, NPR observed that “California and Oregon in particular are far behind stated goals of treating millions of acres of forests and wild lands through restoration projects, selective thinning of trees and brush and prescribed burning.”

“The treatments they’ve been implementing for years haven’t really been at the scale that they need to be to offset a wind-driven, climate change-exacerbated event,” said Andrew Sánchez Meador, director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University.

Similarly, Chuck DeVore, the vice president of national initiatives at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, wrote last year in Forbes that “it’s not climate change that’s burning up the forests, killing people, and destroying hundreds of homes; it’s decades of environmental mismanagement that has created a tinderbox of unharvested timber, dead trees, and thick underbrush.”

Shaw, instead, sees the problem as rooted in apocalyptic evangelicalism.

“Many white Christians believe God won’t let climate change destroy the earth. Others see climate-related disasters as signs of the end times,” she declares.

Prof. Shaw does not explain how exactly the spread of West Coast wildfires would be curbed if evangelicals were to buy into climate alarmism.

When Campus Reform asked Shaw about the strong language she used, she responded: “I don’t think that language is necessarily racially divisive or charged. It’s descriptive, and it’s the language the research I cited uses to look at climate science beliefs across Christians.”

“The research shows that among Christians, Whites significantly more than Blacks or Latinos, deny, minimize, or ignore climate science,” Shaw said, adding “that race and social class, more than theological beliefs, contributes to White Christians’ denial of climate science.”

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