Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Steady On

Written by: on March 2, 2021

When we die, we want to believe our time here on this earth was worth something, that we had a purpose and made a difference. In Apocalypse Never, Michael Shellenberger notes, “…secular people are attracted to apocalyptic environmentalism because it meets the same psychological and spiritual needs as Judeo-Christianity and other religions. Apocalyptic environmentalism gives people a purpose: to save the world from climate change, or some other environmental disaster. It provides people with a story that casts them as heroes, which some scholars…believe we need in order to find meaning in our lives.”[1]

Throughout the book, Shellenberger, a “Time magazine ‘Hero of the Environment’, Green Book Award winner, and founder and president of Environmental Progress,” tackles commonly held beliefs regarding climate change.[2] He explores everything from plastic contamination to animal extinctions. A common conclusion in his analysis of each situation is that 1) data regarding catastrophic environmental status was presented either incorrectly or incomplete, and 2) most climate change challenges can be remedied by more capitalist development rather than less, meaning the more prosperous a nation is, the better it is able to weather climate change disasters and fluctuations.

While I appreciate his in-depth analysis, it seems that the position he is taking isn’t much different than that of apocalyptic environmentalists (AE). Similar to AEs, he wants to make his mark in the world, and is pursuing this by compiling copious amounts of scientific data to debunk claims made by AEs and push forward his agenda through various political and economic channels.

While reading his words, I was reminded of the reality that researchers can make science say anything they want. During my undergraduate studies, I worked in a research laboratory at my university’s medical school. The lead researcher in the laboratory in which I worked was trying to find ways to help people with Type 1 Diabetes. My senior project included conducting experiments to discover DNA sequences associated with proteins that initiate insulin production. Research is grueling process. Experiments work and then they don’t. Along the way, you have to decide what data is valuable and what’s not; what results are highlighted and what isn’t. It takes a long time to discover possible solutions, and when deadlines loom, you want that possible solution to be the solution, or at least, a step closer to the solution. It is easy to make that happen based on how you choose to present the data. Scientific data is a moving target. Whether accurate or inaccurate, others build upon it and it continues to change and develop. The spectrum of knowing is always incomplete.

Biblical and theological studies are comparable in some ways to scientific research endeavors.  As pastors and ministry leaders, we evaluate, pick, and choose what parts of scripture serve us and others best. Many motives fuel which passages we choose to highlight or potentially to discount. Often those motives are self-serving. They are the ones that favor our positions of power and platform or try to move us or others into a position of power and platform. As with science, the spectrum of scriptural knowing is incomplete, and filled with truths, half-truths, and sometimes straight up lies.

Shellenberger continues his thoughts of environmental religion by saying, “…it has become increasingly apocalyptic, destructive, and self-defeating. It leads its adherents to demonize their opponents, often hypocritically. It drives them to seek to restrict power and prosperity at home and abroad. And it spreads anxiety and depression without meeting the deeper psychological, existential, and spiritual needs its ostensibly secular devotees seek.”[3]

As I read these words I wondered, “Is the American church any different? Have we not moved toward the extremes in ways that are also destructive and self-defeating? Do we not work to restrict power from marginalized groups? Are those in our congregations also left empty, depressed, and anxious because their deeper needs are not being met?”

As leaders, it is important to understand there is a spectrum of knowing in all things. In between the extremes, there is nuance. In order to understand nuance, we must be measured, curious, and humble. We must do our due diligence to explore various perspectives, working to comprehend the larger picture. When perspectives are passionately being flung to and from, we must be non-anxious, knowing there is always more to the story than is being presented. Such attentive leaders are able to discern fact from fiction, or at least be willing to examine what is presented as fact or fiction in a way that moves people toward wholeness through restoration in relationships and with creation.

In our current culture, being a levelheaded leader doesn’t garner much admiration. It is the extremists and the apocalyptics who are seen and heard most. So how do the quiet, measured, and thoughtful leaders make their mark on this world? How do they make a difference? How do they become the hero of the meaningful story?

I argue that they lean forward and steady on. In fact, it is the steady leaders throughout millennia that have brought us to this place and time, that have helped villages, cities, and nations grow and rebuild. They have quietly and persistently encouraged the masses of humanity to work in concert with one another, rather than against each other, thus moving humanity forward. Doing this work takes a steady presence, diligent spirit, and determined will to assume the best in others, and work for the best for others and this world. Doing this work requires us to release our desire to be the hero, and instead emulate our ultimate Hero, Jesus, who invites us to follow him. As we do, we discover meaning in life, hope in darkness, comfort in sorrow, and grace in all things, regardless of what “-ism” we are tackling.


[1] Michael Shellenberger. Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All. (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2020) 264.

[2] https://environmentalprogress.org/founder-president.

[3] Shellenberger, 265.

About the Author

Darcy Hansen

11 responses to “Steady On”

  1. Shawn Cramer says:

    Darcy, I took a similar approach this week considering what lies beyond the issue and author. You highlight making a mark on the world as a hero, and I appreciate that. Living as a faithful presence often isn’t heroic.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I wonder how we shift the perspective that being a faithful presence is non-heroic? As I think about the importance of faithful presence when experiencing loss and grief, that one thing is the common denominator for those who have felt loved and supported well in their grief. But to be a faithful presence, we have to show up consistently, embrace mystery, and humbly walk alongside others. We have to take a servant leadership role. I wonder what it would look like to tackle the big challenges of our day with such a posture? We likely won’t win an award, but made we could get some stuff done?

  2. Greg Reich says:

    I appreciate your slow and steady approach. We often want thinks done instantly without thought to the ramification. I love you line “Doing this work takes a steady presence, diligent spirit, and determined will to assume the best in others, and work for the best for others and this world.” I think this sums up things well.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      I continue to be amazed at Jesus’ non-anxious presence. He never moved too quickly or slowly. He just moved in a deliberate and determined way, trusting Spirit to lead. I think if his ideas about the Kingdom of Heaven weren’t so subversive, his steadiness likely would have gone unnoticed.

  3. Jer Swigart says:

    I resonate with your idea that we’ve made the extremes the heroes. Like them or not, their extremity forces us to give consideration to their thoughts and approaches. I’m finding that it’s the quiet leaders who listen longer than feels comfortable that I’m now attracted to. Their silence is less protest and more a deep listening. Yet it seems that their listening is not only to what is happening in the room but also to what is happening within. These are the leaders who discerning the whispers of the Spirit, determining what to do with them, and lending very little noise to the already loud space. When these leaders speak up, the room pivots…yet they don’t always speak up. Often, they need to be pursued.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      As I shared in our zoom last week, I’ve been reading The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. In it the author speaks of how when one spends extended time in the wilderness or upon the mountain (I haven’t gotten to the cloud section yet) their speech becomes silence, their prayers become breath, their presence becomes unified more fully with that of God’s. I wonder if that is what you are noticing in the leaders you are drawn to? There’s a settling and a unique perspective that comes from prolonged wilderness wandering (which I would argue those on the margins exist in, not necessarily by choice though). Like the desert mothers and fathers, their wisdom must be pursued, even waited upon, for revelation to come. But when it does, when we experience a glimpse of the Divine in a space, everything shifts in beautiful and profound ways.

  4. John McLarty says:

    In conversation with my post this week, your post made me think of how quickly we will take the words of someone on a far edge, make them those words and that person the entire argument for a position, then easily dismiss the whole other side as wrong and stupid. (I’m thinking about what most people in my community do whenever AOC tweets something.) It seems to me a means of avoiding the harder work of actually looking for solutions.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Agreed. It seems though we not only discount them, but also dehumanize them. I think when we fall on the extremes of the spectrum, we forget there’s a ton of info and people that fall in the in-between. We forget there are way more perspectives than the one we espouse to, or that even the one cling so tightly to may not be complete (especially when its a snappy sound bite). Gotta do the work to find the truth, or at least that which is more true on this day.

      • John McLarty says:

        This is not the first time in our history we’ve faced this, but it sure bothers me to hear leaders of a political party explicitly say that members of the other party “hate our country.” And what saddens me even more is how average citizens buy in to that rhetoric, based solely on their preferred news sources, social media echo chambers, and the face-value words of their leaders. It goes back to the mental models- Hanlon’s razor, I think- that begins with the assumption that a person is trying to do the best they can with what they have at any point in time, rather than beginning with an assumption of evil or malicious intent. It feels like people either are uncomfortable or unwilling to dive deeper into the nuance and complexity which would give them a broader perspective.

  5. Dylan Branson says:

    A phrase comes to mind – “nuance doesn’t sell”. I agree that the steady, level-headed leader is essential to moving us away from the extremes. However, perhaps it’s by their very definition and self that they are often ignored because they typically reside in the background. When you have someone screaming at you from both sides, it’s easy to forget that there’s a middle way. I think it’s also an identity issue to where we attach ourselves to something that makes sense on the surface, but we don’t necessarily want/have to do the dirty work of parsing it through.

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    He has an agenda, there’s no doubt. Really appreciate that you see this as well, Darcy!

    What do you think about arriving at a truth that takes everything into consideration? All the true arguments, kept, the honest relevant science kept, all the arguments and standpoints containing agenda, selfish interest, propaganda…tossed? Everything to do with capital interest, commodification of objects and subjects, tossed.

    Could this be a kind of due diligence?

    Then, there’s passion. Like those who’ve stood for months, protecting a watershed, a little valley and hillsides by a place called Port Renfrew on the Southwest Coast of the island. A place called Fairy Creek.

    While this little group remains resilient, until their time is up, so many other unprotected Old Growth forests, are being annihilated.

    The economy of life.

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