Oregon State Professor Blames Devastating Western Wildfires on White Christians

AP Photo/Noah Berge, File

A professor at Oregon State University wrote that “white Christians” bear responsibility for the devastating wildfires throughout Western states. Drawing on her… ahem… deep scientific knowledge as a professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Susan Shaw wrote that the intensity of the fires was driven by climate change, and “many Christians, especially white Christians, have embraced denial of climate science.”


Campus Reform picked up the story of Shaw’s article, which was first published in September:

When Campus Reform asked Shaw about the language she used, she responded by saying, “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.”

When asked why she chose to focus on White Christians, Shaw told Campus Reform that “the research shows that among Christians, Whites significantly more than Blacks or Latinos deny, minimize, or ignore climate science,” adding “that race and social class, more than theological beliefs, contributes to White Christians’ denial of climate science.”

Evidently being white and Christian, in Shaw’s world view, confers characteristics to this class of people that make them incapable of grasping her brilliance.

On September 11, Shaw published the op-ed, “Oregon is burning while most white Christians deny climate science,” at a site called Baptist News Global. She notes that millions of acres of forests burned in California, Oregon, and Washington in a matter of days due to an unusual weather event, and then follows the lead of Governors Gavin Newsom, Kate Brown, and Jay Inslee by pinning responsibility on climate change:

White Christians and climate change

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. Only 44% of white evangelicals say the same. Nearly a quarter say it’s not a problem at all.

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus on the role of human activity in climate change, only about 40% of white mainline Protestants, 45% of white Catholics, and 28% of white evangelicals accept this fact.

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

For now, the West is burning while most white Christians turn away from the root causes of the devastation.


Shaw then lays out several strawman arguments, saying, “Many white Christians believe God won’t let climate change destroy the earth. Others see climate-related disasters as signs of the end times. White evangelicals continue to support Donald Trump overwhelmingly, even though the Trump administration has tried to roll back more than 100 environmental protection regulations. As of this writing, Trump has offered no words of consolation or support to the West.”

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None of these arguments, of course, address the science behind climate change—or lack thereof. The logical fallacies of that paragraph should disqualify her from holding any position in the academy or church, but our modern society has long ago relinquished any pretense of logic in higher education.

Of course, she then launches into the trope that has become all too popular in 2020—that white fragility causes white evangelicals to jealously guard their station in life to the expense of people of color, and any denial of man’s involvement in climate change must therefore constitute inherent and systemic racism. As a professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, she really shows off her scientific chops here.


The entire thing reveals the house-of-cards nature of the study of intersectionality. The concept is built upon assumptions that become facts without any scrutiny whatsoever, and which never have to stand up to critical analysis. White Christians, the argument goes, are inherently racist, and systemic racism stems from their desire to maintain their social class, and everything builds from there. That one will be criticized for even questioning these assumptions informs us how far the radical Left will go to shut down honest debate.

After the article appeared in Campus Reform on Friday, Shaw wrote a follow-up article saying that “mean Christians” had begun bothering her all weekend, via email and social media. The ironic part? She accuses her detractors of logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks that address her sexuality and political stance. Granted, the examples she cites represent the least eloquent and most vitriolic comments. Shaw fails to realize, however, that her complaint that her detractors didn’t address her actual arguments in the original article mirror her failed writings as well.

Shaw’s original article in September was long on assumptions and short on facts. Her claim that white evangelicals and Trump supporters are inherently racist while denigrating their intelligence in the debate about climate science reveals her own bias. She writes,


The inability of so many white Christians to hear the urgency of climate science suggests the depth to which the white church is invested in white supremacy. Poor people of color are both the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the ones who contribute least to greenhouse gases. White Christians will have to change, and the system of white supremacy itself will have to be dismantled, if we have any hope of averting irreversible climate disaster. For now, the white church is mostly complicit with the intersecting systems of racism and global capitalism that underlie climate change.

As the author of a book called Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide, Shaw reveals her agenda. After reading what she has to say, one is left wondering who the real racist is. Such is the state of higher education—and, increasingly, biblical studies in America.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff, and on Parler at @RealJeffReynolds.

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