Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Creation Care... The Next Wedge Issue?

Just when I thought I couldn't be surprised by Christian Evangelicals anymore, I heard the Reverend Richard Cizik, Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, speak on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She was interviewing the good preacher about a major political issue concerning Christians today... No, it wasn't gay marriage or abortion... Wait for it... .... He was talking about "Creation Care".

Apparently even some Evangelicals are starting to be alarmed by global warming and other environmental degradation. Imagine that. Christians are sweating over climate change. This is from a letter signed by multiple figures in the evangelical movement:

"Our continuing goal is to motivate the evangelical community to fully engage environmental issues in a biblically faithful and humble manner, collaborating with those who share these concerns, that we might take our appropriate place in the healing of God’s creation, and thus the advance of God’s reign."

Rev. Cizik went on to explain to Terry Gross about how he was talked into going to a 2002 conference of scientists presenting research on global warming. It was with a large amount of skepticism that he attended, convinced that the issue was unresolved and that he would walk away from the conference with the same opinion he went in with. But low and behold, he was (by his account) "converted". That's right... "he was called by God" to give his life to the environment. He slowly became convinced that global climate change was a biblical issue. From there he began to gather together like-minded clergy from evangelical groups, and he participated in drafting a document summarizing a collective conviction to the issue. He set himself to convincing more of his brothers in faith that this is a pressing issue that they should be addressing.

Don't get too excited though, because the Rev. Cizik was very clear about not talking for the organization that he represents. He was actually instructed by his superiors (among them the dishonored Ted Haggard, who presumably was otherwise distracted by gay prostitutes and methamphetemines) to take his signature off the very document that he helped held create. He was told that "Creation Care", with its ties to a belief in global warming, was not a c
onsensus issue (like opposing gay marriage and abortion). Several prominent Christians Conservative leaders, such as James Dobson (Focus on the Family) and Chuck Colson (Watergate cospirator and founder of the prison Fellowship), were seemingly apoplectic at the thought that Christians would be distracted by the environment.

What it comes down to ultimately is the very worldly issue of politics. The Christian Conservatives who protested the NAE's developing stance on environmental issues no doubt believed that it would erode the almost inexplicable support evangelical Christians have shown for their representative, George W. Bush. E. Calvin Beisner, who co-wrote an opposition letter that scared the NAE off of their original commitment, responded to their retreat by saying:

"to assume as true certain things that we think are still debatable, such as that global warming is not only real but also almost certainly going to be catastrophically harmful; second, that it is being driven to a significant extent by human activity; and third, that some regime, some international treaty for mandatory reductions in CO2emissions, could make a significant enough drop in global emissions to justify the costs to the human economy."

That sounds to me pretty damn close to the Republican talking points on this issue. Rev. Cizik confirmed that he believed that "Creation Care" was seen by many in the evangelical movement as an attempt to erode political support for the GOP. Cizik, who characterizes himself as a social conservative, admits that "Creation Care" and compassionate concern for the poor are seen as "liberal" and "Democratic" ideas. Who knew that I would find myself in agreement with the VP of the NAE? Although Cizik is no longer allowed to suggest that his views represent the NAE position on these problems, he is forging ahead in an attempt to change the national political dialogue. He is suggesting that Christians spend less time and money on condemning abortion and gay marriage... and instead work to make God's creation a better place. I have no doubt that this refocusing could build the foundation for a broad coalition that could radically alter the political dynamic of this nation. God Bless Him.

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