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God's Politics

This latest contribution to The Washington Post/Newsweek On Faith online discussion responds to the question: International scientists have raised a new alarm about the dangers of global warming. Should care for the environment be a major priority for people of faith? Why or why not?

It already is. The “greening” of evangelicals in particular is the major new development. The Religious Right tried to prevent this from happening, but they failed, and in so doing lost control of the evangelical political agenda. Key establishment groups like the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) are now firmly committed to “creation care” and to the issue of global warming in particular. The best line in the last few years on this subject came from Rich Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs at the NAE, who said, “I don’t think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created.”

In February 2006, a full-page ad appeared in The New York Times heralding a new “Evangelical Climate Initiative” that was signed by 86 evangelical leaders, including 39 presidents of Christian colleges. The statement was released over the objections of two dozen of the most prominent Religious Right figures in America (all the usual suspects) who said evangelicals should stick to abortion and gay marriage. The Times ad was headlined “Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to solve the global warming crisis,” and the statement said, in part, “Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.”

The concern over global warming, in particular, is even stronger among a new generation of evangelical young people who have made environmental stewardship mainstream; it’s virtually a consensus issue among their peers. Evangelicals tell me that global warming is a “life issue” for them and a fundamental part of Christian ethics. I’ve spoken to many secular leaders of environmental organizations who are beginning to realize how the new evangelical environmental movement could perhaps provide a “tipping point” for our response to the urgent crisis of global warming. If both the scientists and the evangelicals made this a common cause, there’s no telling how much could happen.

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