Readers of this blog already know about the letter from James Dobson, et al., attacking Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals for his activism on global warming. Bloggers Brian McLaren, Lyndsay Moseley, Bill McKibben, and Randall Balmer all rallied to Cizik’s defense, and Jim Wallis’ invitation to Dobson for a debate on the “great moral issues of our time” still stands.
What’s also significant – and greatly encouraging – is that Christianity Today, the flagship publication of mainstream evangelicalism, has now also made a strong editorial statement criticizing Dobson’s tactics and defending Cizik:
There are many problems with the letter, not least being that the signatories, as they acknowledge, don’t even belong to the NAE. Does Dobson think it would be appropriate for members of the NAE to call publicly for his resignation?
But the letter’s most troubling assumption is that a conservative approach to social issues represents the sum total of the NAE’s mandate and the evangelical political calling. Citing USA Today, the letter notes, “We believe that some of [the secular media's] misunderstanding about evangelicalism and its ‘conservative views on politics, economics, and biblical morality’ can be laid at Richard Cizik’s door.”
Actually, restricting evangelicals to the narrower agenda of “conservative views on politics, economics, and biblical morality” is the bigger problem. This plays into convenient mainstream stereotypes of Christians being obsessed with sexual issues or pawns of the Republican Party.
It also underestimates the scope of modern evangelicalism, as well as Christ’s call for us to be salt and light in all spheres of life. Historically, Christian leaders from John Chrysostom to William Wilberforce to Carl F. H. Henry have addressed a broad array of issues. They did not give in to fear of diluting the gospel message, nor did they make common cause with non-Christians uncritically. While some Christians may question global warming, none can doubt our responsibility to be stewards of God’s creation.
CT goes on to affirm the breadth, depth, and diversity of evangelical social concern – and challenges anyone who would assume the role of evangelical gatekeeper:
And yes, as the letter notes, evangelicals have not reached a consensus on the magnitude of global warming, its causes, or the remedy. So? Evangelicals don’t agree about the Iraq War or the formula for immigration reform or even the best strategy to halt abortion. No evangelical group – Right or Left – can claim to represent all evangelicals. …
This diversity – even if it risks misunderstanding in the media – is something we should celebrate. That a wide spectrum of evangelicals feel called to engage in social justice is good for evangelicalism, the nation, and the world. But determining priorities and strategies is a matter of prudential judgment, and anyone who thinks they have the very mind of God on any matter should take heed. …
So let’s stop questioning each other’s evangelical credentials and just do the work we believe God has called us to.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.