This article is based on a lecture Bill Moyers gave in December 2004 upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment. That original speech was widely circulated throughout the internet. More recently, Moyers has written this updated version to correct errors in the original and expand on his views. This essay will appear in the paperback edition of his collection 'Moyers on America,' to be published by Anchor Books in June.

There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power. We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis. Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion real-world solutions to otherwise intractable challenges.

In the just-concluded election cycle, as Mark Silk writes in "Religion in the News," the assiduous cultivation of religious constituencies by the Bush apparat, and the undisguised intrusion of evangelical leaders and some conservative Catholic hierarchs into the presidential campaign, demonstrated that the old rule of maintaining a decent respect for the nonpartisanship of religion can now be broken with impunity.

The result is what the Italian scholar Emilio Gentile, quoted in Silk's newsletter, calls "political religion"-religion as an instrument of political combat. On gay marriage and abortion- the most conspicuous of the "non-negotiable" items in a widely distributed Catholic voter's guide-no one should be surprised what this political religion portends. The agenda has been foreshadowed for years, ever since Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other right-wing Protestants set out to turn white evangelicals into a solid Republican voting bloc and reached out to make allies of their former antagonists, conservative Catholics.

What has been less apparent is the impact of the new political religion on environmental policy. Evangelical Christians have been divided. Some were indifferent. The majority of conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, have long hooked their view to the account in the first book of the Bible: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."

There are widely varying interpretations of this text, but it is safe to say that all presume human beings have inherited the earth to be used as they see fit. For many, God's gift to Adam and Eve of "dominion" over the earth and all its creatures has been taken as the right to unlimited exploitation. But as Blaine Harden reported recently in "The Washington Post," some evangelicals are beginning to "go for the green." Last October the National Association of Evangelicals adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," affirming that "God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." The declaration acknowledged that for the sake of clean air, clean water, and adequate resources, the government "has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."

But even for green activists in evangelical circles, Harden wrote, "there are landmines."

Welcome to the Rapture!

There are millions of Christians who believe the Bible is literally true, word for word. Some of them-we'll come back to the question of how many-subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the nineteenth century by two immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them with their own hallucinations into a narrative foretelling the return of Jesus and the end of the world. Google the "Rapture Index" and you will see just how the notion has seized the imagination of many a good and sincere believer (you will also see just where we stand right now in the ticking of the clock toward the culmination of history in the apocalypse). It is the inspiration for the best-selling books in America today-the 12 novels in the "Left Behind" series by Christian fundamentalist and religious- right warrior Tim LaHaye, a co-founder with Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority.
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