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Climate Change an Evangelical Call To Action

Evangelical Climate Initiative

“For by Him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth.” (Col. 1:16)

The same love for God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect the unborn, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, also compels us to recognize that human-induced climate change is a serious Christian issue requiring action now.

To make clear our views and commitment, as evangelical leaders we have issued the statement Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action. We invite you to read and reflect upon it and share your views with us.

We have also compiled a set of Principles for Federal Policy on Climate Change, which will be followed in early June by a white paper that explores these principles in greater detail.

We also encourage you to take action today to address climate change. We invite you to download our new Prayer Guide on Global Warming, and to use it in your personal and congregational prayer life. You can also take steps now to reduce your global warming pollution to zero by accessing our Cooling Creation resource page.

We believe the problem is serious, but that cost-effective solutions are available that will also create jobs, clean up our environment, make us more efficient, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, thereby enhancing our national security. Working together, and with God’s help, we can make a difference.

Climate Change an Evangelical Call To Action

The Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) is a group of over 300 senior evangelical leaders in the United States who are convinced it is time for our country to help solve the problem of global warming. We seek to do so in a way that creates jobs, cleans up our environment, and enhances national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, thereby creating a safe and a healthy future for our children. Our deep commitment to Jesus Christ and his commands to love our neighbors, care for “the least of these,” and be proper stewards of His creation compels us to act. Our views are articulated on the ECI statement page.


Edited by homersapien

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John Muir was a fervent believer. Not just in science or conservation or the National Park Service, which he championed. The founder of the Sierra Club and father of American environmentalism also believed in God. “The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God,” Muir wrote in his 1897 essay “The American Forests.” “[For centuries] God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools.”

This sort of religious language was “very much present in early conservation movements,” says Evan Berry, an associate professor at American University and author of Devoted to Nature: The Religious Roots of American Environmentalism. George Bird Grinnell, founder of the Audubon Society, also invoked faith, and many of the environmentalist leaders in the late 19th and early 20th century were Congregationalists, a traditional Protestant sect, says Berry.

But then God abandoned the forest. During the Great Depression and two world wars, environmentalism took a backseat to what felt like more pressing issues, only to re-emerge in the 1960s in more secular forms, like Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. The new wave, Berry says, “wanted to build practical, policy-driven solutions to environmental problems without getting caught up in the messiness of religious ethics.”

For years, conservationist and faith-based views on the environment progressed on separate tracks, but in 1986 Prince Philip, then president of the World Wildlife Fund, organized a summit where leaders of the five major world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism—discussed how their faiths could help save the natural world. By the 1990s, religious groups such as the World Council of Churches were participating in international climate debates and conferences.

"In the late 1990s, the Evangelical Environmental Network helped defend the Endangered Species Act in Congress, characterizing it to The New York Times as the “Noah's ark of our day.” In 2002, the network launched a headline-grabbing “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign to call attention to fuel efficiency. In 2006, the group organized the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which released a statement making a moral argument for climate action. Dozens of evangelical leaders signed, including Rick Warren, Leith Anderson and Joel Hunter, whose megachurches have tens of thousands of members. Meanwhile, the Regeneration Project’s “Interfaith Power and Light” campaign, which launched in 2000 as “a religious response to global warming,” rapidly expanded its membership. According to the campaign’s president, the Reverend Sally Bingham, the organization comprised 14 congregations in California in 2001; today, it is in 40 states and includes some 18,000 congregations.

The interfaith section of the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City saw thousands of people from more than 30 faiths—Baptist, Zoroastrian and everything in between—rally for climate action. The World Council of Churches, representing hundreds of millions of Christians, has committed to divesting its multimillion-dollar endowment from fossil fuels. At December’s historic climate summit in Paris, there were morning worship groups, Vatican negotiators and an exhibit at Notre-Dame Cathedral called “Ode to God's Creation.” “None of this was really on the horizon 20 years ago,” says Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. “There has been an explosion.”

Still, America’s attitude toward climate change continues to be characterized by apathy. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, Americans rank the environment and climate change near the bottom of their priority list; putting the concerns at 13th and 14th (out of 15), respectively. By comparison, a September CBC poll showed that Canadians rank the environment second (out of 13) on their list of most important issues, ahead of education, jobs and foreign policy. And caring in the U.S. breaks along political lines. A 2014 Public Religion Research Institute poll shows that while 65 percent of Democrats believe climate change is manmade, only 22 percent of Republicans do.

As faith-based environmental activism—“creation care,” as many call it—continues to grow, it hopes to help America break through some of these barriers. Whether that means reaching conservative politicians through faith or prompting action from the pews, the idea is that religion can move those unconvinced by the science.

Blown Off the Commode

On February 23, 1980, at age 16, Charlotte Keys was born again. “It gave me the strength and the ability not to have fear,” she says of her Pentecostal faith. It also led her to see homosexuality as a sin, evolution as dubious and abortion as violating the sanctity of human life. That’s the word of God. And for the same reason, she’s an environmentalist.

Keys found her calling about a decade later. She was working in the county clerk’s office, where she came across documents detailing a chemical spill in the Web Quarter neighborhood of Columbia, Mississippi, where she grew up. “When I discovered that we had a lot of health problems going on, the Lord just moved in my spirit,” says Keys. “God's people don't deserve this.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Reichhold chemical plant was home to turpentine, diesel, the now-restricted pesticide pentachlorophenol and countless other chemicals. In March 1977, it exploded, and the Web Quarter took a direct hit. One local recalls her neighbor across the street being blown off the “commode.” Residents say chemicals seeped down the runoff ditches and into the ground, and for years the grass would spontaneously burst into flames. The EPA declared the area a Superfund hazardous waste site. Workers in protective suits cleaned up what they could, and activists say the company disposed of the rest. Although the EPA took the site off its priority list in 2000, many in the community believe the Web Quarter remains contaminated. “I'm scared I won't wake up one morning,” says Mack Oatis, who has lived in the neighborhood most of his life.

Appalled, Keys founded a nonprofit called Jesus People Against Pollution in 1992, and for more than two decades that’s been her mission. She calls it her “kingdom assignment” from God. Gradually, her work has grown to include not only the Reichhold spill but also clean air and clean power legislation, issues she collaborates on with organizations such as WE ACT, an environmental group based in Harlem, New York. Still, her main goal is to relocate as many people as possible from the Web Quarter to a small community on the other side of town to be made up of a church, 16 housing units, a snack bar and her own house. With time and financial support from her husband, Willie, she’s amassed about 9 acres of land and poured a 1,800-square-foot concrete pad upon which she plans to build the American Temple Apostolic Church.

The problem is that many powerful Christian groups toward the right of the political spectrum are wary of—if not outright hostile to—creation care. “As soon as the [Evangelical Climate Initiative] was launched, a network of Christian right leaders forcefully attacked,” writes sociologist Lydia Bean in a paper titled “Spreading the Gospel of Climate Change.” Unlike the Endangered Species Act or “What Would Jesus Drive?” efforts, the creation care push in the mid-2000s both affirmed human-caused climate change and called for federal legislation to lower greenhouse gas emissions. “[This went] directly against the anti-big-government, anti-regulation ideology that keeps the GOP coalition together,” says Bean. In the face of stiff resistance, many of the initiative’s signatories went quiet, support wilted and progress slowed.

At the center of the backlash to creation care is theology professor Calvin Beisner. He’s the founder of the Cornwall Alliance, a nonprofit that argues the evidence for catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is not convincing, that humans hold “godly dominion” over the planet and that free markets are the best engine of ecological stewardship. Through media campaigns and advocacy—like Resisting the Green Dragon, a set of 12 DVDs and a book outlining the “Christian response to radical environmentalism”—Beisner has rallied the Christian right. By making creation care controversial, he’s been able to keep risk-averse evangelical leaders away and undoubtedly made it easier for establishment GOP politicians—such as Jeb Bush—to stand against it as well. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” said the former presidential candidate, one of many Republicans who have dismissed the “Laudato Si’” encyclical.

Nevertheless, creation care appears to be adapting and growing. After the Evangelical Climate Initiative stumbled, leaders of the campaign realized they needed widespread, on-the-ground support. “We did not have a strong grassroots movement,” says Hescox. The group, he says, has since increased outreach efforts and grown from about 15,000 people to over 800,000 in the past six years. The aim is to reach 3 million within the next two.

If that’s to happen, certain demographics will likely be key. Public Religion Research Institute polling found, for example, that Hispanic Catholics are much more likely to agree that global temperatures are rising primarily as a result of human activity than their white counterparts (61 versus 40 percent). The creation care message is also much more likely to resonate with younger Christians. “We are willing to vote for people who are willing to take action on climate,” says Rachel Lamb, 26, the spokeswoman for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, a nonprofit focused on mobilizing evangelicals under 30. They have people on the ground in roughly a dozen states, with a focus on conservative swing districts. By starting from a Christian foundation, Lamb says, the organization is able to visit campuses (like Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma) unlikely to host traditional environmental groups. If they can get Christian youth on the side of environmentalism, then it won’t be long before religious and conservative leaders have no choice but to listen.

That Triggering Moment

It was a youth group that convinced former Senator Bob Inglis to shift his stance on climate change: his kids. When they reached voting age, they asked the South Carolina Republican to reconsider the issue. Driven by science and faith, Inglis has gone on to propose conservative solutions—like pairing carbon pricing with tax cuts—that led Slate to dub him “America’s best hope for near-term climate action.” “We are now stewards in this wonderful creation,” he said in an interview with the Evangelical Environmental Network. “Part of being faithful, it seems to me, is coming up with a way so that our society can really respond to this challenge of energy and climate.”

Reverend Gerald Durley is another creation care convert. The retired pastor at Atlanta’s Providence Missionary Baptist Church once scoffed at the idea of prioritizing polar bears,” preferring to emphasize topics such as racial justice or health. Then, in the mid-2000s, he saw a screening ofThe Great Warming, a documentary that used both science and evangelical thinking to talk about the dangers of global warming. “After that, I began to connect the dots,’” Durley says. He now believes climate change is one of the most urgent issues he can address from the pulpit.

“This will be the civil rights issue of our time,” says Durley, an International Civil Rights Walk of Fame inductee who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He points out that in the 1950s and ’60s “there were hardcore skeptics who said, ‘You'll never vote’”—that African-Americans might march but would never make it to the polls. Durley says faith was integral in proving that prediction wrong, and the lesson still applies today. Churches can be a powerful organizing tool, and religion offers a moral backbone and motivation to supporters. Another key, says Durley, is a flashpoint that brings a movement to the masses. A major catalyst in the civil rights movement, he notes, was the 1963 bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four young girls and injured numerous people. The incident led to national outrage, action and eventually change.

Once people form a personal connection to the issue, religion can be a strong motivator, says Cybelle Shattuck, a University of Michigan researcher who has been looking at the factors that influence faith-based environmental action at the community level. People she’s interviewed have told her “their faith gives them the ability to try something even if they don't know they can do it.” And former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, an environmental advocate, says faith is pushing the climate movement closer to real change. “Political tipping points do come,” he says, “and they change us overnight.” Police violence against minorities is a recent example. Following a string of high-profile incidents, Gallup polls show that the percentage of Americans who report caring “a great deal” about the broader issue of “race relations” has jumped from 17 to 28 percent in just the past year.

These days, Christian environmental advocates like Keys are crisscrossing the country, hoping to bring about a similar shift in support for sustainability and conservation. That often means long stretches on the road, dwindling bank accounts and plenty of visits to Washington, D.C., including stops at the White House. Keys doesn’t know where all of this running around will ultimately take her or the creation care movement, but she’s heartened by the community of supporters and colleagues steadily growing around her. “I've never seen this magnitude of effort from the religious community placed on environmentalism,” Keys says. “It's going to take the Christians who have the fear of God in them.”

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40 minutes ago, ArgoEagle said:

Look sir. I have never once agreed with your's or Homer's opinions that I can remember. I feel that if yall 2 are disagreeing with what I am posting, that I am doing something right. You can hurl all the insults at me you want to; doesn't bother me.

I know it doesn't bother you. Why would it? You have no sense of shame. You're a blithering idiot and proud of it.

Truth be told, I haven't like you from day one. The first post I remember of yours was you outing yourself as a racist gasbag. We've since added scientifically illiteracy to the list, as well as hypocrisy. If people disagree with you, it's not because you're doing something right, but because of the stupidity that drips from nearly all of your posts.

Hope you're having a great day. ;)

Edited by Bigbens42
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On 9/9/2017 at 8:18 AM, AU64 said:

Always love it when people quote Rush without actually listening to him or the context....kind of like non-Christians telling me  what I believe.  

Heard him miss-quoted or quoted totally out of context a half dozen times yesterday by various network talking heads.....that's the great conspiracy in my view.

Except, as I pointed out when I linked directly to Rush's own transcript on his own website, that's not the case here:


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