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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Strange bedfellows, "behavioral sin," and a little tinkering in the evangelical agenda

From today's NYTimes.com article, Evangelical Leaders Swing Influence Behind Effort to Combat Global Warming:

The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals and a significant voice in the debate, 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."

So some folks over at the Evangelical Christian scene are, uh, warming up to this global warming issue. Why should we care?

  • First, because it provides an excellent opportunity to both measure and use the "moral values" variable that everyone has been talking about since the last election. If the nation's faith communities do wield significant power, this is their chance to show how much clout they have on an issue that has been relatively stagnant in the last few years.
  • The language used by these environmentalists brings the concept of "sin" back into a broader context, away (momentarily) from sexual issues. Of course, Mr. Cizik says, "We're not adverse to government-mandated prohibitions on behavioral sin such as abortion ... We try to restrict it. So why, if we're social tinkering to protect the sanctity of human life, ought we not be for a little tinkering to protect the environment?" Okay, so perhaps they're not really moving away from sexual issues. But if you follow the belief that every fertilized egg has a place in the world, doesn't it make sense to maintain a world for them to live in?
  • This initiative changes the calculus of individual vs. governmental control for a group that has always believed itself to be Republican. As much as they claim to be "pro-business environmentalists," many are realizing that businesses just aren't going to self-regulate on pollution unless it's directly profitable to them. These folks aren't really fiscal conservatives, they're just following the conservative social agenda that has been co-opted by the Republican party. If we can force a split between "small government" folks and "traditional values" folks, the political system in this country would make a lot more sense, and we would have fewer social moderates who get duped into voting rightwards because they believe this time maybe the budget really will get balanced.
  • The groups cited in this article are focussing specifically on global warming and climate change. No one is trying to save whales or promote low-flow toilets. Saving God's creatures might be popular in the pews, but it smacks a little too much of liberalism. Global warming, on the other hand, presents a clear and present danger within an Old Testament lifetime. It's a smart battle to pick.
  • They may just have a point. Four hurricanes along the East Coast this season, the Boxing Day tsunami, earthquakes in Iran and all along the Pacific Rim. It may be anecdotal evidence, but it sure feels like something's not right. And if that intuition gets some decent environmental laws passed, more's the better.

Edit: the NYTimes.com archives their articles alarmingly quickly these days. If you'd like to read the full text, leave a message in the comments with your email.


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