Without the evangelical community’s involvement, efforts to build a “broad coalition to pass major climate policies” are “doomed,” according to a report just released from New America.
“Spreading the Gospel of climate change: an evangelical battleground,” according to E & E News, offers: “An autopsy of evangelicals’ influence on U.S. Climate law.” While the efforts “failed,” the report concludes it is “not a lost cause,” as the authors posit: “there is an untapped potential for environmental activism in the world of evangelical Christianity.”
So, while the initial effort may have failed, its supporters haven’t given up. They hope to learn from their mistakes and continue the crusade to “get evangelicals to tip the politics of the climate.”
The report offers several reasons for failure, including: “donors who pushed for this ‘deliverable’ did not really understand the internal dynamic of the evangelical world,” and suggests future tactics such as “better messaging” and more “person-to-person connections.”
Its authors lament that the evangelical community is “a decentralized religious tradition that lacks a clear hierarchy like the Catholic Church.” They claim that since most evangelicals are Republicans, asking them to embrace climate change “challenged the belief in the primacy of unregulated markets that is the ideological glue that holds the Republican coalition together.” Both statements, show how little those attempting to engage “evangelicals on climate change” really understand the Christian faith.
We are not “decentralized” nor is our resistance to “engaging” in climate change based in betraying Republican values. Our faith is centered on the Bible. The messaging of climate change includes an entire world-view that challenges the primacy of biblical teaching.
We believe that God created the Earth and that no part of His creation was by mistake or without intent. He created the Earth to benefit humans, not the other way around. And, He is bigger than we are and has a plan. With that foundation, we see that God put coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium under our feet for a reason: because we would need it. The carbon that was stored within the earth is released today providing power and food for a world that has greater population than the apostles could have ever imagined—but God knew our needs. We appreciate nature; value the earth and the bounty it provides, but we don’t worship the earth.
Evangelicals should be particularly alarmed with the realization that we have been, and will continue to be, the target of an organized and well-funded effort from outsiders who “lacked deep knowledge about evangelicalism,” to “recruit evangelicals into policy solutions to climate change.”
While admitting failure, there was some early success. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California and author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, was, in 2006, a signatory to the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI). In 2008, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson appeared in an ad for climate action. Some Southern Baptist leaders drafted their own ECI—which was never launched. The report states: “Movement leaders, funders, and the environmental movement were optimistic that this small victory could be the foundation for even more ambitious legislative goals.”
The report is a fascinating case study of the outside effort to “smuggle” climate policy campaign into churches.
When I read the full 27-page document, the influence of “environmental funders” became obvious: “Since the mid-1990s, environmental funders recognized the need for a broader field of faith-based movements who could expand the influence of environmentalism to unlikely allies. They also realized that evangelicals had a special role to play in this religious portfolio because their religious community was closely associated with the Republican Party.” Evangelical Christians became the target of “constituency engagement development.” Financial grants were made to increase the role of climate change in churches. Environmentalists worked to reframe climate change as “Creation Care” and “hoped that evangelical Christians might publically embrace climate change as a moral issue and an authentically ‘conservative’ concern.”
The efforts at infiltration included “building faith-based environmental clubs in Christian colleges” and offering to help churches “reduce their energy bills.”
The report chronicles the work of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light—led by Episcopalian Reverend Alexis Chase. She persuaded Southern Baptist churches to host HEAT classes to train lay leaders to save energy and money in their own homes. And then, “smuggled” the climate policy campaign “into the class as an extension of personal discipleship.”
In short, the evangelical Christian community has been used. National funders and environmental allies targeted us, thinking that we’d be ready to “influence legislation in Washington.” The strategy was to get “evangelical elites” to embrace “Creation Care” and “frame environmental concerns as moral issues”—thus “creating their own set of biblical and theological themes.”
While environmental funders who invested in building the Creation Care movement have admittedly failed, the report states: “Movement leaders have also deepened their commitment to more long-term, values-based organizing in local evangelical spaces.” Now, instead of targeting “evangelical elites,” they realize they need “rank-and-file evangelicals.”
Many Christians have come to realize that Creation Care has nothing to do with The Creator. Instead it is, like the serpent’s efforts with Eve, attractive messaging for a political agenda.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.