No Consensus on Whether NAE Conflict Is Getting Hotter
Today's Top Five
1. National Association of Evangelicals gets attention, but doesn't address critical letter
At its board meeting late last week, the National Association of Evangelicals did not directly address a letter from non-member Christian leaders criticizing NAE vice president Richard Cizik's work against global warming. The board did, however, reaffirm its 2004 document on political engagement, "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." Among that document's seven emphases is "stewardship of creation," but it does not specifically call for action on global warming.
There are a few updates since Focus on the Family released the critical letter on its CitizenLink website March 1. Newsweek reported that Richard Land had been asked to sign the letter but refused. "I didn't feel that it was the most productive, most redemptive way to address the problem," he said.
A Saturday New York Times editorial criticizes those who did sign the letter for limiting "the definition of morality to the way humans behave among humans. The greatest moral issue of our time is our responsibility to the planet and to all its inhabitants." That resonates with one of the thrusts of the NAE statement on creation care (e.g. "The Bible teaches us that God is not only redeeming his people, but is also restoring the whole creation. Just as we show our love for the Savior by reaching out to the lost, we believe that we show our love for the Creator by caring for his creation.") At the same time, one of the interesting aspects of Cizik's work, as well as the work of those behind the Evangelical Climate Initiative (from which Cizik withdrew his signature due to earlier pressure) is that they frame the global warming issue very much in terms of the way humans behave to other humans. The emphasis is on how climate change will, in the ECI statement's words, "hit the poor the hardest."
Los Angeles Times reporter Stephanie Simon, meanwhile, parses out the letter's critique that Cizik's views "seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, evangelical." Simon writes:
In religious terms, an evangelical is a Christian who has been born again, seeks a personal relationship with Christ, and considers the Bible the word of God, to be faithfully obeyed.
But Dobson and his fellow letter-writers suggested that evangelical should also signify "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality."
Simon notes that most of the letter's signatories are "activists, not theologians," but the evangelical activists Weblog knows of have been eager to define evangelical theologically or sociologically and chafe at political characterizations. You can talk about evangelical political behavior, but that doesn't make it a political movement. Evangelicalism is no more a political movement than Mormonism is and Mormons tend to vote between 80 percent and 90 percent for Republicans, compared to 60 percent to 70 percent of evangelicals.
While we're speaking about numbers, it's also worth fact-checking the letter's statement that Cizik does not "articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues." According to an August 2006 poll from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, evangelicals are indeed less likely than the general public to believe that there is solid evidence that the world is getting warmer. But 70 percent of evangelicals do believe it (compared to 79 percent of all Americans). Of those evangelicals who agree that the earth is getting warmer, a significant majority believe that it is the result of human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. Still, while they're majorities separately, only 37 percent of all evangelicals agree that there's solid evidence that earth is getting warmer because of human activity, while one-half of all Americans believe it. 68 percent of evangelicals believe that global warming is a serious problem, and a plurality of evangelicals (47%) believe that stricter environmental laws are worth the cost (compared to 38% who say such laws would cost too many jobs and hurt the economy).
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