What Cizik's Resignation Means for Creation Care
In response to the NPR interview, President of Family Research Council Tony Perkins wrote on a blog that the lesson is to beware of environmentalism. "This is the risk of walking through the green door of environmentalism and global warming — you risk being blinded by the green light and losing your sense of direction."
Perkins and several other evangelicals called for Cizik's resignation in early 2007 because of his "relentless campaign" on global warming.
Charles Colson, who did not sign the letter calling for Cizik's resignation, said evangelicals saw Cizik as polarizing. "Evangelicals need to be more environmentally conscious, but I think it was the way it was politicized, almost done to the exclusion of other issues," Colson said.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said he doesn't think environmental advocacy will disappear as an issue for evangelicals, but there will be more emphasis on stewardship and less on human-induced global warming. The ERLC launched a campaign in May called We Get It! The group affirmed a need to care for the environment but a took a more cautious approach toward stating that global warming as a man-made problem.
"Rich was the media's ideal of what they hoped all evangelicals would be, but he wasn't. Evangelicals have been concerned for the environment for a long time." Land said. He notes as evidence Francis Schaeffer's 1970 book, Pollution and the Death of Man. "Hopefully, we'll see a little more Francis Schaeffer and a little less Al Gore," Land said.
Bradford Plumer, who blogs on the environment for The New Republic, wondered whether Cizik's resignation would hurt the environmental movement overall.
"Whenever I ask climate campaigners for indications that global warming might be becoming a bipartisan concern, they quickly point to the growing prevalence of faith-based groups," he wrote. "But green evangelicals have long followed an uneven trajectory, as Cizik's resignation proves, and I think it's still too early to assess their broader significance."
Time magazine named Cizik one of the world's 100 most influential people earlier this year because of his collaboration on advocacy for the environment with Eric Chivian, co-leader of the "Scientist-Evangelical" project at Harvard University's Center for Health and the Global Environment.
"Evangelicals and scientists have been identified at being at each other's throats on stem cell research and evolution for a long time." Chivian said. "We've barely spoken with each other since the Scopes trial. … [Scientists are] not terribly good at communicating what concerns us, and we see evangelicals as being terrific communicators at the things that concern them."
The new rapprochement "wouldn't have happened without Richard's efforts," Chivian said. "I think it's led to mutual respect, not just scientists for evangelicals, but evangelicals for latte-sipping, New York Times-reading scientists."
Anderson said the NAE will wait until 2009 to begin a search process for Cizik's replacement.
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Christianity Today posted a copy of the letter from more than 50 evangelicals to the NAE President Leith Anderson today.