Sunday, October 09, 2005

Creation Care

TfK is fascinated by the nascent evangelical environmental movement. Salon.com has an interview with Richard Cizik, the VP for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals:
The Bible … says that humans have "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing." Some in your community interpret this as a license to exploit natural resources.

That is a deeply flawed interpretation. Dominion does not mean domination. It implies responsibility – to cultivate and care for the earth, not to sully it with bad environmental practices. The Bible also teaches us that Jesus Christ is not only redeeming his people, but also restoring God's creation ... we show our love for Jesus Christ by reaching out to and healing the spiritually lost and by conserving and renewing creation. Christ's call to love nature is as simple as his call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What specifically are you doing to get people involved in these issues?

We ask Christians to shape their personal lives in creation-friendly ways by practicing effective recycling, conserving resources, and experiencing the joy of contact with nature. We urge government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats. There are still plenty who wonder, does advocating this agenda mean we have to become liberal weirdoes? And I say to them, certainly not. It's in the scripture. Read the Bible.



Why have you declined to collaborate with environmental groups?

It's not that we've ruled it out, it's just that we aren't ready. We are not "me too" environmentalists. We need to develop our own voice and strategies and tactics, and once we've gotten our own feet on the ground, then we can talk about possible cooperation.

My understanding is that you publicly rejected an offer by the leaders of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation to join forces.

I said, "Not for now." Look, there are those in my community who are concerned that environmentalists are advocates of population control, of big-government solutions, or New Age religion, and have apocalyptic tendencies. In the latter case, there's some irony in my opinion. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.

I am trying to reason with my community that we've earned our spurs in co-belligerency -- collaborating with groups we wouldn't otherwise work with, in the name of the common good. I say, if we've worked with Free Tibet on religious freedom, the Congressional Black Caucus on slavery, Gloria Steinem and feminists on rape, and the gay and lesbian lobby on AIDS, why can't we work with environmentalists?
I wish there were more willingness to work across awkward boundaries. I wish the NRA would cooperate with environmental groups the way Ducks Unlimited does. I wish the NRA would take a stand on constitutional rights beyond the 2nd Amendment, and that the ACLU did more 2nd amendment work. Not because I'd necessarily support every result of those collaborations, but because these groups tend to reinforce the political preferences of their membership. This further polarizes society, and reinforces itself. It's great that these evangelicals are ready to cross the traditional boundaries separating religious conservatives and environmentalists.