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September 16, 2006

Is God Green? Common Ground?

How have labels crippled our ability to engage in a healthy dialogue?

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Backgrounder: Common Ground?
Those inside the Christian environmental movement gained a high-profile "convert" when Pat Robertson recently changed his stance on global warming. In October 2005, Robertson had castigated the National Association of Evangelicals for their support of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, accusing them of teaming up with "far-left environmentalists" in their campaign to combat global warming and other environmental problems. But in the summer of 2006 ... [more]

Class Is in Session...
The Citizens Class on Religion & Politics explores the power of faith at the polling place. Religion & the Environment examines the evolution of the evangelical environmental debate. The following audio and video clips and documents map out some of the major issues addressed in those classes and shed light on the possibilities for political and social dialogue between evangelicals and others, and between evangelicals themselves, in America today-be sure to join in.

Rev. Richard Cizik is a national leader in the evangelical environmental movement. Based in Washington, D.C., he serves as vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, America's most influential Christian lobbying group, which represents 59 denominations, 45,000 churches, and 30 million believers. When Cizik heard Sir John Houghton, a noted scientist and fellow evangelical speak about global warming, he realized that "the fate of the earth may well depend on how Christians, especially evangelical Christians who take the bible seriously, respond to the issues of climate change." In the following video clip, Cizik describes why he came to embrace an environmental agenda and how he has come under fire from his partisan brethren for his stance.

Watch the video: Richard Cizik

This disagreement among conservative evangelicals on global warming and environmental change is particularly noteworthy because it is taking place within a group of people who agree on just about every other important public policy issue .And some critics of the creation-care contingent view those who forge an "unholy alliance with the environmentalists" as aligning themselves with a movement that is seen as uncomfortably close to those that support abortion, support for gay marriage, and support for a number of other political causes that are anathematic to traditional evangelicals.

Watch the video: Jan Markell

In her article, "Green Christianity," Christian broadcaster Jan Markell lays out her criticism of evangelical environmentalists and emphasizes the danger of taking on an issue that is generally associated with another worldview. "This effort," she writes, "is partially funded by leftist outfits like the Rockefeller Brothers' Fund and the Hewlett Foundation, which support many anti-Christian ideals and organizations. Their worldview would make it appear like the signers on to the EEN are 'unequally yoked together.' These organizations do NOT have any interest in what evangelicals stand for. They are pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage and lean to the left on many issues." Later she writes, "Liberal Christianity has infected enough of evangelicalism to the point where 'evangelicalism' doesn't mean what it did even twenty years ago."

Certainly, Richard Cizik has not abandoned the evangelical platform on abortion and homosexuality in order to take up the charge of creation care.

The question becomes, What does it mean to be politically inconsistent? Some, like Markell, would argue that being politically inconsistent means compromising core values or at least diluting the movement's focus.

In her book, THE ARGUMENT CULTURE: STOPPING AMERICA'S WAR OF WORDS, Deborah Tannen describes how the definition of compromise as "giving in for the purpose of reaching agreement" has taken on a negative connotation in our political life and has become synonymous with selling your soul or cheapening yourself.

In a passage that has great significance for the evangelical debate on the environment, Tannen quotes U.S. Senator J.J. Exon on his early departure from politics: "Unfortunately, the traditional art of workable compromise for the ultimate good of the nation, heretofore the essence of democracy, is demonstrably eroded." Senator Warren Rudman gives this reason for leaving: "I thought the essence of good government was reconciling divergent views with compromises that served the country's interests ... The spirit of civility and compromise was drying up."

When the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance sent its January 2006 letter to the National Association of Evangelicals in an effort to convince leaders of that organization to back away from their stance on global warming, their words were telling. They requested that "the NAE carefully consider all policy issues in which it might engage in the light of promoting unity among the Christian community and glory to God."

If a split over environmentalism threatened to destroy the unity of the evangelical movement as a whole, how many evangelicals would be willing to risk it? And if partisanship and ideology are allowed to trump, compromise and dialog, what possibility for discussion and common ground is left? More importantly, what does it mean for the future of the planet?

Discussion
The insights and perspectives featured here, while focusing on the debate within the evangelical community, have implications that stretch far beyond religious and environmental issues. They also raise some interesting questions for discussion:
  • In the documentary Richard Cizik said "…to be biblically consistent means you have to, at times, be politically inconsistent." What are the implications of that statement for the future political power of the religious right?

  • What happens to our democracy when our affiliation with particular organizations or groups inhibits our ability to disagree?

  • How can we begin to humanize and work with those with very different perspectives?

  • How have labels crippled our ability to engage in a healthy dialogue and constructive debate? Do our assumptions that a person who is a member of X group must also be a Y do justice to our humanity?

  • What guidelines will help make this online dialogue useful and productive for you?

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Comments

In the documentary Richard Cizik said "…to be biblically consistent means you have to, at times, be politically inconsistent." What are the implications of that statement for the future political power of the religious right?
What happens to our democracy when our affiliation with particular organizations or groups inhibits our ability to disagree?


How can we begin to humanize and work with those with very different perspectives?


How have labels crippled our ability to engage in a healthy dialogue and constructive debate? Do our assumptions that a person who is a member of X group must also be a Y do justice to our humanity?


What guidelines will help make this online dialogue useful and productive for you?

Our inability to think and express ourselves in nuances allowing only for black and white (i.e. labeling) dialogue among political and faith based groups cripples our views, understanding and ability to communicate effectively. When there is a deeper more intelligent understanding among these groups- opening our mind to new solutions will not be seen as a compromise or weakness but rather as a "work in progress" to better our environment and deepen our religious faith and understanding of eachother.

I've lived in Moslem countries where I observed the faith-based fatalism that, instead of trying to change things, just shrugged and said, "It is Allah's will."

So I'm delighted to learn that among America's faith-based millions, there are some like Richard Cizik who are not irresponsibly fatalistic and who believe, as most of our ancestors did, that God helps those who help themselves.

America's contributions did not come from sitting back and accepting the status quo, but from actively working to make a better world.

Because I am a Christian I know there is no other way to salvation, but through Christ alone.

Of course God is green. Don't ask such stupid questions.

However, don't you realize that unless you live in a grass hut, herd cattle and gather figs, YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF "GLOBAL WARMING!"

What is wrong with you? Go to Africa, build a hut, and eat the grass. DUH! Then you'll die from lack of medical care, starve, and feed the nice lions who are endangered.

Hopefully, God will save you a place in heaven of his own accord for being so nice to mother earth.

Hmmmmm.... There seems to be a problem here... At one point, we're talking about "religion and the environment." A few seconds later, we're looking for Biblical grounding for the environmental discussion.

Let me offer a radical observation that will be helpful.

Most of the people in the world - for example, in countries like China, Japan, and India - are NOT involved in Judaism or Christianity. If we want to involve the whole world in our effort to "save the world," we need to bring a great variety of religious peoples into the discussion.

Long ago, the Christian and Islamic missionaries went into places like Africa and Asia to "bring civilization to the heathen." The irony, of course, is that "the heathen" were often very sophisticated in their appreciation of the natural world.

We need to bring "the heathen" - and others - back into the discussion about religion and the environment. If we refuse to take that step, we'll look like a bunch of imperialists, trying to
dominate the planet for our own self-righteous purposes. The world has seen that kind of behavior before. Ask the Navajo and the native people in Hawaii. (And others!)

What happens when we have loss of freedom to think and speak against or for local governments, local ordinances that are not enforced, local law enforcement personnel who refuse to do their described job description, local city officials who refuse to look past the big economic development bucks.

Well, we loose something that was fought for in 1776 called our rights to expect our elected officals to act in behalf of all the citizens, not those who are above the law being the city employees whose fathers and mothers are employed by the city or whose relatives are city council persons.

When this occurs another civiliation takes over called authoritarion fundamentalism.

The evangelicals present themselves as myopic. It's only when their backyard is destroyed that they've suddenly noticed the destructive practices that have been accelerating since the beginning of the 1950's.

Did these people ever have the foresight to connect the destruction of the amazon rain forest to their god's creation? Their simplistic remedy to all of life's problems in resolved in their faith in a deity that created them in it's own image. How does any environmentally conscious conservationist begin to communicate such distant and perhaps abstract realities to religious fundamentalists that reject most science. That's why I've never once considered talking to them about these issues. Had I known they would connect the dots I'd have pursued this matter years ago with their folowers.

Question to fundamentalists: If Jesus, your savior came back to earth, would he find more in common with the humble Amish or with the typical suburban consumer class americans that are entirely connected to the power hungry grid? It's a rhetorical question. I hope that the religious fundamentalists that have discovered the earth find god there...maybe in a grain of sand too.

P. Bagley

I just sent feedback to the general Bill Moyers site witha link to http://dogemperor.dailykos.com/ at Daily Kos Dogemperor has a wonderful series on Dominionism which considers many aspects of the evangilical right but he has a great bit about what these folks (some of them anyway)thing about the environment I thinkd its in one of the middle posts

Taking care of the planet is a goal that is common to all people regardless of religion, race, country. I am encouraged by the fact that some christian groups are concerned about the environment and are making an impact in the Republican party. The environment is not a partisan, religious, cultural issue, it is a human issue and trickles down to every other living being on the earth. When we are able to work on these types of common issues it brings people together regardless of their differences on other issues. Let's work on fixing our common goals and those that affect us all first, and then we can deal with issues that are important to individual groups once those that affect us all have been solved.

Dissent is a fundamental aspect of Democracy. We should ALL be entitled to our opinions; however these opinions carry much more weight when they are informed. Thus, do not take the word of your government or your pastor or your friend, seek the knowledge of the situation in as many methods as possible. If there is a god, he or she would want it so.

Finally, some Christians have began to wake up on some of the issues like pollution. The sad thing is we have other issues like gun control(I noticed that the pastor had a lot of arms in his cabinet, while our children and young adults are been murdered in the steets). We have huge desparities in pay, so working class people are suffering from inadequate schools to inadequate housing and little or no money for culture or other other stress relieving and educational activities. While we, the middle class, are paying our taxes, and sending our kids to war, the rich are basking in loop holes created for them by lobbyists, blessed by Democrates and Republicans alike. Much of political process is ruined by influence peddling from both sides, and I think that Jesus would have gone into the situation and torn down the money changers tabels. I don't consider myself a Christian, but I am especially frustraited by Christians that' supposedly "walking in the light", can't see what is happening in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Maybe it's not very strange because all our media information is controlled by multinational companies.I sincerely thank you and congratulate you on another excellent program.

Guilt by association, whether you're being lumped in with the Sierra Club or the Club for Growth, is a big problem, but it's understandable.

It seems that evangelical environmentalists find themselves in a similar dilemma to that of moderate Muslims: They are disturbed by the willful ignorance or destructiveness of their fundamentalist co-religionists, but feel undermined or even betrayed by "blasphemous" actions/messages from outside their main faith.

Just as Neo-Con foreign policy, Victoria's Secret ads, and the tackier elements in gay pride parades give Wahhabi jihadists more recruiting energy, a handful of eco-radicals' swashbuckling "direct action" tactics and careless use of Gaia or Deep Ecology terminology only hinders our efforts at protecting creation.

Add to this the following topsy-turvey trend:
The tone and language of the [secular] environmental movement has often been disturbingly similar to that of the Moral Majority, Focus on the Family, etc:
- Fixation on "other people's sins"
- End-times speculation
- America-centrism (we're either the sole cause or sole cure of humanity's problems)
- Strident pleas for redemption (paper, glass, plastic, souls, GOP coffers...).

But if Jan Markell doesn't like Creation Care because many Sierra Club members are liberals, she ought to take into account that Al-Qaeda is probably anti-gay marriage. Given this, are Markell's only choices to start flying a rainbow flag on her porch or don a burqua?

The following statement that I happened to read today says it all. We must all learn to do what is for the Common Good of all Humanity, and that of course would include protecting the environment. Our beautiful planet, our Home in Space that houses and nourishes all of us.

"Globalization, for all its risks, also offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity, and solidarity. For this to happen, a complete change of perspective will be needed: it is no longer the well-being of any one political, racial, or cultural community that must prevail, but rather the good of humanity as a whole. The pursuit of the common good of a single political community cannot be in conflict with the common good of humanity."
- John Paul II
Sojourners - faith, politics, culture http://www.sojo.net/


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It scares me how many American's seem so willing to follow. The need to conform trumps right/wrong.
Maybe it's easier not to think for ourselves. It seems there is no interest in learning the other side of the issue. It's not a priority.
That's why this program and the entire series is so critical now.
We know global warming is a real and present danger. The dialog that happens from a program like this can be a powerful change agent. I feel every American should watch this entire series. Great journalism. Keep it coming.

This whole episode was quite enlightening and facinating. I had no idea that there were Christian groups getting into the "environmentalist" movement. Our world is indeeed worth saving and we do have a moral and ethical right to do so. Considering the results of our society, technology, and industry, has not always been high on the priority list. I'm hopeful that it is now. But we must also rely on solid scientific data and do our best to limit the emotion that can get in the way of the job at hand. Emotion is the begining point of all change, but when it becomes fanaticism then it becomes part of the problem instead of part of the cure.
The earth will survive. Take, for instance, the ruins being excavated in South and Central America. Huge cities were built. Something happened; the earth survived, the people did not, and the earth reclaimed her own.
Taking care of our world needs to be a joint effort. We need to be able to rely on sound scientific data. But even that can be tainted with emotion and hidden agendas of lobbyists, special interest groups, big business, and politics.

I find it hard to believe that there is only one common ground where Evangelicals all believe in god but can't come together on the issue of repairing the damage we all do every day. Most of us drive cars, and take the garbage to the curb. Do we realize that the exhaust from our vehicles is being collected by the atmosphere, making the planet heat up. The garbage that we make takes hundreds of years to break down enough to not be a problem. These two things, that we do every day, makes life unbearable to the animals that must live here to. I wish we could all come together and have a common ground where the planet and its inhabitants could co-exist and be like the evangelicals with their love for god.

Subject: Endorsement letter for the Reactivation of the United States Civilian Conservation Corps (USCCC)

Dear Mr Moyers


I saw your interview Rev. Richard Cizik last September. We all saw his concern on the issues of Global Warming and his brave stance on the environment with his peers. I sent him an email since the lobby he represents could sway the polls in the next election. The American people need a keener awareness of our dire situation with Global Warming and the degradation of our environment. Why not give back to them an opportunity to see America and to help them labor to save it and the planet.

Can we receive an endorsement letter from you at this late date. Time is of the essence since next month is the National Veterans for Peace Convention in St Louis, MO. It could be very similar to the following to motivate our Veterans to adopt the following resolution…

Howard Zinn - WW2 Veteran, Boston University Professor, Author and Historian wrote....

"The CCC was not only one of the greatest innovations of the New Deal, but it provides a model for us today. It is the answer to the double problem of unemployed youth (who turn to drugs, who end up in prison) and the persistence of war, with its enormous drain on the national wealth. The young, instead of being recruited to kill and be killed, or to come home maimed in body or in mind, could be put to work in government programs like the CCC, doing all sorts of constructive things to make our environment cleaner and safer. Such work would have the opposite effect of military action -- that is, it would foster healthy bodies and healthy minds as these young people make a great contribution to the nation. The situation today, with a trillion dollars wasted on war, with young men and women coming home damaged, with a crumbling infrastructure making us vulnerable to more Katrina’s, more human disasters, cries out for such a solution."-

Can you do a program that interviews old USCCC men and their lagacy to give the people a good PR message and give the agency a real boost to be reactivated by the President Elect and Congress.

Also I told Rev. Richard Cizik that every CCC camp had clergy to help them lead better fruitful lives and now the clergy could be more diverse for all faiths.

I hope that by having this resolution on the scope during the 2008 presidential election that candidates would consider adopting a Reactivation issue on their platforms. Your lobby as well as ones from the environmental and others can link up and help in the legislation to get appropriations for agency reactivation. This agency would help rebuild the environment and give our youth strong bodies and minds and our Veterans helping to do constructive activities and not the opposite to save this planet.

Respectfully yours:

Jay Alexander

3301 58th Ave N Lot 102

St Petersburg, FL 33714

727 365 4558

jayalexus@yahoo.com

jayalexus@tampabay.rr.com

Attached resolution....

RESOLUTION # 1 REACTIVATION OF THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS PROPOSED BY: Jay Alexander of Tampa Bay VFP Chapter 119

RECOMMENDS the reactivation of an updated CCC agency as a volunteer National Service and an alternative to military service from six months to two years for all single US citizens to age 35 of all socio-economic strata; and:

RECOGNIZES that the reactivated CCC will now accept women; and:

FURTHER RECOMMENDS that short term job training through public works and emergency aide would help alleviate the high unemployment among young adults; and:

AFFIRMS that those enrolled in the reactivated CCC would receive competent work supervision, superior safety training, and a living wage and perform other duties as assigned; and:

RESOLVES the reactivated CCC would allow for work experience and give veterans preference for leadership and supervisory positions within the agency; and:

FURTHUR RESOLVES that the reactivated CCC main purpose would be to maintain and repair the infrastructure of our public lands and waterways on all US territories through public works; and:

SO NOTES that these actions would satisfy the spirit of the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose by providing an honorable and useful alternative to military service for those otherwise feeling they are compelled to enlist due to socio-economic pressures; and

DESIGNATES that all that enroll would be provided with evening classroom education that would enable them to enter the private and public sector with confidence; and:

SUGGESTS a reactivated CCC shall give available manpower on a moments notice to any large scale natural or man-made disaster. They would assist the National Guard, FEMA and the American Red Cross. They will assist in the clean-up and repair of infrastructure and environmental damage in all US territories; and:

URGES the new CCC agency would be under direct government control. All other public or private agencies that receives federal funding for similar work would be dissolved and absorbed into the reactivated CCC agency to prevent overlap and fraud; and:

WHEREAS this popular program has a proven track record and has the potential to save the planet with imagination and hard work; therefore:

BE IT RESOLVED that Veterans for Peace calls upon the President and Congress to reactivate and update the template of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a popular program of the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

-------------

US Dod causualties in Operations Iraqi Freedom 3622+ and Enduring Freedom 412+ confirmed by U.S. Central Command. Civilian casualties in Iraq are estimated at 1 Million. http://icasualties.org/oif/
Vigil For Peace at MacDill USAFB 3 - 5 PM on 14 July
http://www.jesusprinceofpeace.org/whatiheardaboutiraq.htm
http://reactivatetheccc.blogspot.com/
www.newamericancentury.org



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The terms, "global warming" and "climate change" are overburdened with hyperbole and misunderstanding. "Air pollution" and "water pollution" are not encumbered with political, social, religious, and cultural distortions. We learned about these environmental problems as children and have observed them all our lives. Let's talk in these terms.
For history lessons in the possible, "Moral Man and Immoral Society" by Reinhold Neibuhr sets out the limits and reasonable expectations of what organizations of any size and type can and can not accomplish.

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Fucking MOONBATS. islam is the NUMBER ONE problem for us all and you dally around with this warmologist crap that only makes algore's investments PAY OFF!

Silly you, in the service of this RICH GREEDY BLOWHARD named algore.

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