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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, while speaking on his 700 CLUB television show, Robertson admitted that while he "had not been one who believed in global warming in the past, they're making a convert out of me." After discussing the rising heat, the melting of polar ice-caps, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air, he said, "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."
Robertson's surprise statement made headlines in the news and the blogosphere a world where political divisions are, if anything, starker than in everyday life. But the hoopla revealed a simple truth: The philosophical partition between evangelicals on opposing sides of the global warming debate is becoming more formidable each day.
In "Is God Green?" conservative evangelical pastor Tri Robinson relates his personal struggle over publicizing his calling to protect the environment, admitting he was concerned that he would be mischaracterized as a traitor to the Christian right and labeled a "tree-hugging liberal" in his Idaho community. For many evangelical environmentalists like Robinson, the choice to go public still carries with it the fear of being outcast-and guilt by association with a cause that has long been a rallying point for those on the political left.
Even eschewing the term "environmentalism" in favor of the more religiously acceptable "creation care" is a reminder of how important labels and stereotypes have become in this debate. An "environmentalist," in the traditional lexicon of the Christian right, denotes a certain character-left, liberal, secular, Democrat, and a host of other attributes that may or may not be accurate, just as the label "evangelical Christian" implies an entire set of beliefs and positions that may not be true of all evangelicals.
One new volume title on the bookshelves, popular with both THE NATIONAL REVIEW and the spiritual-religious Web site BeliefNet attempts to turn the stereotypes upside down. It's title? CRUNCHY CONS: HOW BIRKENSTOCKED BURKEANS, GUN-LOVING ORGANIC GARDENERS, EVANGELICAL FREE-RANGE FARMERS, HIP HOMESCHOOLING MAMAS, RIGHT-WING NATURE LOVERS, AND THEIR DIVERSE TRIBE OF COUNTERCULTURAL CONSERVATIVES PLAN TO SAVE AMERICA (OR AT LEAST THE REPUBLICAN PARTY).
Explore whether environmentalists of all stripes can escape the labels and find common ground-and let us hear what you have to say about it-in the MOYERS ON AMERICA Common Ground Citizens Class.