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Below you find all four sessions of the Citizens Class for "Is God Green?" Citizens Class: Religion & the Environment

How does your faith or religion or spirituality affect your perspective of environmentalism or creation care?

(Transcripts of video clips are at the end of the document.)

Backgrounder: Religion & The Environment
What's so important about the potentially powerful influence of conservative evangelical Christians on environmental issues, especially global warming? For years, many of these evangelicals have been charging environmentalists — and those progressive Christians who support environmentalism — with idolatry for lavishing worship on "God's creation" rather than God. Moreover, they have been skeptical, if not downright hostile, toward government-mandated protection of the environment ... [more]

Class Is in Session...
How did conservative evangelicals, who tend to present a unified front on most matters of political significance, end up in such a public battle over how to approach environmental issues like global warming? What's behind this difference of opinion?

In most respects, the divide comes down not to a disregard for the world — which is, for evangelicals, the creation of God — but on how exactly to care for that creation. Evangelicals part company on what God calls them to do about the environment: where to focus their attention, how to interpret scientific data, what the role of legislation and/or the free market should be in protecting the environment and human interests. The discussion and debate are less about whether God is green and more about what God commands. Does he ask Christians, explicitly or implicitly, to make environmentalism, or "creation care," part of their ministry and political platform? (Find out more about creation care, wise use and environmental stewardship)

Concern for the environment, and the current debate it has engendered, might be a hot topic in the evangelical community, but it is not a new one. Environmental policy debates emerged among evangelicals, as they did among the nation at large, in the 1960s and '70s. There were some critics, like medieval scholar Lynn Townsend White Jr., who went so far as to blame organized religion itself for the world's ecological ills, arguing that medieval Christian attitudes in particular, and the entire Judeo-Christian tradition in general, taught a disregard for nature and led to exploitation of the environment. That argument finds echoes today among certain evangelicals who insist that in Genesis, God gave man "dominion" over the earth and its creatures — essentially, carte blanche to do what he wants with his environment.

But for a number of religious Christians and evangelicals, this represents a dangerous misreading of the Bible. God, they contend, appointed man steward of the world, to protect it and sustain it as a way to honor to the divine work of the Creator. Caring for the environment, they say, isn't a political issue — it's a theological imperative.

In 1970, one such group, the National Association of Evangelicals, released a strongly worded policy resolution that called on Christians "to support every legitimate effort to maintain balance in ecology, preservation of our resources, and avoidance of the cluttering of our natural beauty with the waste of our society." And they didn't hedge at adding a bit of fire and brimstone: "Today those who thoughtlessly destroy a God-ordained balance of nature are guilty of sin against God's creation." (Read the documents)

In 1993 the Evangelical Environmental Network began to turn creation-care beliefs into action, publishing a declaration which began, "As followers of Jesus Christ, committed to the full authority of the Scriptures, and aware of the ways we have degraded creation, we believe that biblical faith is essential to the solution of our ecological problems."

But another religious group, which later became known as the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship, wanted to take the environmental debate in a different direction. They made their opposing views known in the 1999 Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, which warned that groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network's presented "a romantic view of nature, a misguided distrust of science and technology, and an intense focus on problems that are highly speculative and largely irrelevant to meeting our obligations to the world's poor."

The Cornwall Declaration stressed a free-market environmental stewardship and emphasized that individuals and private organizations should be trusted to care for their own property without government intervention. It also claimed that environmental concerns like global warming, overpopulation, and the extinction of species were either unfounded or greatly exaggerated. In the words of Father Robert A. Sirico of the conservative Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and member of Interfaith Council, "Environmental ideology is increasingly being used, not to preserve nature's beauty, but to restrict human enterprise that is essential to a more humane existence for people."

The Evangelical Climate Initiative Watch the video



The rhetoric over the role of evangelical Christians in the global warming debate escalated significantly in February 2006 when 86 Evangelical leaders signed and publicly released a statement entitled Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.

Among the tenets of the statement:

  • Human-induced climate change is real.
  • The consequences of climate change will be significant and will hit the poor the hardest.
  • Christian moral convictions demand our response to the climate change problem.
  • The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate change-starting now.
(Read the document)

News that the call to action was in the works in January 2006 prompted the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, a group related to the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship and the Acton Institute, to attempt to forestall any global warming policy statement by the National Association of Evangelicals. They sent the group a missive warning them to "not adopt any official position on the issue of global climate change," as "global warming is not a consensus issue, and our love for the Creator and respect for His creation does not require us to take a position." Led by high-proflie evangelical leaders Charles Colson and James Dobson, Interfaith Stewardship Alliance called for the National Association of Evangelicals not to put their name to the document. Richard Cizik, the vice-president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals acceded to their demands but continued to voice his agreement with the statement. The debate within the evangelical community soon hit the public consciousness, with articles in NEWSWEEK and THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Cizik even made it to the pages of VANITY FAIR.

For others in the evangelical community, taking a public stand on issues like global warming just isn't part of the religious plan. Christian broadcaster Jan Markell believes that evangelicals are called by God to win souls for Jesus, not to take up social issues, and that environmentalism distracts from the real mission of the evangelical church.

Watch the video: Jan Markell

And for some on the evangelical community the embracing of causes like environmentalism represents a dangerous move to the left — to partnership with groups with very different views on the core "culture war" issues. Explore the possibilities of that shift in political power in our Citizens Class on Religion & Politics.



Discussion
Although the documentary focused on the evangelical movement's relationship to the environment, other faiths and religious traditions have perspectives on man's relationship to the environment. Different cultures may also have different ways of interacting with the natural environment.

  • As we saw in the documentary, more and more conservative evangelicals believe that it is a Biblical responsibility to care for the environment. The environmental movement has focused on the moral responsibility to care for the environment. Is it the same thing? And what are the implications of this difference in approach to the same goal?

  • About environmental policy, The Cornwall Declaration says: “Public policies to combat exaggerated risks can dangerously delay or reverse the economic development necessary to improve not only human life but also human stewardship of the environment.” What do you think the balance should be between environmental, human, and economic concerns?

  • How does your faith or religion or spirituality affect your perspective of environmentalism or creation care?

Explore more
  • Find out about other faiths' environmental stance
  • Hear evangelical Christian, and chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sir John Houghton, talk about his faith and his science
  • Additional voices from the debate


BEGIN CLIP FROM "IS GOD GREEN?"

BILL MOYERS: On February 8 of this year, 86 influential evangelical leaders broke ranks and called for action on global warming. Being a good Christian, they said, means tackling climate change. Among the signers was one of the country's most popular preachers, and the pastor of the largest church in America, Rick Warren.

RICK WARREN: We cannot be all God wants us to be without caring about the earth. I think that's kind of a no-brainer.

BILL MOYERS: They took to the airwaves to spread their gospel.

ECI COMMERCIAL: The good news is that with God's help we can stop global warming, for our kids, our world and for our Lord.

BILL MOYERS: Richard Cizik recruited many of the signers of the call to action. His own name appeared in the first version, but in the final version….It was gone.

BILL MOYERS: That was a very strong statement that-

RICHARD CIZIK: Very strong.

BILL MOYERS: --made a lot of news. But I was surprised that your name wasn't on it.

RICHARD CIZIK: Well-- there are those who-- said, "Look, how can-- you," me, referring to me, "speak for all evangelicals when it's clearly you don't?" And so-- in the words of some-- I got-- whacked by Tony Soprano.

BILL MOYERS: But although he took his name off the statement, Cizik remains publicly adamant about the Christian duty to fight global warming.

END VIDEO


BEGIN CLIP, INTERVIEW WITH JAN MARKELL OF OLIVE TREE MINISTRIES

JAN MARKELL: Here is the situation with the evangelical climate initiative or those that signed this evangelical environmental network. They are focusing-- very, very closely, they are focusing on a single issue. And here's where we have our problem. They are focusing on the issue that the-- situation on the-- on earth right now which is precarious weather wise is because of climate and climate variations. Which are due to global warming. Manmade global warming. That's so important to understand. Because no one can disagree there's global warming.

That's one edge of even evangelicalism that believes that way. Now there's another element of evangelicalism. And I would represent it and I would say this is not what evangelicals are called to do. Focus on global warming and figure out is it manmade or water or what. Or what-- the other group of evangelicals believe is we were called and we are called to preach the gospel. To spread the good news. To win the lost.

Whereas this other camp is now focusing on sort of a social issue. And I think that's interesting. If you keep in mind that back in the 1940's, the organization was created called the National Association of Evangelicals. The reason they were formed was because they saw some denominations going off into the social gospel only. And this so called-- NEAE or National Association of Evangelicals in approximately 1946, got together and said-- as evangelicals, we are going to focus on the Bible.

We're going to focus on winning the lost. We're not going to focus on the social issues. Because so many of the main line protestants were. Well, now, comes a group of evangelicals saying we're all for the social cause and the social issues. Particularly as it concerns manmade global warming. And so I'm just saying I don't think that's the call of an evangelical. I think the call of evangelicals is to preach the good news. Is to preach the gospel. It's to win the lost. And not focus on these other issues.

QUESTION: What does it-- what's at stake when these prominent leaders speak out in this way? What is-- what's-- what's at stake here?

JAN MARKELL: Well, it's taking time and it's taking money and it's taking other things away from the central issue that the National Association of Evangelicals decades ago now-- their whole purpose was to create a movement called the evangelical movement that was created to focus on one thing only. And that's preaching the gospel and saving souls.

And so if we're going to get diverted and we're going to spend millions of dollars and we're going to spend-- who knows how much time trying to rid the world, in this case, of a questionable theory called manmade global warming, this is a huge distraction from what we should be doing. The more conservative evangelical would say, hey, we need to preach the gospel and win the lost. And not go after a science that is not proven at all. You cannot prove scientifically that the weather aberrations that are going on are manmade. You just can't prove it.

And in the meantime, souls are dying. Because we're spending time and money trying to figure out if in fact there's such a thing as manmade global warming. It's a massive waste of time and of resources.

END CLIP


Is God Green? Religion and Politics

(Transcripts of video clips are at the end of the document.)

Do you believe that we are a divided and polarized nation?

Backgrounder: Religion & Politics
Over the past 25 years, conservative Christians have become an increasingly powerful force in American politics. The late 1970s and the early '80s marked the initial triumphs of the Christian right, with groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition flexing their political muscle on issues like abortion and homosexuality. In 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan courted their as-yet untapped power and won the White House ... [more]

Class Is in Session...
If politics were boxing, evangelical Christians would be the undisputed religious heavyweight champs. And today, their power is being felt in an arena not typically part of their ideological circuit-the environmental movement. Roman Catholic groups, Jewish groups, and a dozens, if not hundreds, of non-religious organizations have embraced the environmental cause, but it's the evangelicals, with their close ties to the GOP, who "have the power to move the debate," says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "They could produce policies more palatable to people who have not been moved by secular environmental groups."
Watch the video

But where did their power come from? Why can they "move the debate?" Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate to recognize the political potential of the Christian right. During his 1980 presidential bid, in his efforts to secure evangelical votes, Reagan met with major conservative Christian figures and voiced his likeminded opinion that the Bible was unquestionably the key to unlocking America's greatness, at home and abroad.

Evangelical voting power

Well, we all know how Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign turned out. His strategy of courting the evangelical vote has been a standard of the Republican party ever since.

But the election in which evangelicals made their biggest show of influence was the last one-Republican George W. Bush rode into power with the support of tens of millions of conservative Christians who shared his views on most of the more pressing political and social issues of the day. It's worth taking a look at how that vote played out. Throughout the 2004 presidential election, the media featured maps like the one below that showed partisan division between states-the blue state went to Democrat John Kerry, the red states to Bush.

US voting map 2004 -- red and blue states The evangelical contribution to the Republican victory cannot be overestimated. Shortly after the election, the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron released several reports about the American religious landscape and politics.

  • 63% of registered evangelicals-or 26.5 million individual evangelicals-voted.

  • 78% of evangelicals who voted chose George W. Bush.

  • 97% of evangelicals surveyed said it was important for the president to have strong religions beliefs.
Reverend Jerry Falwell's three-point plan-get them saved, get them baptized, get them registered-certainly paid off at the polls. It would seem that the millions of evangelical voters, along with the scores of non-evangelical Republican voters, had made clear what was Republican territory and what wasn't, and the nation seemed more polarized than ever-along religious lines, along party lines, and along geographic lines.

But the red-and-blue map may not alone tell the whole story, and in our current discussion on the perceived divisions in our nation, it bears looking at some further data. The following map breaks down voting results county by county. Robert Vaderbei of Princeton University proposed using a third color, purple, to indicate counties where the differences were slim. Results are analyzed on a scale ranging from solid blue (100% Democratic) to solid red (100% Republican) with shades of purple representing the degrees in between.

US voting map 2004 -- the purple effect Not so stark? Let's take an even further look. The following cartogram of the 2004 election is based on county-wide results, and the sizes of geographic regions such as counties or provinces appear in proportion to their population.

It is hardly recognizable as the land mass of the United States, but it certainly tells us that we are not as divided as common understanding would indicate. And yet, there is a sense among citizens that we are deeply polarized and that extreme perspectives dictate the public conversation. How can we be purple when our airwaves, civic discourse, media reports seem to indicate otherwise?

US voting map 2004 -- cartogram Another report by the Ray C. Bliss Institute may shed some light on this apparent contradiction. "Increased polarization is the principal finding of the Fourth National Survey of Religion and Politics post-election survey ... Although the election was very close overall (51 percent for Bush and 49 percent for Kerry), there was extensive polarization between and within the major religious traditions ... Evangelical Protestants gave Bush more than three-quarters of their votes, while nearly three-quarters of the Unaffiliated voted for Kerry."

It is no wonder that the environmentalists like Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation and a Christian have called on the evangelicals to become involved in the environmental movement.

Schweiger, in a speech at the Christianity Today-National Association of Evangelicals-Evangelical Environmental Conference in 2004 (reprinted in the Winter 2005 Issue of CREATION CARE magazine), said:

"And I'm here to tell you something else. The environmentalists, the National Wildlife Federations and the Sierra Clubs and all the other groups out there will not win this battle - [pause] - hear this, will not win this battle without evangelical Christians.

Because the U.S. Congress is made up of a lot of Conservative Republicans and the Conservative Republicans consider their bedrock constituency evangelical Christians. If evangelical Christians come to the table and say that caring for the planet is a part of Christianity and a part of our message, evangelical Christians can turn this struggle. In fact, I will predict that until evangelical Christians weigh in in a serious way in this matter, we will not win it, and I mean that sincerely.

So I'm here as a brother in Christ to urge you…who are not in this fight to get in this fight for the benefit of our children's children. Together we can turn this if we work together and find ways to make this happen. "

Hear what Larry Schweiger has to say about the recent debate within the evangelical movement and what it may mean for Republican Party priorities.

Watch the video: Larry Schweiger

In summary, Evangelicals wield considerable power over public policy: They vote more often and they care more than anyone about their candidate's religion

Discussion
  • Do you believe that we are a divided and polarized nation? What evidence do you see that we are or are not?

  • The three maps presented here each tell a story about the United States. What do you take away from looking at these three maps? Which map is closest to your political experience and political wishes?

  • Is your faith critical to your vote?


BEGIN CLIP FROM "IS GOD GREEN?"

BILL MOYERS: Evangelicals - whether in the hollows of West Virginia, the towns of Idaho or suburban mega churches - share some common tenets: that Jesus Christ is their lord and savior…. …that salvation entails a personal conversion - being born again… …and that the Bible is God's word.

RONALD REAGAN: "All the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in that single book."

BILL MOYERS: Back in 1980, millions of evangelicals underwent a political conversion and gave their hearts to Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was no evangelical, but he understood the Bible's role in their faith - and the role they could play in his political future.

RONALD REAGAN: Now, I know this is a non-partisan gathering and so I know that you can't endorse me, but I only brought that up because I want you to know I endorse you and what you are doing.

BILL MOYERS: What they were doing was setting out to take over The Republican Party.

REV. JAMES ROBISON [1980]: We must begin to literally penetrate every area of our society! Yes, even the political area!

REV. JERRY FALWELL [1980]: We have three priorities in the 1980s: Number one, get people converted to Christ; number two, get them baptized; number three, get them registered to vote.

RALPH REED [Christian Coalition Recruitment Video, 1990]: I believe that if we carry this five-fold strategy out, with diligence and with effectiveness, I think that we will be the most powerful political force in the nation by the end of this decade.

BILL MOYERS: By the year 2000, their legwork put George W. Bush in the White House…

GEORGE W. BUSH: God bless you and may God bless America!

BILL MOYERS: And in 2004, Bush was re-elected when 3 out of four white evangelicals voted for him.

END VIDEO


BEGIN CLIP, INTERVIEW WITH LARRY SCHWEIGER, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION

BILL MOYERS: So where does the future of evangelicals and the environment take us? Will the James Dobson's, the Pat Robertson's, the Jerry Falwell's ultimately carry the day in the evangelical community?

LARRY SCHWEIGER: I think as they see their base moving on this issue, which it is right now, they're going to change their message. And they're going to be forced to change their message because they'll be out of step with their own constituencies.

BILL MOYERS: You think that people in the pews are changing?

LARRY SCHWEIGER: Oh, absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: What-- what's changing them? They're Bible believers. They are followers of these--

LARRY SCHWEIGER: But they're also waking up to the urgency and the reality of global warming. They're seeing it in their own lives. They're seeing it in their worlds. And- they see that the planet is not the stable place that it once was. That we're seeing increasing intensity in storms and droughts and-- all the forces of nature are going in a direction-- that's not good over time.

BILL MOYERS: But is it denial at work here? Because I saw a poll just last summer-- I think it was an ABC poll that it may have been a Fox poll that said 66 percent of Americans do not believe that global warming will affect their lives. A large portion-- maybe two-thirds of the respondents of that poll said they didn't think global warming would affect their lives.

LARRY SCHWEIGER: Well, I think that the question, and I think it's a question that's-- coming into sharper and sharper focus is-- you know, for a long time that the spin was that global warming didn't exist. And then global warming exists but it's not caused by humans. And then it became, well, it's caused by humans but we can't really fix it. It's not something we can stop. And so we need to adapt to it.

But there's also this other spin out there that global warming is something that's going to happen a hundred or two hundred years down the road. Well, that time frame is now striking very quickly. And the scientists are making it clear that we're already seeing. You know, 98 percent of the ice caps on the planet are melting. We're talking about-- you know, where do we have our next Olympics? You know, how far up the mountain do we need to go to do an Olympic event? We're seeing the-- 40 percent of the polar region has melted. Both sides of Antarctica are now melting. We're seeing increasing droughts. 50 percent increase in droughts over the last 30 years. We're seeing intense storms well up around the world. Coastal flooding.

Persistent drought in drier places across this country. And so people are seeing those changes and they're starting to connect the dots. And I-- and I think as they connect one dot to another, it-- they all lead back to the fact that we're-putting too much heat trapping gas in the atmosphere and that's going to change the nature of our world in our lifetimes.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think it can change people who, many of us-- you know, many of us are in denial. Many Americans are in denial. They have a support staff. How do you reach those people? Joseph Campbell said if you want to change the way, you have to change the metaphor. Is there a Biblical metaphor that might reach people who still are unconvinced by the science, by the data, by the facts?

LARRY SCHWEIGER: I think it's he Good Samaritan, you know, we see the man on the roadside who is hurting. And we step to the plate and understand that. Well, let me suggest to you that there are, literally, tens of thousands of Samaritan-- victims on the roadside that that Good Samaritan stepped up and helped. And they're-- they're in New Orleans and they're in coastal-- areas in the Gulf right now in America.

END CLIP


Citizens Class: Common Ground?

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

(Transcripts of video clips are at the end of the document.)

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?


BEGIN CLIP FROM "IS GOD GREEN?"

BILL MOYERS: You know, I have to ask you. Are you conservative?

RICHARD CIZIK: Yes. Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: What's your position on abortion?

RICHARD CIZIK: I'm pro-life. Abortion is wrong.

BILL MOYERS: Homosexuality?

RICHARD CIZIK: I'm-- I'm conservative on this issue. I oppose same sex marriage.

BILL MOYERS: And yet on the environment you sound like a ..

RICHARD CIZIK: Well, I happen to think that, you see, to be biblically consistent means you have to, at times, be politically inconsistent.

END CLIP


BEGIN CLIP, INTERVIEW WITH JAN MARKELL OF OLIVE TREE MINISTRIES

JAN MARKELL: Here is the situation with the evangelical climate initiative or those that signed this evangelical environmental network. They are focusing-- very, very closely, they are focusing on a single issue. And here's where we have our problem. They are focusing on the issue that the-- situation on the-- on earth right now which is precarious weather wise is because of climate and climate variations. Which are due to global warming. Manmade global warming. That's so important to understand. Because no one can disagree there's global warming.

That's one edge of even evangelicalism that believes that way. Now there's another element of evangelicalism. And I would represent it and I would say this is not what evangelicals are called to do. Focus on global warming and figure out is it manmade or water or what. Or what-- the other group of evangelicals believe is we were called and we are called to preach the gospel. To spread the good news. To win the lost.

Whereas this other camp is now focusing on sort of a social issue. And I think that's interesting. If you keep in mind that back in the 1940's, the organization was created called the National Association of Evangelicals. The reason they were formed was because they saw some denominations going off into the social gospel only. And this so called-- NEAE or National Association of Evangelicals in approximately 1946, got together and said-- as evangelicals, we are going to focus on the Bible.

We're going to focus on winning the lost. We're not going to focus on the social issues. Because so many of the main line protestants were. Well, now, comes a group of evangelicals saying we're all for the social cause and the social issues. Particularly as it concerns manmade global warming. And so I'm just saying I don't think that's the call of an evangelical. I think the call of evangelicals is to preach the good news. Is to preach the gospel. It's to win the lost. And not focus on these other issues.

QUESTION: What does it-- what's at stake when these prominent leaders speak out in this way? What is-- what's-- what's at stake here?

JAN MARKELL: Well, it's taking time and it's taking money and it's taking other things away from the central issue that the National Association of Evangelicals decades ago now-- their whole purpose was to create a movement called the evangelical movement that was created to focus on one thing only. And that's preaching the gospel and saving souls.

And so if we're going to get diverted and we're going to spend millions of dollars and we're going to spend-- who knows how much time trying to rid the world, in this case, of a questionable theory called manmade global warming, this is a huge distraction from what we should be doing. The more conservative evangelical would say, hey, we need to preach the gospel and win the lost. And not go after a science that is not proven at all. You cannot prove scientifically that the weather aberrations that are going on are manmade. You just can't prove it.

And in the meantime, souls are dying. Because we're spending time and money trying to figure out if in fact there's such a thing as manmade global warming. It's a massive waste of time and of resources.

END CLIP

Citizens Class: Your Environment

How should economic and environmental needs be balanced?

(Transcripts of video clips are at the end of the document.)

Backgrounder: Your Environment
Environment-watchers worry that in the past six years have witnessed many attempts to rollback key environmental legislation. The Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Roadless Rule protecting wilderness area from development -- all faced challenges in court, Congress and changing federal policy priorities. In addition, the nation has seemed out of step with the international community as the Kyoto Protocol went into effect without U.S. participation in 2005. In August 2006 California took it upon itself to buck the system and tackle global warming on its own. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger crossed party lines to sign into law the nation's first bill to cap man-made greenhouse gas emissions ... [more]

Class Is in Session...
Many individuals might throw up their hands when confronted with a problem as massive as global warming - that's not the case with the ecological challenges they face in their backyard. The environment is an intensely local issue. "Is God Green?" explores environment and community in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia -- where mountaintop coal mining has local residents bringing their faith to bear in their effort to stop widespread pollution and environmental damage. The program explores the real-world consequences of mountaintop mining and its toxic byproducts by profiling residents forced to live with drinking water allegedly contaiminated by a local subsidiary of the region's largest coal company, Massey Energy. Today, after 12 years, the local government is building the infrastructure that eventually will bring clean water to the effected communities. (More on mountaintop mining)

Watch the video

"I first want to apologize as a Christian for the unfaithfulness of the churches and Christians who have oftentimes - too often - been complicit in the destruction that we see upon the land," says Allen Johnson, who co-founded the advocacy group Christians for the Mountains. "In the Book of Revelation, there's a scripture that says that God will destroy those who destroy the Earth. We're breaking a covenant with God." Allen's group is working to recruit local churches to explore the pollution problem as a theological and Biblical issue, and to join their fight.

Watch the video: Ken Cook

Knowledge is a powerful tool in safeguarding health and the environment. Several years ago Bill Moyers became a guinea pig in study on how toxins in the environment make it into the human blood stream. Researchers at two major laboratories tested for 210 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers, including Bill Moyers. Scientists refer to this contamination as a person's body burden. The resulting report, documented in TRADE SECRETS, found that Bill Moyers has 85 industrial chemicals in his blood stream. Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group talked with Bill Moyers about environmental toxins on NOW in 2003. (More on health and the environment)

Watch the video: The Earth Conservation Corps

Of course there are federal agencies charged with the responsibility to monitor environmental conditions — and cleaning up problems. But, as experience shows — it's often local initiative that makes a difference in environmental quality. NOW WITH BILL MOYERS documented a unique group in one of the country's most environmentally and economically challenged areas. The Earth Conservation Corps takes local kids and turns them into local stewards of their environment. The Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) was founded in 1989 and takes as its mission "providing hands-on environmental education, job training and community service programs for people of all ages from diverse backgrounds, with an emphasis on serving at-risk youth from the inner-city neighborhoods."

Tell us about your community. And check on local environmental conditions.

Discussion

  • Where does federal responsibility end for environmental protection? What should be left to states? Local community governments?

  • Consider the mountain top coal mining story in the documentary. Coal mining and its environmental effects have been part of that region for generations, why do you think the local churches have stayed out of the discussion for so long, and why do you think they are involved now?

  • How should economic and environmental needs be balanced?

  • Do you feel that you know enough about your environment?

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BEGIN CLIP: FROM "IS GOD GREEN?"

JUDY BONDS: There are three million pounds of explosives used a day just in West Virginia to blow the tops off these mountains. Three million pounds a day. ….to knock fly rock everywhere, to send silica and coal dust and rock dust and fly rock in our homes. I'm kinda thinking-- I wonder-- now which one of these mountains do you think God will come down here and blow up? Which one of these hollers do you think Jesus would store waste in? That's a simple question. That's all you have to ask.

BILL MOYERS: Judy Bonds' Family has been in these mountains for ten generations. She is a winner of one of the world's most prestigious environmental awards - The Goldman Prize.

JUDY BONDS: …As of last year, there was 400,000 acres of the world's most diverse forest completely destroyed forever then there's 1200 miles of stream have been affected. Seven hundred miles have been buried by mountaintop removal, which has selenium discharges in it. There's brackish water comin' out of it. Nothing can live in this type of water

PREACHER: Do you remember the first time you fell in love with Jesus?

BILL MOYERS: Bonds was a raised a Christian, then strayed from the church. This fight, she says, has brought her back to God.

JUDY BONDS: It was the unjustness that I saw that was being heaped upon the people that -- the blasting and -- and children suffering from the -- from the coal dust. And the elderly suffering from the coal dust. And the flooding. And I began to pray for help. For guidance.

PREACHER: I'll do whatever it takes to fight for my country. To protect the ocean, to protect our environment…

BILL MOYERS: Now Bonds is bringing her faith to her fight for the mountains, part of a growing movement in West Virginia in which concern for the earth is guided by the Bible.

JUDY BONDS: Never doubt that this is a battle between good and evil! And now is not a time to be silent. Now is a time to stand up and be counted for. The earth is God's body!

ALLEN JOHNSON: I first want to apologize as a Christian for the unfaithfulness of the churches and Christians who have oftentimes - too often - been complicit in the destruction that we see upon the land!

BILL MOYERS: Allen Johnson is part of the same campaign. He co-founded an advocacy Group…christians for the Mountains.

ALLEN JOHNSON: In the Book of Revelation-- there's a scripture that says that God will destroy those who destroy the Earth." We're breaking a covenant with God. We're breaking a covenant with-- with Creation and with other people and with future generations. It is-- is sin. Sin's not a word that-- is popular today-- or its-- but it-- but that's what it is. S-I-N.

THE JOHNSONS: Give us, Lord, our daily bread.

BILL MOYERS: Johnson is a librarian. He and his wife have home-schooled their four children. They live off their land, growing their own vegetables, raising animals for food. On Sundays, he sings and plays in the church band.

In a region where many depend on coal for their livelihoods, Allen Johnson and Judy Bonds are speaking out, against mountaintop removal…and for the people who consider themselves its collateral damage.

END CLIP


BEGIN CLIP FROM NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, KEN COOK, 2003

BILL MOYERS: Look at this headline, quote, "Government Report Says Wood Play Sets Pose A Cancer Risk." The story goes on to report that scientists now know that children playing in millions of outdoor wood playground sets face an increased risk of bladder and lung cancer from arsenic exposure. But chemicals are showing up in everyone's bodies, not just kids'. And that's how I became a guinea pig. I volunteered for a test to discover my body burden. That's the term scientists use to describe the chemicals accumulating in our bodies simply by living in our world. I was one of the first participants in the study. Here's a clip.

[Excerpt from TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT]
MOYERS: In this arm?

NURSE: Preferably, if that's where your vein is good at.

MOYERS: For the purpose of this broadcast, I volunteered to take part in their study. A much larger project is underway at the US Centers for Disease Control.

MOYERS: And you're looking for chemicals?

McCALLY: Not the body's normal chemicals. We're looking for industrial chemicals, things that weren't around 100 years ago, that your grandfather didn't have in his blood or fat. We're looking for those chemicals that have been put into the environment, and through environmental exposures — things we eat, things we breathe, water we drink — are now incorporated in our bodies that just weren't there.

MOYERS: You really think you will find chemicals in my body?

McCALLY: Oh, no question. No question.
[End excerpt]

MOYERS: I'll be back in a moment to tell you the results of that study, but right now we'll introduce you to Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group. Mr. Cook's organization commissioned that study, along with the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine here in New York and Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute based in California. Welcome to NOW.

COOK: Thanks.

MOYERS: Why did you do that study?

COOK: We did that study for a couple of reasons. One, every time you eat fruit, every time you breathe air, every time you put gas in your tank or paint your room, there's an opportunity for some of these toxic chemicals to find their way into you. We wanted to document that. And oddly enough, it hadn't really been documented before.

The study that you were a part of, is nine individuals, was the group of people who've been most extensively tested for a wide range of chemicals ever. And, in some cases, the levels we found in people were very high. And these weren't incinerator workers or factory workers, they're folks like you, maybe sitting behind a typewriter all day or making phone calls. Not out in a place where you'd expect a high chemical exposure. Just living.

MOYERS: Just living?

COOK: Just living.

MOYERS: Well, at the end of that documentary, I came back to find out what they had found out. So look at this.

[Excerpt from TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT]
McCALLY: We tested for 150 different industrial chemicals, and you have 84 of those 150.

MOYERS: Wow. Eighty-four.

McCALLY: Eighty-four. In the PCB case, you had 31 different PCBs of this whole family of similar chemicals. They are all over the place. And it's probably a function of where you live. You lived in some locale where PCBs were in the environment, and you got them into you through the air you breathed. Some of them get down in groundwater. Some of them get coated on food. You didn't get them sort of in one afternoon because you ate a poisoned apple.
[End of excerpt]

MOYERS: I may have eaten a poison apple, but I'm not sure. Now, I'm almost 70 years old, so clearly those PCBs haven't killed me.

COOK: Yeah.

MOYERS: Or any of the other stuff that I've been taking in during my lifetime.

COOK: No, I think the real issue becomes, you know, what does it to your risk in the case of PCBs, of cancer and in the case of PCBs also, nervous system disorders. You've lived a long time, and I hope you live a lot longer. The real issue here is, do we know enough at this stage to be allowing this wide range of chemicals to get into our bodies without fully understanding their effects? And the answer is we don't know that, they're not well studied.

MOYERS: You tested for what? 210 chemicals?

COOK: Yeah something like that.

MOYERS: And I brought these figures in. One year alone, I think this was '98, American companies manufactured 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000 different chemicals. And the major companies alone — this does not include the small chemical companies — dumped 7.1 billion pounds of 650 chemicals into our air and water.

COOK: Right.

MOYERS: So we don't know what most of these chemicals are doing.

COOK: No, we don't. Most people are surprised to find out that it's legal to dump so much chemical into the environment. Toxic chemical. Most people are surprised to find out that when they go to the grocery store or a pharmacy or a hardware store, that a lot of the chemicals that are in those products, the federal government does not stand behind them with safety testing. There are no safety tests required in many cases.

MOYERS: I don't want people to be alarmed unnecessarily, to think that — you don't either — to think that, well, just because we had these chemicals, they're going to cause cancer or they're going to cause leukemia or whatever. So what's the balance we have to strike here?

COOK: Well, I think the first balance that we should strike is a more rigorous testing system before we allow the chemicals on the market. Some chemicals are tested more rigorously. For example, pesticides are required to have 120 tests conducted on them. Now, we have quibbles ourselves with the kinds of tests that are done and how they're interpreted. But the fact remains, before you can bring a new pesticide on the market, you have to do that testing because it's going to be in food.

END CLIP


BEGIN CLIP FROM NOW WITH BILL MOYERS, "ENDANGERED SPECIES," JANUARY 16, 2004, DANIEL ZWERDLING, CORRESPONDENT

ZWERDLING: Darius Phillips would be the first to tell you that he was the kind of man you should be afraid of. People on the streets here in Washington DC used to call him "the Big Hurt."

PHILLIPS: And you could say something about, say something to me, you didn't even have to say anything, you could look at me a different way, and I'm down your neck, just like that.

ZWERDLING: Phillips sold crack. He stole cars. He robbed taxi drivers. He's 22 years old.

PHILLIPS: My whole philosophy at that particular time was never leave the house with less than $5,000 on you. You know, that's like, that was my quota for the day. I gotta put ten in the bank every day, and I always gotta walk around with five in my pocket, every day.

ZWERDLING: Lashauntya Moore is a 24-year-old welfare mother. Her brother's in prison for double homicide. She started having babies when she was in high school.

MOORE: I had that fantasy that the guy, he loved me and we were gonna get married and we were gonna have a big house and take care of our baby. We were gonna have a good life and we were gonna be happy. So, that was my plan. And I told that to my father. And he was like, "You're living in a dream world."

ZWERDLING: There's not much reason to expect that these young people would ever make it out of this world. But now they're trying to transform their lives and they're doing it partly by transforming the area where they live.

SMITH: We're gonna focus on this area - cleanup on the exterior of the gate.

ZWERDLING: A few months ago, they joined a non-profit program called the Earth Conservation Corps. The basic idea sounds simple: you recruit a few dozen young men and women from the community, even if they have criminal records or if they're drop-outs, and you hire them to clean up and restore their neighborhood.

But nothing is simple in this part of the nation's capital.

Because we're not talking about this Washington, on the banks of the shining Potomac River, we're talking about this Washington, on the banks of the other river. They call the river and the neighborhood Anacostia.

Most call this whole area 'southeast.' It's only a few blocks from the U.S. capitol, but it's one of the worst neighborhoods in America.

NIXON: When we came here, you couldn't see the river standing here. There were trash heaps 100 feet high.

ZWERDLING: Bob Nixon used to be a Hollywood producer. He came to Washington in the early 1990s, to shoot a film about the environment. Nixon stayed and he set up the Earth Conservation Corps, because he felt he had to do something about this environment.

NIXON: They didn't just dump trash here, they dumped people here. There are, you know, 90 percent of the public housing communities in Washington are, you know, within a mile and a half of this dump right here.

ZWERDLING: Every city has a place like southeast. This is where they put the projects, this is where they put the factories and the freeways. This is where everybody puts their pollution.

But the killings along these streets give Washington its horrendous distinction: it has the highest murder rate of any major city in the country.

KEITH: Every day, every day, you know, "such and such died." You know, "such and such died."

LONG: Two friends of mine were killed. And my uncle was shot up at the same time. He was shot in the stomach with an A-K.

KEITH: My senior year of high school I had to go to 11 funerals. My senior year of high school.

ZWERDLING: These young people say. When they first heard about the Earth Conservation Corps. The last thing the cared about was cleaning up the environment. They were looking for a way to survive.

The Corps pays roughly minimum wage. Plus they get health insurance and a $5000 scholarship if they go back to school.

But something clicks when they get out on the Anacostia, they go about a mile upstream, and they see their community in a new way.

PHILLIPS: Basically like five, ten minutes away, I live from here. And this is, this is not all I know, but this is where, this is a part of me. This is my heritage. And to be a part of something so beautiful, it's overwhelming when you look at it around here, and you can say that I'm a part of something so beautiful.

ZWERDLING: Phillips and the other corps members take videos wherever they go, so they can document their heritage and show how they're trying to save it.

GLOVER: I'm at the mouth of beaver dam right now, ready to take three more water samples.

ZWERDLING: The problem is, this river has become one of most polluted in America. You can't tell by looking at it, but health officials estimate that more than a billion gallons of raw sewage end up in the Anacostia, every year.

Today, the Corps is going out on one of its regular patrols. They've heard that raw sewage might be pouring into a tributary, illegally, and they're investigating.

When they find suspect dumping, they report it.

[ECC VIDEO]
GLOVER: My name is Jerome Glover of the Earth Conservation Corps. This is the first day of our testing of the water quality…

PHILLIPS: What do you think this is?

GLOVER: I have no idea what it is. It hasn't rained in like, four or five days. In 24 hours, we'll know.

ZWERDLING: And the next morning, the results confirm what they suspected.

GLOVER: These big glops right here, it shows that the Anacostia is contaminated with fecal coliforms.

ZWERDLING: Fecal what?

GLOVER: Coliform. It's, it's like human crap, for real. So, yeah. And there it is right there.

ZWERDLING: Bob Nixon says these Corps members are doing some of the work their government should be doing.

NIXON: This is, in a lot of sense Ground Zero for a lot of issues that are facing our whole country. They're fighting environmental jus… people call it "environmental justice," I think it's "environmental injustice." All sorts of sort of injustices piled one on top of the other that they're trying to untangle.

ZWERDLING: When you talk to Corps members, they all give different reasons why they're caught up in this work.

PHILLIPS: I love the research, because it's fun. It's like being a detective. You get to find out who's actually doing what, and we can write letters and get things to happen.

ZWERDLING: Another Corps member, Jerome Scott, says he wants to protect wildlife along this river.

SCOTT: I want to be a zoologist, a marine biologist, anything that has to do with animals. I love it.

ZWERDLING: Actually, he's already teaching a bit of science. Just about every morning, members of the Earth Conservation Corps and another nonprofit group take students from local schools out on the river. They're teaching the next generation about the environment. David Smith helps run the Corps. He's picked Jerome Scott to be one of the guides.

SMITH: Right now, he has an extensive knowledge on trees, greater than mine. An extensive knowledge on invasive and exotic species of plants, trees, and animals. He's done… man, I could go on for about 15 more minutes about just some of the accomplishments that he made last year.

ZWERDLING: Smith says, picture Jerome Scott through the eyes of these kids from the inner city.

SMITH: You never see a black guy on a boat teaching environmental sciences. So, by seeing a black guy from D.C. on a boat, teaching you about pollution and environmental, aquatic vegetation, that sort of thing, it makes it more of a reality that you can achieve it yourself.

SCOTT: The kids think that the river's so dirty, you know, that there could be no way fish could be living in it. But we show there is fish living in it. They are some strong fish, you know? And I love the way they… their intensity, their fight, you know, to stay in this river.

ZWERDLING: So you love the fact that they're survivors?

JEROME: They're survivors. They're, they're surviving fish. Exactly.

END CLIP

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