Getting Heated About Global Warming

March 06, 2007

Some Christian leaders have released a letter attacking Richard Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Signers include James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins, Rick Scarborough, Gary Bauer, Harry Jackson, and Dick Bott. The letter suggests that the NAE encourage Cizik to resign. What is his horrible offense? Believing that global warming is a problem. Regardless of what one thinks about the issue, there are some serious problems with the letter.

First, the letter acknowledges that the signers are not even members of the NAE. Yet, it claims that they "consider [the NAE] to be an important Christian institution in today's culture." If they really care about the organization, why not join it? Why attack from the outside instead of joining and working from within? They go on to claim that Cizik's beliefs are "a threat to the unity and integrity of the" NAE and "is dividing and demoralizing the NAE and its leaders." Actually, the "division" is coming from the outside.

Second, the harsh attack on the NAE VP is quite ironic (perhaps sad would be a better word) considering the quite tepid response that some of these same individuals gave after then-president of the NAE Ted Haggard was found to have bought drugs, paid a man for sex, and lied about it all. Yet, this letter contends that Cizik's work will "shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children." It would seem that Haggard was the one who actually undermined these "great moral issues" (though I am confused why poverty is not listed since Jesus spoke more about that than any of the others combined).

Third, the letter unethically twists Cizik's words to suggest that he is for "promoting abortion" and "infanticide in China and elsewhere." Such an attack is un-Christlike and seems to violate the commandment to not bear false witness against one's neighbor. What Cizik actually said was: "But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. We need to confront population control and we can -- we're not Roman Catholics, after all, but it's too hot to handle now." What he clearly is referring to (and the Roman Catholic reference provides the obvious context) is birth control, not abortion or killing infants (because Catholics are not for those actions). The signers of this letter are smart enough to know better. Their unethical and un-Christlike attack here should be much more troubling to all Christians than any of Cizik's remarks about global warming.

Finally, the letter argues that global warming has not been proven because the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance says it has not been. It adds about the ISA's statement: "The list of those who signed the report is long and distinguished." The important fact they do not point out in this letter is that several of the signers and one of the writers of the ISA statement work for organizations that have received a lot of money from ExxonMobil, which is a connection I exposed in an Ethics Daily article last year. Perhaps such money influenced their opinion. If nothing else, we should look to someone else who does not have the appearance of a conflict.

So, what is the reason for this letter? Perhaps the answer is found in the letter itself. It states that "Cizik's disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, 'evangelical.'" It goes on to complain about problems with the term. Thus, it seems they are upset that people are starting to realize the incredible depth and breadth of the evangelical community. The signers may be upset that they are no longer the ones with sole power to represent evangelicals and define it however they want. Their reign as self-appointed spokespeople for evangelical Christians is being challenged and they do not like it. They must see Cizik as a significant challenge, because why else would they have taken so much time away from their "godly" work campaigning for Republicans?