New evangelicals and creation care

I spoke this morning at a press conference in South Carolina, on the front steps of the Statehouse, about the emerging voice for creation care among evangelicals. Here is a draft of those remarks:

I’m concerned that young people and people of faith don’t get disconnected from the political process just because they often fail to see their values reflected in that process. Younger evangelicals in particular are often frustrated with what they see as partisan bickering and deadlock, and they are equally frustrated with what the media portrays as a narrow evangelical political agenda. Evangelicals dislike being pigeonholed as single-issue voters in any political party’s back pocket. They would prefer that candidates reflect their values rather than the other way around.

Hallmarks of the New Evangelicals are continued concern for issues of the sanctity of human life, including opposition to abortion, fetal stem cell research, and euthanasia. It is our desire that children are safe and healthy in the womb, and that the world that greets them upon birth is equally safe and healthy. When 1 in 6 babies are born with harmful levels of mercury in their blood, that’s an issue that evangelicals, as champions of the rights of unborn children, care about instinctively.

As conservatives, we believe the most important thing to conserve is the family, the bedrock of society. So pollution that threaten the health of families, like mercury, smog and particulates, is a natural concern for evangelicals. The fact that environmental health is connected to the health of families leads naturally to creation care.

We believe that freedom and security are essential for our nation’s well-being, and that reduced reliance on foreign oil will make us more secure and more able to speak out against undemocratic, despotic foreign regimes that restrict the religious liberty of their peoples, and that stand in the way of the spread of democracy. As advocates of religious liberty and human rights, we know that energy conservation and a shift to alternative fuels is a moral duty.

We agree with Republican Senator John Warner when he says,
“In my 29 years in the Senate, I have focused above all on issues of national security, and I see the problem of global climate change as fitting squarely within that focus … If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren.”

We believe that a vibrant free market is the best means for securing environmental improvements. We think the power of American free enterprise to solve global warming is real, and will provide the innovation, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship to generate climate solutions, and to make sure the US can compete internationally in clean technologies.

We agree with Republican governor Mark Sanford when he says "The real ‘inconvenient truth’ about climate change is that some people are losing their rights and freedoms because of the actions of others — in either the quality of the air they breathe, the geography they hold dear, the insurance costs they bear or the future environment of the children they love."

These sensibilities are not restricted to evangelical progressives or to a few forward-thinking leaders. We witness it at the grassroots: a national poll conducted last year by Ellison Research found that 84 percent of evangelicals support legislation to reduce global warming pollution levels, and 54 percent are more likely to support a candidate that works toward that end (with only 10 percent less likely to support a candidate who works for global warming pollution).

That compares with polling data I’ve seen recently that says 80% of South Carolina Republicans believe the US government should take steps to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Presidential candidates courting the evangelical community in South Carolina and nationally are recognizing the strong support among evangelicals for prudent and comprehensive climate legislation. Although we are not endorsing any candidates, we appreciate that Gov. Huckabee and Sen. McCain have recognized that there is growing support among evangelicals for meaningful action on climate change. We call on all the Presidential candidates, but especially the remaining Republican candidates who have not yet taken a strong stand on global warming, to commit to policies that care for God’s creation and the people that depend on it.

That same Ellison Research poll found that 70 percent of evangelicals believe global warming will have an impact on future generations, and 64 percent believe action on global warming should start immediately. Significantly, 89 percent of evangelicals believe that the US should take action on global warming, regardless of what other nations do. It is inconceivable that we should hide behind the skirts of Communist China in our reluctance to be world leaders on this issue, and we want our presidential candidates to say so. 

If those in a younger generation see farther or have a more expansive vision of how to be a force for the common good, it’s because they stand on the shoulders of giants of the faith who defended the sanctity of life, who fought the exploitation of women in pornography, who fed the poor and the homeless, and loved those in prison, who took the good news of Jesus to the uttermost parts of the earth, and who instructed their children to look deep in God’s word to find His truth. That word tells us to love God and to love our neighbors. Protecting the environment is one way to love our neighbors and to show our respect for the awesome handiwork of God. When we do that, its good for our souls, its good for our communities, and its good for our world.

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