Global warming skeptic at religious right conference apologizes for slanderous charges

I was delighted and surprised when on Saturday Cal Beisner, a prominent global warming science skeptic, publicly distanced himself from over-the-top accusations aimed at Christian creation care activists.

On Friday and Saturday I went with my colleague Jim Jewell to the Value Voter Summit in Washington, DC, a right-wing confab sponsored by the Family Research Council and others. We wanted to hear the talk by our brother and sometime sparring partner Cal Beisner, whose presentation was offensively advertised with the title “Global Warming Hysteria: The New Face of the ‘Pro-Death’ Agenda“. The program description  implies that Christians who care about climate change are being manipulated by top abortion funders and that coerced abortion will be part of a global warming “final solution.”

Given that Jim Jewell and I have been outspoken about the need to do something about anthropogenic global warming, and that we’re as prolife as any of the conference attendees (and have a longer history in socially-conservative causes than most of them), we wanted to be there if spurious charges were leveled. It’s not nice to be compared to Nazis, just because we have a different view of the science and policy behind climate change. Some would call it uncivil.

In fact Cal went out of his way to mention us and welcome us publicly, to express his shock at discovering the ill-conceived workshop title and description, and to admit that some Christians come to opposite conclusions about the validity of climate science and the need for action. He was gracious and civil.

[The conference organizers should probably fire whoever wrote the copy for the workshop description. It casts the conference and its attendees in an exceedingly bad light, slanders the work of Christian brothers and sisters, and does damage to the cause of Christ. If those outside the faith see us stooping to such low levels to fight with each other, how can we claim to be ambassadors of reconciliation?]

Cal proceeded to explain his concern that worries about overpopulation and admiration of population control strategies are regularly found in environmentalism, and on that he’s right. Enviros certainly aren’t universally agreed on those points, but they have been entirely too tolerant in the past of a mindset that views people as a blight on the planet. Many are beginning to repudiate that position, and at least one major environmental organization has actually quietly closed down its population program. Christians should rejoice that prolife values are beginning to be more clearly reflected in environmental circles, and we should continue to press the point.

Raw-meat conservatism

It’s not hard to tell where the value voters at this conference stand–the session titles don’t leave much to the imagination. “Thugocracy: Fighting the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy”, “Obamacare: Rationing Your Life Away”, “Activism and Conservatism: Fit to a Tea (Party)”, “The Threat of Illegal Immigration”. Sadly, those are the ones the secular media are most likely to cover, and the ones most likely to lead to Obama-bashing and to illustrate faultlines among more-broadly-defined value voters. Most of the time there was no admission that moderates or progressives could be voting truly evangelical values.

I wonder though, how many of these workshop titles were from the poison pen that authored Cal’s workshop description. They may not represent the hearts of the presenters very well.

“You can be anti-Obama without being racist”

Other presentations had a broader appeal, and showed areas where Christians might break through paralyzing and polarizing partisan politics. There were workshops and talks on many common-ground issues: adoption, marriage, defunding Planned Parenthood, fetal stem cell research.

A big theme repeatedly emerged, which the rest of the Christian church needs to admit. Conservatism and racism do not go hand-in-hand. Black leaders like Bishop Harry Jackson, conservative activist Star Parker, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell were joined by many of the other presenters to send the message that dislike of the president’s policies can’t be rebutted with mere accusations of racism. Some of the charges leveled against our most conservative brothers and sisters are frankly ridiculous, and we all should do what we can to stop them.

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New Urbanism and Good Neighboring: I’ll be speaking in Portland OR, Sep 26 at Mosaic Church in Multnomah Biblical Seminary’s New Wine/New Wineskins fall conference.

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5 Responses to “Global warming skeptic at religious right conference apologizes for slanderous charges”

  1. Global Warming’s Six Americas - Rusty Pritchard - God’s Politics Blog Says:

    […] Climate Week is upon us, and as world leaders gather at the UN and the G20 to nibble away at the problem of international cooperation to address the problem, popular American responses seem to veer from cheerleading to condemnation. On Tuesday morning, President Obama gave his first real climate speech (finally). And last week at the Value Voter Summit, a religious right confab in DC, one workshop seemed intent to link climate change action with a pro-death, pro-abortion agenda, with slanderous accusations and exaggerated rhetoric  (but the speaker, a leading climate skeptic, wisely backed away from that language when several prolife Christians, including me, showed up to challenge those assertions). […]

  2. kevin s. Says:

    Hi Rusty. I found your site from your post on Sojourners. I think you hit the nail on the head. Christians have no business labeling their brethren as nazis or racists, at least without hard evidence.

    To the topic of global warming, I do wish environmentalists would consider taking steps to make their position more relatable. For starters, I think organizations should be more forthright about their policy objectives. When I hear someone make a nebulous call to “do something” for the environment, I nod in agreement. When they turn around and support a specific policy proposal (e.g. Cap and Trade), I feel bait and switched.

    Second, I think Christian environmentalists, in particular, need to publicly distance themselves from those who oppose population growth. For a variety of reasons, people are starting to examine the origins of eugenics.

    The brain naturally makes connections that don’t necessarily exist. The fact is that most environmentalists (even Christian ones) are pro-choice, and some people DO see abortion as environmentally therapeutic. Christians should make the case that the biblical admonishment to conceive children is not at odds with sound environmentalism.

    Third, stick to the best science. Both sides are guilty of cherry picking data, but when environmentalists cite a single study claiming a correlation between temperature increases and hurricanes (Sojo ridiculously claimed that Katrina was God’s punishment for our environmental sins), a paucity of hurricanes then invalidates the argument.

    Far more compelling, at least to skeptics, is the potential impact on crops. Having to reconfigure our entire agriculture practice in accordance with changing climate will be fiscally disastrous.

    Last, don’t compare global warming deniers to holocaust deniers. That’s just stupid and insulting. I think you’ll agree.

    • rustypritchard Says:

      Kevin, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree whole-heartedly. Especially with the last point. I heard a political science say once than when someone brings up Nazism or the Holocaust, and they aren’t actually talking about Nazism and the Holocaust, it usually means that reasonable dialogue has ceased.

  3. Global Warming’s Six Americas « Rusty Pritchard's Blog Says:

    […] Rusty Pritchard's Blog Everything I can think of « Global warming skeptic at religious right conference apologizes for slanderous charges […]

  4. Leading Evangelical Climate Change Critic Apologizes | rooftop Says:

    […] Rusty Pritchard and I attended the workshop; Rusty writes about Cal Beisner’s mea culpa (and his gracious words). […]

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