The Florida megachurch pastor stars in a blitz of new ads on Christian radio stations intended to raise support for a climate bill like the one under consideration in the U.S. House. Hunter, a registered Republican, draws squarely on religious language in the 60-second spots (listen here):
As our seas rise, crops wither, and rivers run dry, God’s creation cries out for relief.
The failure to answer the calling to be good stewards has consequences. The destabilizing effect of climate change will hit the poor the hardest, and it also threatens our national security, our economic prosperity, and our children’s future.
Yet no matter how bleak things appear, redemption is always possible.
The ads are part of a larger campaign by faith and military groups (an odd combination?) to support climate legislation and ensure that the government “prioritizes the most vulnerable at home and abroad,” according to a news release. The campaign wants a climate bill to include direct rebates to help offset increased energy costs for the American poor and international aid to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change.
The ads began airing yesterday in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia, and Ohio – states with lots of religious voters. The ads are funded by the American Values Network (AVN), a faith-based advocacy group recently launched by Burns Strider, the faith outreach director for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“Addressing climate change is not just a matter of national security and sound economic policy, but a moral duty to care for God’s creation and to care for the needs of those who are contributing the least to climate change but bearing the brunt of its burden,” said Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who spoke on the conference call with reporters yesterday. “We need to ensure that this legislation fairly addresses the burden on low- and middle-income families, especially at a time when millions of Americans are out of work.”
AVN boasted it would be spreading its climate message via email to more than 5.3 million evangelicals and Catholics, which sounds like a page from the playbook of Religious Right groups like Focus on the Family. Strider has been an influential religious-voter strategist among Democrats; in tapping Rev. Hunter to speak in the ads, Strider chose a “new evangelical” leader who’s shown more interest in connecting his faith to climate change than to issues like gay marriage and abortion. (Read an interview with him from Grist’s God & the Environment series.)
The network says a number of religious groups have staked out the same position–insisting a climate plan must focus on help for the vulnerable: the Evangelical Climate Initiative, Southern Baptist Environmental Climate Initiative, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Episcopal Church, and Redeem the Vote.