There’s been a lot of talk lately about the burgeoning Christian environmentalist creation-care movement. I’m all for any and every group getting on board with saving the planet, but my sense has been that the amount of press and hype this has received from outside the movement is rather out of proportion to any organic growth from inside the movement. It would be great for environmentalists — frequently tarred (often by evangelicals themselves!) as communists and pagans — if they received the support of a powerful bloc located squarely at the center of the right-wing’s base. It would also be a great story. So environmentalists and the press have conspired to pump it up.

Recent events, however, have cast some doubt on the staying power of creation care. As the Washington Post reported today, a group of more than 20 evangelical leaders sent a letter (PDF) to the National Association of Evangelicals asking it to put an immediate kibosh on plans to take a formal position (and issue a formal press release) on the dangers of global warming. I’ve posted the entire letter below the fold.

The NAE immediately caved. Richard Cizik — who was so eloquent on the subject of climate change in his interview with Gristsaid, "The NAE was never going to adopt a policy on climate change." Sure, they just sent the letter for the heck of it.

The purported rationale for the NAE abstaining on the issue is that "global warming is not a consensus issue" and "there should be room for Bible-believing evangelicals to disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue." As for "solutions," I seriously doubt that the NAE would have proposed anything particularly controversial. So that pretty much leaves "causes and severity," and I’m sure you’re all familiar with those arguments.

But let’s leave aside the substantive merits, since they aren’t really the point. The point, put bluntly, is this: The right-wing base still contains a large number of people who view climate change as a piece of communist propaganda, and this fact works to the immense benefit of the Republican leadership. The very reason it would have been miraculous if the 30-million-member NAE had come out against global warming is the reason it was always unlikely to happen.

The list of signatories reveals far more about the letter than the text itself. These guys — Dobson, Colson, Wildmon — are heavy players in Republican political circles.

(In other environmentalism/religion news, a very nice lady from the The National Religious Partnership for the Environment contacted me to let me know that they’ll be starting a blog soon. I’ll keep my eyes open, as should you. Update [2006-2-3 11:51:51 by David Roberts]: Oops, I was wrong about this. They’re not starting a blog — it’s their website itself that’s new. Anyway, worth checking out.)

A Letter to the National Association of Evangelicals on the Issue of Global Warming

We have appreciated the bold stance that the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has taken on controversial issues like embracing a culture of life, protecting traditional marriage and family, promoting abstinence as AIDS prevention, and many others.

We respectfully request, however, that the NAE not adopt any official position on the issue of global climate change. 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.

We are evangelicals and we care about God’s creation. However, we believe there should be room for Bible-believing evangelicals to disagree about the cause, severity and solutions to the global warming issue.

Further, we signatories who are members of the NAE believe that if the NAE wishes to take an official position on global warming or any other issue, it should do so through its formal process within the general council. Individual NAE members or staff should not give the impression that they are speaking on behalf of the entire membership, so as not to usurp the credibility and good reputation of the NAE.

Evangelicals are to be first and foremost messengers of the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world. We are to promote those things that please God and oppose those things in the world that clearly violate His righteous standard of conduct. We respectfully ask 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.

With love and respect,

(Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only. Signatories are representing their own views, and not necessarily those of their churches or organizations.)

Charles W. Colson, Founder and Chairman
Prison Fellowship Ministries

Dr. James C. Dobson, Founder and Chairman
Focus on the Family

Dr. John C. Hagee, Founder and Senior Pastor
Cornerstone Church
San Antonio, Texas

Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy, Senior Minister
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Dr. Richard Land, President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Richard Roberts, President
Oral Roberts University

Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, Chairman
Traditional Values Coalition

Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association

David Barton, Founder and President
Wallbuilders

Joel Belz, Founder
World Magazine

Dr. Richard B. Belzer
Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, Associate Professor
Knox Theological Seminary

Rev. Jack Bradley Emmanuel
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Colville, Washington

Dr. Kenneth Chilton
Chapel of the Lake
Lake Saint Louis, MO

Thomas Chilton
Associate Director of International Training
Awana Clubs International

Charles W. Jarvis, Chairman
USA Next

James Lafferty
Christian Seniors Association

Tracy Miller
Associate Professor of Economics
Grove City College

Dr. Joey Pipa, President
Greenville Theological Seminary

Dr. Timothy D. Terrell
Associate Professor of Economics
Wofford College

Rev. Ralph Weitz, Stewardship Pastor
Immanuel Bible Church
Springfield, VA

Alan Wisdom
Interim President
Institute on Religion and Democracy