As you’re probably aware, the old guard of the conservative evangelical movement has lashed out against the new guard over the subject of global warming. James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and Tony Perkins — has America ever puked up a more loathsome triumvirate? — are trying to pressure the National Association of Evangelicals to fire its vice president for governmental affairs Rev. Richard Cizik, who’s done more than anyone else to raise the profile of global warming among evangelicals. To his credit, NAE president Rev. Leith Anderson told them to bug off.
One of the most prominent figures in the new guard is Rev. Jim Wallis. He has a couple of strongly worded responses to the pressure on HuffPo, here and here. The second one gets at what is most baffling to me about the whole thing:
But I want to focus on the following very clear statement from Dobson’s letter:
More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to 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.
That is indeed the key criticism, and the foundation for the real debate. Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right — climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths — then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?
Or, are the only really "great moral issues" those concerning abortion, gay marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence? I happen to believe that the sanctity of life, the health of marriages, and teaching sexual morality to our children are, indeed, among the great moral issues of our time. But I believe they are not the only great moral issues, and Dobson says they are.
So Jim, let’s have that debate — the big debate.
The kind of person that can look out on all the suffering in the world today and select other people’s sexual choices as the "great moral issues of our time" is utterly and completely alien to me. I don’t know how to find any common ground with that kind of person. I wouldn’t know what to say, where to begin. We might as well be from different planets.
(Grist has been all over this issue. See our God & the Environment series for interviews with Cizik and a number of other evangelicals and people of faith on the new religious engagement with global warming.)