On page A9 of the February 9 New York Times, a full page ad began with the words: “Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us…” It’s unusual to see these words so prominently in the Times, even in an ad. But what was to follow sent shock waves through official Washington and much of the country focused on the issues of the day.
The following was the full headline of the ad:
“Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to solve the global warming crisis.” A little bold for the liberals, readers may have thought. But reading further they discovered that this was an advocacy advertisement from a group of 86 evangelical leaders operating under the banner of The Evangelical Climate Initiative.
The group, which signed a document called Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action , is not easily classified. It includes individuals from the right, the center, and the left; from the Reformed, Wesleyan, Charismatic traditions; old and young; all regions of the nation. The list is heavily academic—the presidents of some 40 Christian colleges and seminaries; with many leaders of evangelical relief and development agencies.
(Disclosure: Rooftop has managed the communications campaign for The Evangelical Climate Initiative, and although we are no means disinterested, we have not been part of the evangelical environmental movement to date).
The evangelicals participating in the initiative made it clear that their passion aligned with the mainstream of the evangelical community. The ad and other materials read:
“With the same love of God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect unborn life, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, defend religious freedom and human dignity, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, we the undersigned evangelical leaders resolve to come together with others of like mind to pray and to work to stop global warming.”
The document calls on the federal government to impose economy-wide limitations on CO2 emissions, and it is complementary of the Domenici-sponsored “will of the Senate” resolution on emissions.
National media jumped all over this story, and it continues to pile up the column inches. Beginning with The New York Times, the Initiative was covered by the Associated Press,
ABC World News Tonight, NBC Evening News, Fox and Friends, CNN American Morning, hundreds of local newspapers, Christianity Today, World, Charisma, and still counting.
A group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance issued a rebuttal, and engineered a letter from James Dobson, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy and about 15 others, successfully urging the NAE not to allow its staff to sign the documents (signatories participated as individuals, not as representatives of their organizations).
Operation Rescue launched a scathing missive that cited funding of this Initiative as “blood money,” and Joseph Farah questioned the spiritual integrity—indeed, the very regeneration–of the participants. But most evangelical leaders have kept any disagreements fairly muted, although it may build.
But as the AP said in one of its articles: The winds may be shifting on the evangelical response to global warming. William F. Buckley wrote in his newspaper column:
“We hear now (in full-page ads) from the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Their summons, signed by 80-odd evangelical leaders, is to address the global-warming crisis …. We are indeed stewards of nature, and calls to conjoin our concern with a sense of Christian mission are noteworthy.”
There are new polls, and new ads, which I’ll cover in another post.