Born-Again Ecologists

by Rod Dreher

Are right-wing Christians becoming born-again environmentalists? Yes, naturally.

This week in Washington, Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants turned up at the White House and on Capitol Hill to beseech President Bush and lawmakers to do something about global warming. But guess whom these usual suspects brought with them? Conservative evangelicals, Mr. Bush's most ardent supporters.

Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals tells us that believers of his stripe are waking up to the moral responsibility Christians have for the environment. He says that the political left should not be the only side speaking out for protecting the natural world.

Christians believe that the Creator expects mankind to be good stewards of his work. "The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants," says the Book of Leviticus. "Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land."

One finds a deep conservationist streak among modern Christian thinkers and writers, traditionalists as disparate as Russell Kirk, J.R.R. Tolkien, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Wendell Berry, who wrote, "You cannot know that life is holy if you are content to live from economic practices that daily destroy life and diminish its possibility."

Mr. Berry's observation helps explain why many contemporary conservatives have not been on the environmental front lines: an ethic of stewardship of the natural world is not wholly compatible with the libertarian gospel of individual freedom and free-market economics preached by the Republican Party.

Yet right-leaning evangelicals are social conservatives for whom serving God, not the unfettered desires of fallen mankind, is the highest goal. To social conservatives, the free market and individual liberty are means to an end – the good of the community, under God – not an end in itself. This is the philosophical underpinning that guides evangelicals' activism within the GOP on abortion and other social issues. That they're now turning their attention and considerable influence to the environment is a welcome development.

In June, a coalition of conservative evangelicals will meet in Maryland and issue a statement of principles encouraging their congregations to take stewardship of the environment more seriously. We hope the administration will make common cause with the Christian faithful who recognize that conservatives and conservationists are natural allies.

This editorial appeared in the 5.21.04 edition of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. It is reproduced by permission of the author.

Last fall, Senators McCain (AZ) and Lieberman (CT) introduced the Climate Stewardship Act (S 139). The bill would establish a mandatory reduction in U.S. emissions that contribute to global warming through a market-based system with the objective of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2010, approximately 1.5 percent below today's levels. It would also establish grants for climate-change research, including research for enhancing technologies that reduce greenhouse gases.

In October 2003, the Climate Stewardship Act was rejected 55-43.

To see how your senators voted, click here: ( )

Fortunately, the Climate Stewardship Act (or similar legislation) is expected to be reintroduced after the May recess. Now is the time to contact your senators and ask them to support legislation that would reduce human-created greenhouse gases. The McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act takes a proactive step toward controlling growing U.S. emissions that contribute to global warming.

Here is the link to send an email from the Friends Committee on National Legislation website: ( To compose a letter to your senators, click on the link, then enter your ZIP code and click "Go" in the "Take Action Now" box.

Thirty national religious leaders and prominent scientists concerned about global climate change recently signed on to a letter to the U.S. Senate, urging leaders to support legislation, like the Climate Stewardship Act, that would help reduce human-created greenhouse gases. To read the letter, click here: (

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