Noon: Enviros push climate policy in church
“Spreading the Gospel of climate change: an evangelical battleground,” according to E & E News, offers: “An autopsy of evangelicals’ influence on U.S. climate law.” While the efforts “failed,” the authors posit: “there is an untapped potential for environmental activism in the world of evangelical Christianity.”
The report offers several reasons for failure, including “donors who pushed for this ‘deliverable’ did not really understand the internal dynamic of the evangelical world” and suggests future tactics, such as “better messaging” and more “person-to-person connections.”+
While I hope all readers find the report’s inside strategic analysis interesting, evangelicals should be particularly alarmed with the realization that we have been, and will continue to be, the target of an organized and well-funded effort, from outsiders who “lacked deep knowledge about evangelicalism,” to “recruit evangelicals into policy solutions to climate change.”
While admitting failure, there was some early success, including Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren and CBN’s Pat Robertson. The report states: “Movement leaders, funders, and the environmental movement were optimistic that this small victory could be the foundation for even more ambitious legislative goals.”
The report is a fascinating case study of the outside effort to “smuggle” climate policy campaign into churches.
When I read the 27-page document, the influence of “environmental funders” became obvious: “Since the mid-1990s, environmental funders recognized the need for a broader field of faith-based movements who could expand the influence of environmentalism to unlikely allies. They also realized that evangelicals had a special role to play in this religious portfolio because their religious community was closely associated with the Republican Party.” Evangelical Christians became the target of “constituency engagement development.” Financial grants were made to increase the role of climate change in churches. Environmentalists worked to reframe climate change as “Creation Care” and “hoped that evangelical Christians might publicly embrace climate change as a moral issue and an authentically ‘conservative’ concern.”
The efforts at infiltration included “building faith-based environmental clubs in Christian colleges” and offering to help churches “reduce their energy bills.”
The report chronicles the work of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, led by an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Alexis Chase. She persuaded Southern Baptist churches to host HEAT classes to train lay leaders to save energy and money in their own homes. And then, “smuggled” the climate policy campaign “into the class as an extension of personal discipleship.”
In short, the evangelical Christian community has been used. National funders and environmental allies targeted us, thinking that we’d be ready to “influence legislation in Washington.” The strategy was to get “evangelical elites” to embrace “Creation Care” and “frame environmental concerns as moral issues," thus “creating their own set of biblical and theological themes.”
While environmental funders who invested in building the Creation Care movement have admittedly failed, the report states, “Movement leaders have also deepened their commitment to more long-term, values-based organizing in local evangelical spaces.” Now, instead of targeting “evangelical elites,” they realize they need “rank-and-file evangelicals.”
I encourage my fellow evangelicals to put on the full armor of God. Use your intellect and prayer to discern the truth. Many Christians have come to realize that Creation Care has nothing to do with the creator. Instead, it is, like the serpent’s efforts with Eve, attractive messaging for a political agenda.
Be alert. You are the prize to those who lack knowledge about who you are and what you believe in. Without you, their efforts are “doomed.”
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy.