What is it with evangelical Christians that so many of them need a cause beyond the commission they've been given?
Having witnessed the damage to the church's fundamental message of redemption from a too-close association with the "kingdom of this world" - first in the liberal National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches, and more recently with various conservative religious-political movements - some evangelicals have decided to give it another go. This time, the issue isn't abortion, gay rights, or cleaning up offensive TV programs. They want to clean up the planet.
Last October, it appeared the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which claims 30 million members, was headed toward an alliance with the more liberal wing of Christendom over the environment. Rather than call it "environmentalism," which to some reeks of sensible shoes and reusing hotel towels, these evangelicals embraced a euphemism more to their liking. "Creation Care" they decided to call it, and solving "global warming" would be their objective.
It now appears that at least some cooler heads have prevailed over global warming. While some superstars of evangelicalism - including best-selling author Rick Warren ("The Purpose Driven Life") - have signed on to the global warming doctrine, many others have not. This division in evangelical ranks prompted the NAE to pull back from an expected endorsement of the issue following last October's statement that mankind has "a sacred responsibility to steward the Earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part." A statement issued Feb. 1 by NAE President Ted Haggard recognized "the ongoing debate" on global warming and "the lack of consensus among the evangelical community on this issue."
Calvin DeWitt, professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a leading evangelical supporter of various environmental causes, called the NAE statement "a retreat and a defeat." He predicted "negative consequences for the ability of evangelicals to influence the White House, unfortunately and sadly." Should influencing the White House be the primary or even a major objective for evangelicals, or should their goal be to please God?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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