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[greenyes] Evangelical Concern with Environment
 washingtonpost.com
The Greening of Evangelicals
Christian Right Turns, Sometimes Warily, to Environmentalism
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page A01


SEATTLE -- Thanks to the Rev. Leroy Hedman, the parishioners at Georgetown 
Gospel Chapel take their baptismal waters cold. The preacher has unplugged 
the electricity-guzzling heater in the immersion baptism tank behind his 
pulpit. He has also installed energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs 
throughout the church and has placed water barrels beneath its gutter 
pipes -- using runoff to irrigate the congregation's all-organic gardens.

Such "creation care" should be at the heart of evangelical life, Hedman 
says, along with condemning abortion, protecting family and loving Jesus. He 
uses the term "creation care" because, he says, it does not annoy 
conservative Christians for whom the word "environmentalism" connotes 
liberals, secularists and Democrats.

"It's amazing to me that evangelicals haven't gone quicker for the green," 
Hedman said. "But as creation care spreads, evangelicals will demand 
different behavior from politicians. The Republicans should not take us for 
granted."

There is growing evidence -- in polling and in public statements of church 
leaders -- that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite 
wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of 
evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility 
mandated by God in the Bible.

"The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of 
the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are 
significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner 
issue for the Christian right."

In October, the association's leaders adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic 
Responsibility" that, for the first time, emphasized every Christian's duty 
to care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a 
sustainable environment.

"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the 
earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said 
the statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches. 
"Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public 
health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens 
from the effects of environmental degradation."

Signatories included highly visible, opinion-swaying evangelical leaders 
such as Haggard, James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Chuck Colson of 
Prison Fellowship Ministries. Some of the signatories are to meet in March 
in Washington to develop a position on global warming, which could place 
them at odds with the policies of the Bush administration, according to 
Richard Cizik, the association's vice president for governmental affairs.

Also last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, 
weighed in for the first time on global warming. It said that "Christians 
should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to 
adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our 
environment."

The magazine came out in favor of a global warming bill -- sponsored by 
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- that the 
Bush administration opposed and the Republican-controlled Senate defeated.

Polling has found a strengthening consensus among evangelicals for strict 
environmental rules, even if they cost jobs and higher prices, said John C. 
Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the 
University of Akron. In 2000, about 45 percent of evangelicals supported 
strict environmental regulations, according to Green's polling. That jumped 
to 52 percent last year.

"It has changed slowly, but it has changed," Green said. "There is now a lot 
of ferment out there."

Such ferment matters because evangelicals are politically active. Nearly 
four out of five white evangelical Christians voted last year for President 
Bush, constituting more than a third of all votes cast for him, according to 
the Pew Research Center. The analysis found that the political clout of 
evangelicals has increased as their cohesiveness in backing the Republican 
Party has grown. Republicans outnumber Democrats within the group by more 
than 2 to 1.

There is little to suggest in recent elections that environmental concerns 
influenced the evangelical vote -- indeed, many members of Congress who 
receive 100 percent approval ratings from Christian advocacy groups get 
failing grades from environmental groups. But the latest statements and 
polls have caught the eye of established environmental organizations.

Several are attempting to make alliances with the Christian right on 
specific issues, such as global warming and the presence of mercury and 
other dangerous toxins in the blood of newborn children.

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