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Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2004 08:51:37 -0700
Subject: [nhnenews] Christian Leaders Challenge Bush's Environmental
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GETTING IN BUSH'S FAITH
CHRISTIAN LEADERS CHALLENGE BUSH'S ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
By Amanda Griscom
April 28, 2004
"Almighty God, your word of creation caused the water to be filled with
kinds of living beings and the air to be filled with birds ... Thank you
seeds and soil, green stem and air. For fruit on the vine, then falling
fruit rotting on the moist ground, then new seed again ... We pray for
wisdom for all who live on this earth that we may wisely manage and not
destroy what you have made for us."
So spake a reverend at Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nashville,
last weekend at an Earth Day Sunday service attended by Muckraker -- one
tens of thousands of similar services that took place nationwide as part
a growing effort in America's church community to stimulate environmental
Even enviros of a decidedly secular bent who might normally blanch at
creationist sentiments will appreciate the call for wise management of
natural resources. Indeed, when they discover that in the past week
Christian leaders have delivered this plea not just to millions in their
congregations, but also to our very own God-fearing commander in chief,
may cry "hallelujah!"
On Earth Day last week, more than 100 reverends, ministers, and bishops
representing more than 2 million American churchgoers sent a letter to
White House condemning President Bush's environmental record. There were
rabbis or imams among the signatories, but not because the National
of Churches, which organized the letter signing, doesn't value interfaith
efforts. Rather, according to Cassandra Carmichael, director of
programs at the NCC, "This was a Christian-to-Christian letter. We have a
president who aligns himself with the Christian community, but as
we feel he needs to take a good hard look at the Bible and begin abiding
"The book of Genesis records that God beholds creation as 'very good'
(Genesis 3:1) and commands us to 'till and tend the garden' (Genesis
reads the letter. "[W]e believe that the administration's energy,
and climate-change programs prolong our dependence on fossil fuels, which
are depleting Earth's resources, poisoning its climate, punishing the
constricting sustainable economic growth, and jeopardizing global
The missive takes aim in particular at the Bush administration's politics
air pollution. "[W]e feel called to express grave moral concern about
'Clear Skies' initiative -- which we believe is [part of] the
administration's continuous effort to weaken critical environmental
standards that protect God's creation," says the letter, which goes on to
criticize Bush's efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act's new-source review
provisions and his failure to institute mandatory controls for
Citing the Bible's directive to "defend the poor and the orphan; do
to the afflicted and the needy (Psalms 82:3)," the letter sings the
of environmental justice, noting that clean-air policy changes have the
greatest impact on "those least able to defend themselves" -- namely,
"[p]oor people, who have limited access to health care; senior citizens,
may have compromised immune systems; and children, who pound for pound
breathe 50 percent more air pollution than adults."
What's notable about the effort is not just its attention to policy
but its direct assault on what Bush's supporters (and Bush himself)
frequently cite as his core strength: an unswerving moral rectitude
from Christian faith.
NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar put it this way: "President Bush has said
that moral values are the cornerstone of his administration. But as a
of faith, I question whether the president fully understands his moral
commitment. I'm concerned that he is failing to protect God's children."
Edgar, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1987,
was the first Democrat in over a century elected from the heavily
seventh district of Pennsylvania. "I was elected largely by fiscally
conservative Republican men that were supportive of the environment," he
told Muckraker, adding that these same pro-environment Republicans are
"horrified when they see what the Bush administration is doing to
While Muckraker sat among the families gathered in their Earth Day Sunday
best at Cumberland Presbyterian -- as parents and grandparents beamed at
dozens of children scurrying through the aisles with azalea blossoms in
-- two words came to mind (besides amen and hallelujah): swing voters.
There was no overt Bush-bashing during the service, but it wasn't hard to
connect the dots between a divine mandate for good environmental
and growing evidence that the Bush administration has fallen from grace.
Consider this: The National Council of Churches has 36 member
in more than 100,000 congregations nationwide -- that adds up to a
45 million faithful. This collaboration of mainline Protestant churches
isn't part of the religious right, which Bush has worked so hard to
but it might be called the religious middle -- a constituency the
would like to have in his camp this election season. If so, he's got some
convincing to do.
"Our community holds the president, as a Christian, to the kind of moral
standards that we live by," Carmichael said. "But more and more members
seeing a disconnect [between their beliefs and the president's policies];
they're becoming alarmed and raising their voices. They're coming to
with the fact that they can't in good faith ignore what this
is doing to God's earth."
The letter puts it this way: "We do not come to these positions casually,
nor are we alone in our views. A growing number of religious Americans
come to recognize a solemn obligation to measure environmental policies
against biblically mandated standards for stewardship and justice."
If the political force of Christian environmentalism continues to spread
areas once thought solid Bush demographics, his campaign may be doing
praying of its own come November -- their own Judgment Day.
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