Among the budget battles being waged in Washington, D.C. is one that will deeply impact the health of our environment: how much do we spend on environmental protection and regulation? House GOP leaders have fought for a 30 percent budget reduction for the Environmental Protection Agency, notes the National Resources Defense Council, and that is only one of the anti-environmental policies under consideration. For people of faith, attempts at harming the environment should be considered tantamount to harming God's own creation.
The good news is that over the last decade a growing consensus has emerged between Roman Catholics, mainline Christians, orthodox Christians and evangelicals Christians that stewardship over Creation, granted to humanity in Genesis, includes protecting the environment and reversing the damage created by human caused global climate change. Politicians who don't take the environment seriously risk alienating religious voters as more and more clergy from different political backgrounds use their pulpits to preach a message of environmental justice.
In 2005, more than 1,000 mainline Christian leaders from across the United States issued a statement entitled God's Mandate: Care for Creation that read, in part:
To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation ... for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands ... for humans to injure other humans with disease ... for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances ... these are sins." We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.
Democrats have been too timid in working toward the kind of environmental protections we truly need but the GOP's proposals for cuts in the current FY11 federal budget and even deeper assaults in the FY12 budget follow the Gospel of Sarah Palin more closely than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When world leaders gathered in Copenhagen in December 2009 to discuss ways to better protect the environment, the former governor from Alaska famously Tweeted:
"Copenhgen=arrogance of man2think we can change nature's ways.MUST b good stewards of God's earth,but arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature"
The "drill-baby-drill" governor-turned-FOX News analyst believes, as many do, that when God presented humanity with dominion over the earth that we were given control over creation to do as we please -- for the benefit of humankind above all else. "We have interpreted the 'dominion' granted to humankind as giving us raw power to exploit and abuse the rest of creation, rather than as requiring mature responsibility of us to show respect and loving care for creation," writes The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. in his book Whose Gospel? "Like rebellious adolescents, we have been inclined to see the gifts of God as ours to use as we choose."
Many evangelical Christians agree. Prominent evangelicals, despite pressure from religious right political organizations such as Focus on the Family, released their own statement on the environment in 2006 that expressed the theological belief that:
Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world, and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.
Skeptics of global climate change point to recent record snow storms as evidence that global warming isn't really occurring. The reality, as Clarence Pages has reported, is that "scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe. Snow has two simple ingredients: cold and moisture. Warmer air collects moisture like a sponge until it hits a patch of cold air. When temperatures dip below freezing, a lot of moisture creates a lot of snow." Those who continue to deny the reality of global climate change have become the political equivalent of the birthers, those who refuse to accept the reality that President Obama was born in the United States despite all the evidence.
For Christians, the battle over the federal budget contains many points of moral challenge. Tragically, those in control of the U.S. House of Representatives seem to believe that cutting programs for the most vulnerable in society and ending environmental protections that are already too weak is the correct course to take. Christians who may otherwise be divided on issues such as gay marriage and abortion are largely united in the belief that protection of the environment is of great importance to our God. We must continue to lift our voices in opposition to those who would harm the environment. The Gospel of Sarah Palin cannot be allowed to overcome to teachings contained in Scripture.