A new space is opening for a conversation among evangelicals on moral issues. Earlier this spring, a group of Religious Right leaders including James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and about 20 others sent a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors. They challenged its vice president for governmental affairs, Rich Cizik, saying he was "dividing and demoralizing the NAE" by orchestrating a "relentless campaign" opposing global warming. The letter ended by suggesting that "he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE."
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The letter from Dobson and friends actually did acknowledge that there is a real debate among evangelicals about the seriousness of climate change and the reasons for it. So instead of calling for Cizik's resignation for saying global warming should be a moral issue for evangelical Christians, why don't Dobson and his friends accept a real debate on whether climate change is, indeed, one of the great moral issues of our time?
And I would focus on the following very clear statement from Dobson's letter: "More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children." I happen to believe that those three are, indeed, among the great moral issues of our time. But I believe they are not the only great moral issues, and that is what the conversation should be about.
Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today and every day from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God's children living on less than $2 per day? And isn't the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics such as HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations, or the trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars such as Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right—climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths—then isn't that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God's creation?
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