Cizik Speaks Out on Global Warming, Criticism

Post a Comment » Written on May 12th, 2008     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

CHICAGO, IL (May 12, 2008) – Richard Cizik has worked with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)  since 1980, when he first moved to Washington D.C., eager to promote values often identified with the Moral Majority.

As vice president of governmental affairs for the NAE, he has advocated against abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem-cell research. He is a self-described conservative Republican who voted twice for Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

In recent years, he has become a leading evangelical proponent in the fight against global warming and helped guide the writing of the NAE’s 2004 document, “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” and the 2007 “Evangelical Declaration against Torture.” TIME magazine recently named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and he was a nominee for Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year award in 2006.

CizikHis actions have been widely praised, but also scorned. In March 2007, Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and 23 other evangelicals issued a statement calling on the NAE to either “ensure that Mr. Cizik faithfully represents the policies and commitments of the organization, including its defense of traditional values,” or if he fails to do so, “that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE.”

“Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time,” the letter states, calling Cizik’s words “divisive and dangerous.” The NAE rejected the suggestion, and the organization’s president, Leith Anderson, reiterated his support for Cizik.

Last month, Cizik spoke at a North Park University chapel service. He later responded to questions from students during a luncheon as well as from Covenant News Service (CNS). Today’s interview contains excerpts from both the luncheon and the interview. A second story will feature an interview with CNS.

Q: How did you get involved in the fight against global warming?

I had never considered the environment an evangelical issue. Then in 2002, Jim Ball, a friend of mine, told me I needed to attend a conference in Oxford where Sir John Houghton, who is an evangelical scientist and one of the world’s most respected scientists, presented evidence for global warming – shrinking ice caps, how the earth is warming more rapidly than it ever has, how the drought patterns are changing. I had a conversion about the science of climate change. I knew I couldn’t ignore it.

Global warming is an offense against God, and God is going to hold us accountable if we don’t do something. He is going to judge us. Look, creation care is a pro-life issue. One out of six children being born with birth defects linked to pollution is a pro-life issue.

Q: You have taken a lot of criticism from some evangelical leaders, with some influential people calling for you to be removed from your position. What was your reaction?

When I was in England, Sir John said to me, “If you believe the Bible has called us to act, then you can’t be silent. You have to be willing to know that if you believe this, you could lose your job.” It almost came to that. Fortunately it didn’t.

The times are changing. People laughed at me four years ago when I said that evangelicals will go green, that the Republican nominee would be green. I have an intern who told me, “I’d have never heard of you if Jim Dobson hadn’t mentioned you.”

Q: When the signers of the letter called for your resignation, they said you don’t speak for the NAE. How do you separate when you are speaking for yourself, and when you are speaking for the organization?

There’s a difference between advocacy and lobbying. Advocacy is simply that which you personally espouse and advocate. Lobbying is a technical definition, a tax and legal issue that raise questions related to NAE’s policies.

The reality is I’m not lobbying on NAE policies on global warming. Am I describing what evangelicals believe and are doing about it? Yes. And do I explain – when it is appropriate – what is my personal belief? I do that. I’m free to advocate as the vice president of governmental affairs, as long as I operate within the guidelines of this (For the Health of the Nation) document. I operate within general guidelines of the NAE statement. If the NAE board thought I had transgressed certain acceptable behaviors, they would have told me. But, they haven’t.

By the way, in this case, every one of the signers of the letter back in 2007 was not a member of the NAE – not a single name on the entire list.

Q: Why do you think people have been slow to act on creation care?

You heard me talk about how we need to change the way we live from take, make and waste and start living by the ethic of borrow, use and return. The problem is we suffer from sustainable thinking blindness.

People have a hard time understanding the affects of actions that don’t affect them personally and immediately. We don’t see the importance of what is happening in the world and other places around the world, so we don’t think it can happen. But it is happening. Climate change led to Darfur. We are going to have wars over water. We’re already seeing it. Also, we assume our (individual) actions don’t matter. We don’t realize that we all are victims and perpetrators. We’re like addicts – we keep making the same bad choices over and over again.

Q: What are some of the things churches can do?

The NAE has challenged all churches to do an energy audit. One church said it would take the money it saved and it would go to missions. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you still can’t argue with giving more money to missions.

Pastors need to be a moral voice on this issue. Look, when I go to a college campus, I will ask students to raise their hands if they have ever heard a sermon on the environment. It’s very rare to have a student raise their hand. It almost never happens. What does that say?

Q: Why do you think more isn’t being done in Washington?

We have a lot of politicians who are more concerned about protecting their friends, even at the cost of the planet. They’re more interested in the money from big oil and big business.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series. The second installment will appear on Tuesday.

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