Crossing The Divide #1: Environment and Evangelicals

Squeezed January 21, 2007

If you take a look at my blogroll (click the link to your right), you’ll notice I identify myself as a political moderate, although I do lean left and vote Democratic (with a few exceptions). It’s my firm belief that the real decisions in this country are made not by the strict partisans, but by the moderates, those on both sides of the aisle who are willing to buck their party on occasion and work with those on the other side to get things done.

In the past four years, it’s been a one-party show, with the Republicans being the haves and the Democrats being the have-nots. Now that Democrats now control both houses of Congress while the Republicans still control the house on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, we now have a golden opportunity to reach common ground.

National Public Radio, recognizing this, has started a weeklong series known as Crossing the Divide:”

So what is bipartisanship? Majorities always give it lip service because they know they should, and because they know they need some of it to succeed. Minorities always ask for it because it’s their only access to a share of power.

In one sense, true or pure bipartisanship is impossible in a political system almost entirely organized around partisanship — the rivalry of major parties. It is akin to asking for agreement between two sets of lawyers hired to be adversaries. Arguing is what they do, and they are paid to insist on their viewpoint.

But in another sense, the American political system is about satisfying the majority without making life too onerous for the minority. We expect all sides in any controversy to state their principles and serve their interests, but we also ask them to respect the need for resolution in the end. The more important the issue, the more important it is to reach that resolution.

Everyone who enters the public arena soon learns that the struggle is not the end product. The struggle is a means. In the end, all parties have to find some means of give and take. They have to cross the space that divides them.

One of the first reports was about a Harvard biochemist and a leading evangelical Christian leader who have joined forces to fight global warming:

Richard Cizik is the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He believes God made the world in matter of days. Eric Chivian is a biochemist from Harvard University who maintains that man evolved from matter over billions of years. …

Unlikely allies? Perhaps. But that’s exactly what they’ve become in their mutual quest to fight global warming. The two men have launched what they’re calling a dialog between leading figures in science and religion, specifically evangelical Christianity. They’re not pushing any specific legislation, but they’re trying to raise the public profile of environmental issues.

As a moderate-liberal church-going Christian who goes to an evangelical church, I’ve always felt a cognitive dissonance between the biblical assertion that the earth is God’s creation, and the fact that the Christian right has been largely dismissive of the environmental agenda, lumping it in the same category as abortion and gay marriage. Indeed, Civik and Chivian’s alliance has not found universal acceptance:

But not everyone is on board. Other leading evangelicals have heavily criticized Cizik, saying that he is diluting the Christian agenda with his environmental crusade.

Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that evangelicals are finally coming around to the idea that we need to fight to protect the planet’s future. After all, didn’t God create Adam and Eve to be stewards of His creation?

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments from first time commenters are moderated and will be posted at my first opportunity, usually within 48 hours.