When the Christian Coalition joins the National Wildlife Federation in urging the U.S. Senate to pass a bill that will address constructively climate change, one is tempted to think of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah’s vision of a time when the “wolf shall dwell with the lamb.”
As unlikely as it is for these two organizations to find common ground, they have.
They took out an ad recently on Politico that said in large print, “When we work together, Americans can solve any problem.”
The ad showed a cute, blond-headed young boy sitting on his blond-headed mother’s shoulders. Both were smiling.
“The Senate has an opportunity to work together to put America on the path to energy security,” said the ad. “Senators should work together to move forward with a clean energy plan for America.”
The greening of the Coalition may result mostly from the efforts of Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), who apparently has worked proactively and patiently building bridges to the Coalition.
Over a year ago at Al Gore’s faith-based training summit in Nashville, Schweiger told me that he was talking with Coalition leaders and hopeful about a fruitful partnership. I thought his initiative would be a moral breakthrough.
Founded by TV broadcaster Pat Robertson in 1988, after his failed bid to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the Christian Coalition emerged as the leading Christian Right organization. Robertson and Ralph Reed, a Bible-manipulating political strategist, galvanized conservative Christians with tens of millions of partisan voter guides distributed to churches that aligned Christianity with the Republican Party. They succeeded in convincing many Christians that GOP stood for God’s Only Party. They hardwired together unregulated business and government regulation of moral behavior (abortion, gay marriage).
Some three years ago, when the Coalition’s new president, mega-church pastor Joel Hunter, identified global warming and other nontraditional issues as important, he didn’t remain at the organizational helm for very long.
“We will never leave our core issues, never,” said Roberta Combs, the Coalition’s chairwoman, about Hunter’s agenda. She said his position reflected Hunter’s “personal feelings.”
She became the Coalition’s leader and spokesperson.
Given Combs’ stance and the organization’s lack of positive reception to Hunter, the Coalition’s partnership with the NWF is so remarkable and encouraging.
In May of this year, Combs spoke to the NWF, giving her first public presentation to an environmental organization.
“I feel at home here, with you guys, the National Wildlife Federation,” said Combs.
“This is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue,” said Combs about climate change. “This is a family-values issue.”
The Coalition’s environmental platform reads: “The time is right for Christian Coalition supporters and allies to step forward to promote environmental and energy independence initiatives. Taking responsibility to care for God’s creation and protecting the future of our children and grandchildren is a core family value. Further delays in action will impact our national security, our economic security, and our family security.”
The platform calls for “renewable and alternative energy sources” and notes that climate change harms the global poor.
On the current front page of the Coalition’s Web site is a link to a “Coalition Guest Commentary” that was written by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), calling for support for the senate’s climate change bill.
The Coalition posted their op-ed column only a few days after it appeared in the New York Times.
“We don’t agree with environmental groups on everything but if we can find things we agree on this will be a better bill,” Combs told Reuters over a week later. “I’m real proud of Senator Graham. He’s a man of lots of wisdom.”
The Coalition’s commitment to addressing climate change is a ray of hope. Maybe it will spark other conservative Christian groups to recover the biblical mandate to care for the earth and to listen to the scientific consensus about climate change.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.