Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Richard Cizik evangelical environmentalism / gay scandal

Yesterday, Fresh Air broadcast Terry Gross' interview with Reverend Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals about his attempts to have evangelicals recognize global warming. Cizik seems to be one of the more reasonable evangelical leaders. While he and the NAE are anti-women's abortion rights and anti-gay marriage, he is leading an effort to fight global warming. Since conservative Christians wield quite a bit of power in 'merica, it's good to know that there are a few leaders who are trying to steer conservatives on a more reasonable path.

As a conservative Christian lobbyist and relatively recent (2002) global warming convert, he understands the precarious nature of his position. One of Terry's first questions was about the Evangelical Climate Initiative statement that he personally promoted. In January, some prominent conservative Christian leaders, including James Dobson, forced Cizik to remove his signature from the statement and asked the NAE to not take a position on global warming ( In the Fresh Air interview, Cizik hinted that several conservative Christian leaders have since changed their minds about global warming, but he did not name anyone specifically. (He also mentioned that Pat Robertson unexpectedly changed his mind about global warming.) Cizik said he disagreed with the NAE's decision, but agreed to remove his name. It seems Cizik understands that he can be more effective within the NAE and is willing to make compromises, but he continues his effort to change evangelicals' minds.

As a lobbyist, he says he supports more government restrictions on the release of CO2 and he calls on conservative Christians to be more bipartisan. He recognized that conservative Christian values are being used to bring Republican votes, but Republicans often don't deliver (my paraphrase).

Terry also asked Cizik to reaccount how he learned about then NAE's president Ted Haggard's gay sex scandal. He responded that he was shocked, but still loves Haggard and saw the fall as one person's fall. Terry then pressed Cizik on his reaction that three megachurch pastors have resigned due to gay relationships this year (I know of Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes, but I don't know or remember who the third is). While Cizik is unwilling to compromise his biblical beliefs against homosexual behavior, he gave a sympathetic answer. However, Terry did what she is good at, and re-phrased the question in manner that got to the point. Here's my feeble transcription attempt:

Terry Gross: "I don't mean to sound presumptious here, but is it possible that perhaps the fact that three evangelical leaders had to step down from their positions because of gay relationships that they had, is that perhaps reason to reconsider your position on homosexuality? And here's what I'm thinking, you know I don't mean this to be presumptious, I just wanted to like raise this as something we could talk about. It is possible that these are three people who are just gay? I mean they just are?"

Richard Cizik: "Yes, that's conceivable."

Gross: "And that by trying to deny that, they basically drove their impulse -- they repressed their impulse and drove them into this underground world because, on some level there was like no denying what their real sexual orientation was, but because it was so repressed, it came out in this kind of underground, underworld kind of way . . . "

Cizik: "Well that . . "

Gross: "And you could argue, 'Gosh it would have been so much healthier to have like a, you know, an above ground, loving, caring, open, honest relationship that, you know, would be life affirming?'."

Cizik: "Well I'm not willing to go there. I'm willing to say though that as evangelical Christians, we have to speak clearly to say that not just heterosexual affairs outside of marriage as well as homosexual relationships are sinful. In other words, I'm not going to depart from my understanding of the Bible's teaching about immorality which can be heterosexual or homosexual, but I can say that this ought not to be a sin so great that one, people can't be forgiven or can't be welcomed into the church because of it. And but that's the message that millions have gotten. Namely that we are self righteous people who sin not and therefore, 'don't come to church unless you're perfect'. That's a sin in itself. It's called pride."

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