Ted Haggard on the Environment: No Conservative

In light of the recent scandalous allegations regarding evangelical leader Rev. Ted Haggard, many news outlets have been referring to Haggard as a “conservative.” Only a small number are mentioning that Haggard also sees himself as a global warming activist — and definitely not one of the “skeptic” variety.

Some leftie activists seem to be delighted at the prospect of Haggard’s possible professional suicide, but liberals promoting the global warming theory know better. Temporarily at least, they’ve lost a major — and perhaps irreplaceable — ally.

I’ve collected a few citations for the benefit of those who were unaware of the direction of Rev. Haggard’s environmental activism:

Colorado Springs Independent, April 21, 2005:

…Currently president of the NAE, Haggard recently surprised the media and the environmental movement by announcing that evangelical leaders are committed to spreading the word that protecting the environment is a profound religious responsibility and that environmental issues, including global warming and climate change, will be at the forefront of the organization’s agenda.”On Sunday, April 10, the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an interview with Richard Cizik of Washington, D.C., Haggard’s colleague on the NAE board; in it, Cizik affirmed the association’s newly adopted focus on the environment. At the same time he carefully distanced himself from the term “environmentalist.”

…Still, Cizik said, the NAE’s involvement represents a potential political watershed for environmental issues.

“If the evangelicals can’t convince the president, then no one can,” Cizik said, regarding the need for a shift in government policy.

In a subsequent Independent interview at New Life Church last week, Haggard didn’t mince words.

“I’ve been an environmentalist all my life,” he said, his trademark grin cutting through any discomfort with the issue.

“It’s awkward — I’m a conservative Republican environmentalist, which means I don’t have a home.”

…Haggard argues that the environmental movement needs good strategic thinking, a Karl Rove if you will, who has an agenda and can get the job done. The NAE, he says, is full of such thinkers and has never in its 60 years of existence backed a piece of national legislation that failed.

The work for the NAE, he says, is just beginning, putting lessons about the environment into church quarterlies, Sunday school lessons, the literature.

Now the message has to come from the pulpit, and the challenge is breaking down barriers of competing ideologies.

“We have 45,000 churches representing some 30 million Americans,” he said. “We have to undo some of the work of the environmentalists. When we’re at the pulpit and we say the word ‘environmentalist,’ our church members think that means liberal Democrat. When environmentalists hear the word ‘evangelical,’ they think conservative Republican.”

Some evangelicals, says Haggard, feel that the leadership is dividing the movement with its focus on environmental issues. But in his mind, it’s all about what the Gospels teach…

New York Times, March 11, 2005:

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of 51 church denominations, said he had become passionate about global warming because of his experience scuba diving and observing the effects of rising ocean temperatures and pollution on coral reefs.

‘The question is, Will evangelicals make a difference, and the answer is, The Senate thinks so,’ Mr. Haggard said. ‘We do represent 30 million people, and we can mobilize them if we have to.’

New York Times, Feb. 8, 2006:

Mr. Haggard, the pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, said in a telephone interview… “There is no doubt about it in my mind that climate change is happening, and there is no doubt about it that it would be wise for us to stop doing the foolish things we’re doing that could potentially be causing this. In my mind there is no downside to being cautious.”

Inter Press Service, February 9, 2006:

…the NAE’s president, Rev. Ted Haggard, has frequently urged evangelical Christians, including his Colorado congregation, to take on global warming as a test of ‘creation care,’ a provision in an unprecedented statement issued in October 2004, ‘For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,’ that declared that the government had an obligation to ‘protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation.’

The Weekly Standard, May 5, 2006:

…So [liberal evangelical activist] Jim Wallis is excited. “The Evangelical Climate Initiative is of enormous importance and could be a tipping point in the climate change debate, according to one secular environmental leader I talked to,” he writes. Concern about the environment, he hopes, will lead to an evangelical embrace other issues of the Left.All of which hopes are somewhat dampened by the National Association of Evangelicals’ decision not to join the ECI. According to Wallis, Cizik and NAE president Ted Haggard, a Colorado mega-church pastor, attended environmental seminars and have experienced an “epiphany” on climate change. They were fully onboard with the issue.

That is, Wallis laments, until the “Religious Right reared its head.” Twenty-two of the “Right’s prominent leaders” publicly asked the NAE not to adopt a position on climate change. “Global Warming is not a consensus issue,” warned conservatives, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, Prison Fellowship’s Charles Colson, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land.

I’ve never met Haggard, but I’d be lying if I claimed his activism on global warming as head of the influential NAE, which seemed ill-thought-out to us, was not discussed here with concern.

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