Washington Post Cheerleads Conversion of a Small Number of Evangelicals to Anti-Global Warming Activism

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post had a worthy entry in the category of wishful-thinking opinion-newswriting on page A1 of the Washington Post Wednesday, with her story “Warming Draws Evangelicals Into Environmentalist Fold.”

Based on the content of the piece, it might better have been titled, “Assiduous Environmentalist Lobbying Draws a Mere Handful of Evangelicals into Environmentalist Fold,” but that doesn’t have the pro-environmentalist cheerleading quality the Post goes for in these pieces.

Presumably lacking statistical evidence of mass conversions, Eilperin uses argument-by-anecdote to imply that a significant number of Christian evangelicals are converting into anti-global warming activists:

At 8 on a Saturday morning, just as the heat was permeating this sprawling Orlando suburb, Denise Kirsop donned a white plastic moon suit and began sorting through the trash produced by Northland Church.She and several fellow parishioners picked apart the garbage to analyze exactly how much and what kind of waste their megachurch produces, looking for ways to reduce the congregation’s contribution to global warming.

“I prayed about it, and God really revealed to me that I had a passion about creation,” said Kirsop, who has since traded in her family’s sport-utility vehicle for a hybrid Toyota Prius to help cut her greenhouse gas emissions. “Anything that draws me closer to God — and this does — increases my faith and helps my work for God.”

Her conversion to environmentalism is the result of a years-long international campaign by British bishops and leaders of major U.S. environmental groups to bridge a long-standing divide between global-warming activists and American evangelicals.

Eilperin goes on to call Denise Kirsop’s pastor, Joel C. Hunter, a “pivotal advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming Earth’s climate,” leading readers to believe Hunter has been a lynchpin of mass conversions of evangelicals on the topic.

The article’s evidence of Hunter’s influence is slim, however: He has preached on climate change to five congregations in Florida and his global warming sermons are on the Internet, where they have been seen by 3,000 people. Beyond that, he’s signed a statement or two on his personal opinion on climate change, appeared on a commercial (Eilperin doesn’t reveal who funded it), and drafted, in concert with a paid employee of an environmentalist organization, some materials for other evangelicals to read on climate change.

Nothing about this appears particularly “pivotal.” If Hunter is going to change the way a significant number of the approximately 78 million evangelicals in the United States think about climate change, he hasn’t done it yet.

Eilperin discusses the great lengths to which environmentalists have gone to convert evangelical leaders into anti-global warming activists — even, in Hunter’s case, arranging a “Windsor Castle retreat” and a royal audience:

There was a private session with Prince Charles and a tour of the organic garden at the prince’s Highgrove estate, as well as intense conversations among the participants about how Genesis 2:15 calls upon Adam to “serve” and “keep” the Garden of Eden.

One wonders just how “intense” conversations about the Garden of Eden can be, particularly among like-minded individuals. (It appears to not have occurred to Eilperin that God tossed Adam out of the Garden of Eden for interacting with nature a little too much, but if there is a Biblical call to care for Eden, it supposed was located somewhere near Baghdad, so our military’s been on the job for a while now.)

Given that the environmentalists have been working hard for some years now specifically to recruit high-name-I.D. evangelicals to their global warming cause, the real story — which we are unlikely to see in the Post — is why they haven’t been more successful.

Eilperin does mention that evangelical leaders James Dobson and Chuck Colson disapprove of “green” evangelism, and she notes at one point that Hunter isn’t in the majority. But even this is spun in a manner that implies that Hunter’s point of view will become increasingly dominant; that its just a matter of time:

While he remains in a distinct minority, and a number of others on the Christian right disparage his efforts, Hunter and others like him have begun to reshape the politics around climate change.

Despite finding great significance in the conversion of Hunter, along with Ted Haggard, late of the National Association of Evangelicals, to the anti-global warming cause, Eilperin skips entirely the work of the Interfaith Council For Environmental Stewardship, and the many prominent signers in the religious community to its Cornwall Declaration, which takes an entirely different, but still faith-based, position. It’s hard to imagine the group would have been left out, had its position been closer to that of Rev. Hunter.

Finally, though it does little good to say so (Eilperin apparently isn’t swayed by criticism on this particular point), Eilperin really shouldn’t continue to imply (“greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming Earth’s climate”) that all scientists believe in the human-caused global warming theory. The Washington Post may not acknowledge much diversity when it comes to global warming, but the wider world is more open-minded.

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