On March 1, 2007, James Dobson (possibly the most powerful leader in the Christian Right, and head of Focus on the Family), released a letter urging the NAE to either silence Cizik on global warming or cause his resignation. Instead, it appears Mr. Dobson has gone too far this time. After the March 8 NAE board meeting following the letter's release, NAE President Leith Anderson reaffirmed Cizik's work and environmental emphasis as being part of the NAE's ongoing mission.
Dobson's letter claimed that Cizik is not speaking for evangelicals on global warming, and has no expertise (and by extension, said Dobson, neither does the NAE). That argument seems a bit disingenuous to this camper, esp. as Dobson and his friends aren't afraid to dismiss human-caused global warming.
Ciziks' response, according to the Washington Post, is simple: "I speak with a voice that is authentically evangelical on all the issues, from religious freedom around the world to compassion for the poor [to] ending oppression in Darfur -- and yes, creation care is one of those issues."
A particularly low blow in Dobson's letter came with this paragraph:
Mr. Cizik not only believes that global warming is an indisputable fact, but he also holds related views that he has not been willing to reveal to the membership at large. In an alarming speech he delivered to the World Bank in May of 2006, he said: “I’d like to take on the population issue, but in my community global warming is the third rail issue. I’ve touched the third rail but still have a job. And I’ll still have a job after my talk here today. But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. We need to confront population control and we can -- we’re not Roman Catholics, after all, but it’s too hot to handle now.” We ask, how is population control going to be achieved if not by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere? Is this where Richard Cizik would lead us?Conspiracy theory mongering aside (ooooo! the World Bank!).... uh, no.
Years ago, I read James Dobson's newsletter diatribe about a secret homosexual agenda to "change" or kill straight males (quoting from a loony gay publication that could hardly be said to represent mainstream gay culture). While I maintain the consistent historical and theological view on homosexuality, I immediately knew that bit was nonsense and designed to make Dobson's base get frantic. I suspect it worked. Likewise, the above paragraph is a series of misleading misinformative sentences with practically no logic whatever.
Since when did population control equate with abortion and infanticide? Are we saying now that any pro-life Christian (or non-Christian) must as a matter of principle accept the idea that the exponential increase of humankind on this planet is God's will, and a good thing? I think that idea is ludicrous enough. But worse, Dobson and company seem to make the unwarranted and mischievous claim that any attempt at addressing population control -- to teach other human beings about planning pregnancies, taking precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, and understanding the global impact of population growth -- will to lead to the murder of the unborn. That, folks, is a non-sequitor. It does not follow that abortion is the only way, or even one way, to control population growth. Yes, China has used abortion that way. But to make the charge that Richard Cizik's concern over population growth will lead to the NAE's thirty million members supporting abortion is unprincipled, unethical, and unscriptural.
This is why the Christian Right is losing steam. And though the NAE still, for instance, supports "the war on terror" (whatever the heck "the war on terror" means this week), its movement away from the Christian Right on some issues is a positive and welcome sign.
Finally, I would end by quoting Dobson again in what to me was the strangest paragraph in his long letter. In short, he seems to completely miss the point of the article he in turn quotes:
Finally, Cizik’s disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, “evangelical.” As a recent USA Today article notes: “Evangelical was the label of choice of Christians with conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality. Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that “fundamentalist” met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned.” We believe some of that misunderstanding about evangelicalism and its “conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality” can be laid at Richard Cizik’s door.
Might I suggest it isn't Cizik's viewpoint that is causing confusion. It is yours, Mr. Dobson. The article you quote makes a wild assertion without basis. Namely, that evangelicalism has always been linked with conservative politics. It has not been so linked, as evangelicals such as Stan Grenz, Mark Hatfield, Jimmy Carter, Clarence Jordan, Jim Wallis, Phil Yancy, Ron Sider, and organizations such as Evangelicals for Social Action, Christians for Biblical Equality, and even my home church, Jesus People USA Evangelical Covenant Church, show.
Further, the word "evangelical" has become a cultural and political word almost emptied of its theological meaning. The reason for this, first and foremost, is the confusion of faith in Jesus Christ with that nationalism which lies at the root of the Christian Right's worldview. This cannot be over-emphasized. The word evangelical not only may be replaced -- it certainly will be by an increasing majority of believers, just as "fundamentalism" was replaced by Carl Henry, Harold Okenga, and others many years ago. Again, the main reason for this is the word's devaluation and overidentification with and by the Christian Right.
I wish it wasn't so. I'm one of those who love the word for what it used to mean, much like the word "gay" used to have a specific meaning now lost yet not reproduced by any replacement word. But alas... the die is cast, I'm afraid. And this mess is prime evidence of why the word "evangelical" is doomed.