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I would say that those who are callous about babies and callous about life ought to be brought to bear the callousness of their indifference.
It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology.
--Rick Santorum, on environmental stewardship
WYTHEVILLE--What's it been like as a pro-lifer during this year's big-money campaign? It's been an experience of split personality, I would say as a pro-life conservationist.
Most conservationists I know tend to be pro-life. Nobody who has loved life on this planet wants to keep it from the unborn. Who would deny the next generation a chance to hear the chimes of spring peepers at nightfall, or the haunting calls of owls? A chance to fish in a river, climb mountains, or walk a seashore beside the majestic, life-teeming ocean?
Nobody sane would take this rare gift away from the unborn. But the corporate buy-up of our political system seems to give voters no other choice. One camp would protect life in the womb, but politically opposes the protection of planetary life. The other side allows prenatal life to be aborted, but has defended the surrounding human life-support system--air, water, biodiversity, climate.
How to choose "life" then, politically, without aborting one's brain?
The Rev. Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network notes that "One in six of our children are being born with harmful levels of mercury in their bloodstream." Factor in the climate change already depleting life among the world's poor, he reasons, and pro-lifers clearly should support reductions of coal-burning pollutants.
That's the position taken by more than 300 evangelical leaders who've signed on to the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Created in 2005, the document supports climate action for the sake of all life, born and unborn.
It was not new theology. The Old Testament sings with Nature's voices, Noah's call to save every species, the sacredness of "living waters." Whole chapters of "Promised Land"-use regulations forbid tree-cutting, soil depletion, and animal abuse--requirements that make the EPA's look feeble.
The New Testament, meanwhile, is all about "life more abundant," pointed out Francis Shaeffer, the famed father of today's evangelical movement. In his 1970s book, "Pollution and the Death of Man," Shaeffer warned that God's call "in the area of nature is that we should exhibit a substantial healing here and now."
Pope John Paul II later called repeatedly for climate action. His pro-life classic, "The Gospel of Life," notes that "man has a specific responsibility toward the environment for the present but also for future generations." In 1991, conservative Baptist heavyweight Richard Land declared, in "The Earth Is the Lord's": "I am more firmly convinced than ever that we face an ecological crisis and that God holds us accountable for our stewardship of the creation."
What happened, one wonders, here at the end of 2012? How has stewardship become what pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum calls "phony theology"?
This year, Land himself urged support for the campaign clients of his longtime friend and Christian organizer/big-energy consultant Ralph Reed. Through his Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed's clients (including Santorum, George Allen, and the Romney-Ryan ticket) and their polluter-friendly platforms were cast as the Christian pro-life choice. Not a word from Land of an "ecological crisis."
In fact, Reed, whose for-profit clients have run the oily gamut from Enron to Koch Industries, has long striven to squelch any greening of the pro-life voting block that he successfully converted, from his earlier Christian Coalition, into corporate-political capital.
After the Evangelical Climate Initiative emerged in 2005, Reed helped organize an opposing document, "An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming," signed by his longtime religious associates, to oppose climate action for the sake of "the poor." He was helped by other big-oil consultants, namely Chris Rogers and Paul Driessen, whose industrial "ministry," The Cornwall Alliance, works to frighten Christians away from environmental action.
Funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, and The Scaife Foundation (Gulf-based oil), Cornwall features Land and others of Reed's religious affiliates in a chilling video, "Resisting the Green Dragon," urging believers away from the cult of "environmentalism." This kind of polluter-funded political messaging has poured heavily through pro-life arteries in recent years, clogging the system and weakening its earlier heart for creation-care.
Initially, its adoption by this polluter-political marriage, which needs pro-life support as a voting bloc and lobby, seemed to promise the movement influence and a seat at the family power table. Instead, this unholy alliance has reduced "life" to a fetal position, where it currently waits--and the ailing world waits for it--to be born. Again.
Liza Field is a teacher and writer in Wythe County in southwestern Virginia. Her commentary was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.