National Council of Churches Eco Working Group, 2/16/2005
God's Mandate Statement
Let members of Congress know how much we, as people of faith, value protecting God's creation. Challenges to clean air and water, the endangered species act, and protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are forcast for this spring in Congress. In addition, climate change and energy legislation are likely to appear in the coming months.
Signing the statement "God's Mandate: Care for Creation" can help raise the religious voice to our national leaders. The statement sets forth all the major components of the present situation: our foundation in biblical scripture; the wide support for environmental stewardship across the religious community; the breadth of national consensus and absence of any mandate; the immediate, specific challenges in policy, and the kinds of responses being planned already.
GOD'S MANDATE: CARE FOR CREATION
Preface and Summary
We are men and women from the pews and pulpits of mainstream America for whom loving our Creator and thus caring for Gods creation is at the heart of our religious faith. We come from communities that hold traditional values of neighborly love and respect for life. We benefit daily from laws that safeguard habitat and public health. We are proud of our nations long-standing commitment to conservation. We seek to raise our children in a culture of stewardship and bequeath them the full blessings of God's bounty.
From these perspectives, we feel called to express great dismay and alarm at plans by the Administration and the leadership of the 109th Congress to reverse and obstruct programs that protect Gods creation in our land and across the planet. There are now specific proposals before the government that would jeopardize public health, clean air and water; sustainable sources of energy; safety of natural habitats; and Earths climate, which embraces us all.
These measures would turn back protections in laws passed over decades with overwhelming public support. Moreover, there was no mandate, no majority, or no values message in this past election for the President or the Congress to rollback and oppose programs that care for Gods creation.
In this brief statement, we seek to encourage consideration of these challenges and the need for faithful, forceful action.
Biblical Mandate, Moral Values, and National Consensus
Our mandate is from biblical scripture. First, we read in Genesis that God beholds all creation as very good (Gen 1:31) and commands us to till and tend the garden (Gen 2:15). Humankind is called to stewardship of the commons. Second, we read in Psalms, The Earth is the Lords and the fulness thereof (Ps 24:1). The bounty of Creations gifts must serve the common good of all. Third, we have a paramount obligation to defend the poor and the orphan; do justice to the afflicted (Ps 82:3) and to care first for the least of these (Math 25:35). Care for Gods creation particularly requires protection of vulnerable life. Finally, we have an obligation, in prudence and precaution, to sustain the future well-being of all life on Earth, Gods covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature for perpetual generations (Gen 9:12).
Regardless of religious affiliation, generations of Americans have embraced what really are universal moral precepts: the goodness of all life, stewardship, justice, inter-generational duty, and the exercise of prudence for the common good. These values have been embodied in bipartisan policy and law from the establishment of the Forest Parks Service (1916) through the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (1948), Clean Air Act (1963); National Environmental Policy Act (1970), Endangered Species Act (1973), Clean Water Act (1977), and Superfund law (1980.) Across the nation, moreover, localities have established laws that protect their environments to assure the well-being of their citizens.
Finally, the ability of our science to document threats and of our technology to prevent and remedy them has increased our capacity and therefore responsibility for stewardship.
As an expression of fundamental human values, then, there is a religious, moral, scientific, and an historic national consensus on the abiding priority of environmental stewardship.
Public Policy and Threats to God's Creation
And yet, on the basis of past policies and recent pledges, it is clear to us that the administration and leadership of the 109th Congress are planning to roll back programs that protect Gods creation in our land and to obstruct international action for the common good of the entire Earth.
According to a recent study from the National Academy of Sciences, the Administrations Clear Skies initiative will weaken emissions reduction requirements for power plants and would increase air pollution and further expose millions of people --- especially children, the elderly, the poor, and the sick --- to toxic substances including mercury, rather than simply enforcing intended Clean Air Act standards.
The Administrations Energy policy would establish increased access to oil as the overriding priority for managing our common public lands, extending our dangerous reliance on fossil fuels instead of emphasizing a common ethic of conservation.
The Superfund toxic waste program that cleans up hazardous sites in or near low-income or minority families is unjustly being allowed to collapse because major corporations refuse to pay a small tax to clean up pollution their industries have largely created.
Proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act would eliminate federal protection for habitats in which Gods creatures can flourish and would obstruct independent scientific discernment which makes our faithful stewardship of life possible in the first place.
Most crucially, for all Gods creation on our planet, the Administration continues to question the urgency of climate change and to refuse mandatory action to protect the entire Earth from global warming. And the Senate Majority Leader continues to not even allow discussion of a bipartisan measure to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In this effort, finally, the Administration is enlisting our Treasury by cutting budgets and our Judiciary by appointing judges hostile to environmental safeguards. It is challenging our very tradition of open government by providing special treatment for corporate interests in planning public policy.
Attitudes and Actions of Religious Americans
The values underlying our concerns are shared by more and more religious Americans whose faith groups have been increasingly active in programs to care for Gods creation. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently reported that, In contrast to abortion and other hot-button cultural issues, which divide most religious groups in the United States, there is fairly strong consensus across faith traditions on environmental policy. By a two-to-one margin (55% to 27%) respondents back strong regulations to protect the environment. Furthermore, the level of support is quite deep. [Although we believe that our economy can be strengthened, not weakened by environmental protection,] Respondents in this survey were asked whether they favored stronger environmental regulations even if they cost jobs or result in higher prices. [And, while we honor deep convictions and do not wish to set them against each other,] as priorities for religious voters, environment (53%) ranks higher than abortion (46%) or gay marriage (33%).
With such evidence, we feel called to alert our fellow religious Americans to these alarming challenges. We encourage all to study, pray, convene, and consider courses of action. While we are grateful for the engagement of our senior leaders, we are taking initiative from local communities, encouraged by the power of grassroots citizen action in last years campaign. We plan to participate in any number of projects, some of which are, for the first time, being announced here:
National denominational staff and local clergy and lay leaders from every region will meet for several days in February to discuss issues, goals and strategies.
Educational materials will be prepared for distribution to congregations including an Earth Day action alert from the National Council of Churches to over 150,000 churches.
In response to the administrations Clear Skies proposal, the multi-state Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign will release a study on the dangerous effects of power plant emissions on children.
Religious alliances in at least ten states will present Energy Charters setting forth the moral imperatives for conservation, alternatives to the Administrations Energy policy, and proposals for sustainable policies in their states.
Evangelical Christian and Jewish groups will establish a Noah Alliance to present theological and ethical perspectives on biodiversity and to oppose roll back by the Congress of the Endangered Species Act.
As a highest priority, faith groups across the entire spectrum, at the national and local level, are already calling for debate on the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act and will discuss the urgency of such action with United States Senators.
Diverse Viewpoints and the Religious Mission
We share these perspectives with great respect for colleagues in faith communities with many theological traditions and cultural perspectives. There will be no single approach to these challenges. But religious Americans everywhere increasingly recognize an overarching obligation for faithfulness in caring for God's creation. Moreover, we are discovering that care for God's creation renews religious life itself. And so we are all called to consider an ancient challenge under fresh circumstances across the entire planet, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. (Deut 30:19)