Recruiting Young Evangelicals for Climate Activism

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Although global warming, which has morphed into climate change, has receded as a hot button issue, a new “Young Evangelicals for Climate Action” has emerged.  Spawned by the Evangelical Environmental Network, it aims to capture a new generation for climate scaremongering.

Ostensibly, the YECA has already met “many evangelical leaders, as well as senior officials at the White House,” according to a report from Jim Wallis’ Sojourners. So it’s off and running.  Evidently not confident that compassion for the planet itself is sufficiently motivating, the new emphasis is on global warming’s impact on the “least of these,” as Jesus called the poor.  Ostensibly poor people are or will be the chief victims as, according to lore, the earth increasingly boils thanks to SUVS driven by gas guzzling Americans.

As the Sojourners announcement frankly admitted, popular concern about the “climate crisis” has been declining. The article cites a 2006 Evangelical Climate Initiative, backed by prominent clergy, as the “high water mark” for evangelical climate worriers.  “Regrettably, over the last several years, the climate crisis has largely dropped off the radar across the evangelical Christian community, just as it has within much of American politics,” Sojourners regretted.  It pointed the finger at the “climate deniers” who have been “all too effective in spinning concern about this crisis into a politically toxic and culturally controversial issue.”  So YECA has arisen to ensure “things need to change.”  After all, “There is no time to lose.”

It’s not explained why the nefarious “climate deniers,” so reluctant to join the panic, have been successful.  Perhaps it’s due to increasing members of the scientific community, which never spoke uniformly, questioning the apocalyptic neuroses of the worst climate fear peddlers.  And it’s perhaps due to 4 years of economic stagnation, which disinclines the public from indulging boutique causes that villainize economic growth.  YECA presumably will target idealistic young people anxious for a cause and maybe unaware that global warming as a leftist crusade has been around for 20 years now, having superseded the New Ice Age panic of 35 years ago.

A major study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology earlier this year revealed that today’s young people, the “Millennials,” are actually less captivated by or even interested in environmentalism than were their preceding generations, the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers, at similar ages.  The study was conducted mostly before the 2008-2009 economic melt-down, whose high unemployment among new college graduates almost certainly will accentuate the trend.  So YECA has a large job reversing what is for climate activists an unwelcome trend.  More fear about the climate is urgently needed!

The YECA manifesto declares the “climate crisis” a “pressing challenge to justice and freedom,” without providing details.  But the kind of global economic regimentation required in the attempt to affect the climate almost certainly would reduce freedom.  It also calls for “advocating on behalf of the poor and marginalized.” Of course, it does not acknowledge that the massive reduction in economic growth and in living standards necessary for significant reduction in carbon emissions would most of all hurt the world’s poor and deprive them of any meaningful possibility of escaping chronic poverty for the middle class.

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  • Phil

    God gave us a paradise; now we have Global warming, and man has killed around 1/3 of all God's creatures, by pollution, etc.

    Global warming should be one of man's most important issues; it is our responsibility to stop polluters.

    • stevefraser

      Global Cooling is gonna bring the real problems, especially when this years snow is added to last years snow.. It's called an Ice Age.

      • Jane

        Setting global warming or climate change on the back burner for a while and just trying to be mindful that it COULD be harming the environment since AGW has not been proven would be a start toward be a righteous Christian. To be adamantly against even the possibility of us causing or even contributing to it when the science has not been proven is a bit premature, and frankly makes us look anti-science. FWIW, I am concerned about pollution, since they are deliberately destroying God's beautiful creation, and holding polluters accountable because we know that they ARE disrespecting God's creation and are foisting problems on the least of our brothers who cannot afford the lawyers to fight Big Pollution when it occurs.

  • Schlomotion

    It is not surprising that after advocating gun running, and attacking Christians who want peace, after trying to dismantle churches who criticize Israel, and generally supporting the CIA and oligarch's control of religion, Mr. Tooley is also in favor of global warming and out to defend the interests of the polluters and the oil cartels. This article resembles all the others. It has a pro-war bent, advocating the destabilization of nations, and the support of corporatist interests, all under the guise of safeguarding religious belief and promoting democracy.

    • Ghostwriter

      And it's not surprising that you write your idiotic nonsense for all the world to read,Schlockmotion. Fortunately,we can tell you what an unbelievable slimeball you are in the comments section.

  • Alex Kovnat

    If carbon dioxide buildup in the Earth's atmosphere is that critical an issue, then why not support nuclear power instead of demanding that nuclear power be abandoned for all time? Let's face it, we are never going to have a perfectly tidy, orderly world. As I see it, the art of government is managing the imperfection that is inherently part of the human condition. Do we really want to impoverish ourselves to the point of living no better than peasants in the middle ages, to satisfy those who can't stand global warming, can't stand nuclear power, can't stand hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and who pretty much can't stand people (while proclaiming how much they love THE people)?

  • stevefraser

    Thanks for the update on this madness.

  • an adult

    global warming, global cooling… how about global stupidity. the same 92 elements that that make up our planet will always remain. oil is the ultimate bio-fuel. the continued attempts to capture and indoctrinate our young people with stupid science should be outlawed. keep your eyes on the standusky's heading up the "youth groupings"

  • Gerogevii

    Here, you are getting warmer: "Perhaps it’s due to increasing members of the scientific community, which never spoke uniformly, questioning the apocalyptic neuroses of the worst climate fear peddlers." No decent person deliberately raises acute fear of the future in the young.