Southern Baptists note climate change — will McCain benefit?

March 10, 2008

DALLAS – Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders on Monday shook up their flock by issuing their strongest statement to date on the potential perils of climate change and the need to take action on the issue.

The statement, which was signed by SBC President Frank Page, past presidents and other church leaders, was short on specifics but represents a significant departure from the group’s past pronouncements on the issue, which have urged caution and not much else.

Monday’s statement by some of the leaders of the 16 million-member SBC — America’s largest Protestant Church and one of its most conservative — said such caution could be taken as “uncaring, reckless and ill-informed.”

If the membership at large accepts the document, the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee John McCain could stand to gain as he has broken ranks with much of his party by highlighting the issue of global warming and talking about “common sense” ways to limit carbon emissions, such as promoting advanced energy technologies.

Having the SBC on the side on climate change could give McCain some needed traction with conservative evangelicals who have not warmed to him because of his failure to adopt their strident positions on a range of social issues from gay marriage to stem-cell research.

The SBC statement also is another step in closing the divisions between the old culture warriors of the religious right and the so-called “evangelical center,” which sees a broader Biblical agenda that includes issues such as combating poverty and environmental degradation.

The statement was not entirely unexpected since many conservative evangelicals are known for their passion for the outdoors. A comprehensive nationwide survey in 2006 of licensed hunters and anglers commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found that half of those polled identified themselves as evangelical Christian.

Hunters and anglers often are the first to note changes in the climate or environment.

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-Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (SBC President Dr. Frank Page, second from left, meets with President Bush in the White House’s Oval Office in 2006 with Dr. Morris Chapman, left, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Chapman’s wife, Dayle, right.

6 comments

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Hunters and anglers? I have a book, “Yuraq Janka – Cordilleras Blanca and Rosko, Peru”, by John F. Ricker, published by the American Alpine Club and the Alpine Club of Canada in 1977, that refers to studies from back in 1914 showing that glaciers have been receding in the Peruvian Andes. Mountain climbers would be better sources of information about glacier retreat and degradation since they generally try to climb on glaciers as it is easier than climbing on rock. But I’m guessing the Christians wouldn’t listen to them because they’d be considered to have a predisposition toward environmentalism over that of the hunters and anglers.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

Jimbo, you’ve convinced me. Let’s put aside the endorsement of climate change by the National Academies of Sciences, the top scientific organization in the United States, and make our policy decisions on energy in our 14 trillion dollar economy based on Peruvian climbers in 1914.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

These Christians do not care about the observations of hunters and fishers — they’ve got all their truth in the good ‘ol B-I-B-L-E, as interpreted by their respective denomination. If the bible says there is no global warming, and if most of their church believes that, then, by golly, there just ain’t any global warming at all — God’s truth!

Posted by frank burns | Report as abusive

jimbo- why construe this into something against Christians? This is not even a mainstream religious issue, however it is an important one nonetheless. Climate change is something that could effect us all, regardless of religion or hobbies. This isn’t about turning mountain climbers against hunters and anglers because in the end we’re all in the same boat.
Getting back to the article, I don’t think this is an area the church should be stepping into on a political scale. Based on your posting, if glaciers have been receding since 1914, then why does everybody think this is a new issue? And is it really caused by humans?

Posted by t | Report as abusive

I hear and see and wonder, how can all roads point to Carbon Emissions, ass the cause of global warming? Haber Bosch / nitrogen fixation has been extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere and biomass for more that 100 years. It is 180 fold more harmfull to the environment. Politics play the carbon card while holding the nitrogen card. We all need more bombs right?

Posted by Steve Austin | Report as abusive

Frank, Frank, Frank! Are you using this as a forum to lash out at Christianity? Your broad assumptions and condescending remarks of Christianity are based on what? Yes, your sarcasm came through loud and clear. I don’t know what type of Christians you know but we are not brain-washed robots. We are to all be stewards of this planet and therefore the health of the planet are issues of concern. After all we do have to live here. Try educating yourself before you speak. I have yet to encounter a Bible verse stating “there is no global warming”. Maybe you should do a little reading next time. I have know Atheists that were better educated on the “good ‘ol Bible” than some Christians, at least they took the time to explore why they chose not to become believers of Christ. It is this type of narrow-mindedness that fosters divides and halts any forward progress to reach resolutions. Now go out and kiss the ground your Christian founding fathers secured for you to be standing on. Have a grateful day.

Posted by Southern Christian | Report as abusive