Moving Beyond Ideology in the Energy Debates

by Randy Brinson

All too often, the discussion of the environment and renewable energy falls along deeply divided ideological and party lines. Republicans, wary of climate change, frequently close their hearts and minds to discussion of the need to expand alternative energy solutions, while Democrats frequently overreach on the issue of energy, trading barbs with the Republicans without finding meaningful discussion on real energy solutions and integration of all renewable energy resources.

While political parties continue to fight over energy priorities to score political points, the developing countries around the globe are feeling the social and economic impact of years of neglect with regard to energy policy. From sub Sahara Africa to our friends in Latin America, lack of reliable energy and a growing dependency on fossil fuels are leading to growing poverty and economic uncertainty,creating more instability across the globe.

We recently returned from the a trade mission to Latin America with the Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and the Dean of Agriculture at Auburn University, to create a partnership between the State of Alabama and Central America. As we met with cabinet ministers and the leaders of Guatemala and Honduras, such as President Lobo of Honduras, their concerns across the region were the same. The main concern was the need for security and energy so their economies could grow.

All too often, assistance from the United States has been fragmented or purely related to business opportunities that would benefit America. However, what is most important to the region is to provide adequate security for citizens, allow stable businesses opportunities and protect investment.This includes adequate training for law enforcement especially in areas of crime intervention, investigation, and conflict resolution.

Equally important, along with security, is the provision of adequate energy. The lack of a reliable grid and electrical transmission, along with rising fuel costs, has made energy scarce, unreliable and expensive. The cost of energy has led to the loss of manufacturing and processing facilities, further limiting employment opportunities.

Despite fertile ground and long growing seasons, the lack of energy has limited agricultural and agribusiness expansion, limiting irrigation, and refrigeration and storage facilities.

Solar energy is an important opportunity for the countries of Latin America. In the most remote areas of Honduras and Guatemala, solar provides the advantages of fixing the cost, lack of need for fossil fuels, and capturing energy from the abundant sunlight that is found in the tropics. The reliability of solar energy has increased and allows for local generation of power without dependency on expensive modes of transmission over large geographic areas. This uncoupling of energy from sources of fossil fuels from tyrannies such as Iran, will allow for economies to grow and prosper.

Prosperity for our friends in Latin America has dividends well beyond the region, particularly when it comes to our own security. If we support the growth of alternative energy resources such as solar, we can grow jobs such as coffee exports, tilapia farming, shrimp farming, agricultural processing and refrigeration, which will build valuable exports and alleviate poverty. If American foreign policy provides more energy alternatives, then the provision of reliable and affordable energy will not only protect our environment and slow climate change, it will lead to more trade, economic activity, and jobs. More job creation in Latin America will reduce dependency and create a stable economy benefiting both the US and Latin America.

If conservative leaders are really concerned about the security of the United States, they need to focus on providing reliable, renewable energy that will expand opportunity for our neighbors in Central America. We must act while we have time to change to direction of the economic fortunes of our friends in Central America.

Dr. Randy Brinson is the chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

 

New Fuel Standards- So, What Would Jesus Drive?

By Mitch Hescox

For the first time since 1985, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have been finalized, raising fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles to 54.5 mpg by 2025. 10 years after What Would Jesus Drive we finally have higher fuel economy standards that consumers are demanding. This is good for our wallets, human health, job creation, and national security.

With the standards announced today the average family will still save from $6,000 to $8,000 through the life of the vehicle primarily through lower fuel costs. About 45 percent of our daily petroleum use goes toward driving our cars and light trucks — 3.1 billion barrels per year, the equivalent of 620 Gulf Oil Spills.

Soot, smog, ozone-forming volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide and carbon pollution contribute mightily to polluted air across the US. While we have made progress, 41% of Americans still suffer pollution levels that are too dangerous to breathe according to the American Lung Associations’ State of The Air 2012 Report.

Fuel millage has had bi-partisan consensus for years, check out this brief history graphic for what happened.

This time, retired military, carmakers, labor unions, health care professionals, and other stakeholders all speak in favor of these standards. There is broad bipartisan support for the need for fuel economy standards, the first fuel economy standards were signed by President Gerald Ford. When making a car purchase 42 percent of consumers, in a recent Maritz Research study, now rate fuel economy as a top priority.

In 2002, EEN launched What Would Jesus Drive an educational campaign, which included a 30-second TV spot. That next summer EEN did a 14-city What Would Jesus Drive Bible Belt Tour with speaking engagements at local churches.

We’d love to see even further innovation. When companies invest in what consumers are demanding and what’s good for God’s creation, it’s a win win. Let’s work together to set a high standard of excellence that will encourage America’s true entrepreneurial spirit.

Check out the original What Would Jesus Drive TV spot below:

 

Mitch Hescox is the President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network

 

Are We Returning to the Mourners Bench

by Mitch Hescox

I have a confession.  I’m an evangelical Christian and I love to share Jesus.  I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love.  Jesus’ story is a love story – a love for God, for all creation, a special love for the most vulnerable, for you, and for me.  Jesus’ love story doesn’t offer an escape from this world, but it does offer hope for a new one, a renewed creation where all things are made new.   The ultimate focus of the scriptures is that in the end Jesus will return us to a new beginning, a beginning that reflects its original design.

That original story, the one in Genesis, tells us that God walked daily with humanity, and we walked with him, living in sustainable peace with the rest of creation.  The beginning expressed God’s goodness in all that was created including the genuine happiness and joy that ensued.

In telling Jesus’ love story, I’m not willing to make the same mistakes made by the 19th century social gospel movement.  Sin still exists and God’s Kingdom won’t be complete until Jesus’ return.  However, the already but not yet exists, and we as Jesus’ disciples are commanded to live now in the expectation of the future fulfillment.  In fact, we must live as Jesus for this world until he returns, and that means loving as Christ loved – his greatest commandment.

1 John 3:19-24 (CEV)
When we love others, we know that we belong to the truth, and we feel at ease in the presence of God.  But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if we feel at ease in the presence of God, we will have the courage to come near him.  He will give us whatever we ask, because we obey him and do what pleases him.  God wants us to have faith in his Son Jesus Christ and to love each other.  This is also what Jesus taught us to do. If we obey God’s commandments, we will stay one in our hearts with him, and he will stay one with us. The Spirit that he has given us is proof that we are one with him.

Christ’s love alive in us makes the world worth living in and provides us our daily provision for happiness, fulfillment, and joy.  While this may seem like some empty statement, it’s real and changed my life.  I admit it’s hard to explain until you receive Jesus’ love, but those who have it know it, and those who don’t have to ask for it.  Jesus’ followers overflow in his love and know it’s more wonderful than anything is.  Jesus’ love makes life complete.  His love satisfies more than the sweetest kiss or the joy of childbirth.  Jesus’ love outlasts the latest toy –even big people ones, the most successful business deal or even the great joy of grand parenting.  Simply put, knowing Jesus’ love and sharing that love supersedes anything human.  It’s the greatest joy in the entire universe and the greatest story ever told.  Yet, we, the American church, seem to live more in fear and fear’s external symptom, hate.

In the 4th Century, Gregory of Nyssa characterized the Christian journey in three stages.  The first stage begins in fear as in being a slave, the second seeks reward as a good servant, and finally a friendship based on love and relationship.  Gregory’s points have too often become the basis for the church’s theology and evangelism.  Come to Jesus and save yourself from damnation (fear) – certainly the message of many an evangelist is “the sinners in the hands of an angry God.“  Others stress the reward of heaven, but unfortunately, this focus on escaping the present reality does nothing to further our Lord’s commands to love and care for the least of these.  Only as we transform by God’s grace to understand God as sovereign friend in a loving relationship do we find the real good news in Jesus.

Looking around the evangelical church today or at least what so many evangelical leaders share in the press, it is hard to find deep expressions of a love built upon a relationship with Jesus.  Joy should be the outward visible countenance of Christians.  We should be the happiest people on earth.  We have been freed from our pasts, have a friend in a glorious Savior, and a future already known.  Christ’s love does amazing things all around and when I look around within my church circles – I see fear and hate dominate so much.  It’s as if we are returning to the mourner’s bench.

No one knows the full history but sometime in the early 19th century Methodist and Baptists began an interesting evangelism technique, the mourner’s bench.  The bench, originally used in camp meetings and later incorporated into sanctuaries, was placed right in front of the preacher, and many times the community’s most “despicable” character was forcibly seated there.  In true “hell fire and brimstone” preaching the “sinner” mourned their past and repented of their sins to avoid damnation.

Fear, manipulation, and coercion forced many a conversion and certainly a bit more friendly than the few hundred years’ earlier method of being burnt at the stake.  (The theological belief was it was better to feel the fire and recant instead of spending an eternity in flames.) Neither the mourner’s bench nor the stake can be considered acts of love.  Fear simply doesn’t reflect Jesus or His Kingdom – not now, not ever.  Repeatedly Scripture records the message, fear not.  Fear represents the actions of the overly zealous and the misguided blinded by their allegiance to doctrine and not biblical faith.  Somehow, I believed we were overcoming the “fear factor” but it’s ripe and spreading across our nation.  Just look at current events, religious leaders, politics, and everyday life for a glimpse.

We see Christians quoted in newspapers disparaging Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney for being a member of the Latter Day Saints and the same folks referring to our current President as a Muslim.  Are these statements acts of love?  We see immigrants dehumanized daily and yet Scripture has clear commands for caring for the stranger.  Is this love?  Nowhere more does fear and fear mongering present itself than attacks on science.

It’s incredulous that our society has grown dependent on modern medicine, electronic technology, air travel, and literally millions of scientific advancements but we still love to belittle science.  Recently, I witnessed a pastor giving a sermon berating science from his Ipad –talk about an oxymoron!  Nowhere does this fear present itself as pure ugliness than in sharing climate change, the greatest moral challenge of our time.

Today across the world people are hungry, thirsty, disease ridden, and dying by the hundreds of thousands each year but so many in the United States deny climate change reality because of fear.  Even with every major scientific body in the world recognizing that climate change results from humanity’s use of fossil fuels – fear dominates reality.  Moreover, there are those who spread the fear with name-calling and identifying people like me as a “Green Dragon”, a not to subtle reference to the evil one’s beast from the New Testament’s Book of Revelation.

Personally, I refer to myself as the Jolly Green Giant filled with Christ’s joy and hope rather than the allusion to fear.  Fear preys on our fallen humanity instead of the life given in Christ.  Fear degenerates into a mentality of scarcity instead of trust in the Good Shepherd to provide all our needs.

Psalm 23 (NIV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Recently the Heartland Institute, thankfully, failed in their attempt to continue this fear campaign in the secular world by linking climate change believers to Osama Bin Laden and the Unabomber.  Calling people names, linking them to evil and dehumanizing them are broad attempts in both the church and the secular world to feed on our most basic fear: change.  Fear of change isn’t new.  Who among Christians doesn’t remember the Exodus story?

In the middle of the wilderness, Moses faced a revolt as many wanted to return to their known life of slavery instead of moving forward toward freedom’s hope in the Promised Land.  However, those living in much of the majority world don’t have 40 years for us to grapple with our fear.  Fear exacerbates our reality and delays God’s hope for us all.  It’s time to reject fear and those who profit from it and move forward together in love, Jesus’ love for all God’s children.

Imagine what might have happened if Jesus gave in to his last temptation, fear.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced temptation to deny the cross and have the “cup” removed as fear almost overcame love.  In the most powerful scene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ Jesus arises from his temptation and stomps the serpent signaling victory over fear.  Jesus’ victory in the garden, on the cross, and ultimately his resurrection provides the love to overcome our fear and trust in the hope of our Risen Lord.

Are we returning to the mourner’s bench and allowing fear to dominate our faith? I hope not for it’s not the way of Jesus.  I can’t speak for all the church, but I have hope provided in Christ’s love to overcome our challenges, live like Christ and share the good news of Jesus and His Kingdom.  For me it’s simple, it’s love.

I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story,
’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

By Katherine Hankey

The Rev. Mitchel C. Hescox is President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network

Book Review: Global Warming and the Risen Lord

by Brittany Bennett

I am truly astounded by how much has been put into this book. It is packed solid with the most accurate scientific information, true stories, and Scripture – yet it’s very easy to read. I can’t say it’s not challenging, but I really couldn’t put it down! I’m sure that you will be able to find the time in your busy life to read it as well, and will come back to it many times. I felt like I was literally taking a journey around the world and the Lord was holding my hand the whole time. I believe that’s because He was at all these places and He sees what’s going on. He knows all the people we meet and the places that are described. He also has a plan as ever, and that’s where we come in.

This is a book to unite generations and denominations into the Church that had the courage to walk with Jesus across the earth, and the faith to believe that there could be healing in the midst of global warming. It’s a strong bridge across the widening gap that the followers of Christ are called to stand in.

This book is written with the careful wisdom and understanding that most Christians simply didn’t know that the future would look like this. We’ve tried to live our lives in obedience to the Lord, we’ve enjoyed what we worked for,and we given what we can – but along the way we became distracted from an understanding about our impact on the environment, and the ways that our neighbors and other living things are struggling to adapt.

This is where I was a couple years ago. I’ve come to general understanding of what is going on and why I should care. The biggest struggle I have is wondering how I can be more faithful? How can I keep hope and know that in a few more years I won’t be devastated from the weight of these challenges? What does it mean to be a son of God in a world where millions are seeking refuge from a climate that is changing around them? How can I be in this world where these things are occurring, but not of it? What are the most accurate specifics about global warming? Where can I give? What can I do with my talents and skills? What can we do together?

So many questions friends! It is not easy to carry the cross down here, though it is an incredibly light burden compared to the alternative. Let me tell you that if you are wondering about these things too, please read this book. Don’t be afraid. I have faith that it will bless you and give you sustenance as it has me.

I thought that I had been hopeful, but I realized how little I’ve actually believed that the Risen LORD can so fully overcome. It is so easy to forget, but How good is He! How powerful and glorious is the Risen LORD that all our sin and weakness has been overcome! Many are the believers and great is the Lord. Let us walk together with Him as He brings redemption, and let us learn more about how we can love and care for all that He has loved.

Brittany Bennett is a recent graduate of Eastern University and has been actively involved with creation care

 

Pro-Life, Ensuring the Quality of that Life

By Mitchell C. Hescox

Who doesn’t know that doctors tell pregnant moms to limit fish consumption during their pregnancy because of mercury? This is basic and lifesaving advice. As a father and now a grandfather, I know the importance of listening to your doctor especially during pregnancy. While eating fish can have tremendous benefits to the baby and the mother, the presence of mercury in fish means that moms have to limit their intake. Mercury can have a devastating impact on the unborn; unborn children who are exposed to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, are at much higher risks for lowered IQ, reduced motor and language skills, cardiac problems and a host of other threats to their life and quality of life. Mercury pollution levels are getting so high that as many as 1 in 6 children in the United States are born with threatening levels of mercury, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

For years, the ministry I lead, the Evangelical Environmental Network, has taken a clear pro-life stand, which has extended to protecting our unborn children from this threat. The largest single U.S. domestic source of mercury, 50%, comes from coal burning power plants. Mercury emitted from smoke stacks falls into our waters and enters our food chain through fish. Currently, all 50 states issue fish consumption advisories for high levels of mercury. As the threat of mercury continues to grow, we strongly endorse EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard, which protects our children through the reduction of mercury emissions.

Groups like the National Association of Evangelicals and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as over 100 senior evangelical leaders who signed our common statement, understand that this is a pro-life concern. Anything that would diminish a baby’s right to their God given gifts threatens the abundant life that God intended. During my recent testimony before the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) in an attempt to refute my testimony read the following from a document issued by the Cornwall Alliance that same morning:

The life in pro-life denotes not quality of life but life itself and only refers to opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies.

We couldn’t disagree more and so do many others. Focus on the Family has produced a wonderful video about defending the sanctity of human life that states:

Like a new set of glasses that helps us see the world with greater clarity, the value of human life defines how we see and respond to those around us. From the formation of child’s first tiny cell to life’s final breath, all life has dignity and value because each and every one of us is made in the image of God. And that is why when we talk about “pro-life,” it’s not some political issue. It’s a world view ” it’s a life-view”

We agree with Focus on the Family that to be pro-life is to understand that the “life” message is part of a seamless message upheld in Christian Scripture and in the life of Jesus.

But we are confused and disappointed that Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s Vice President for Policy, joined with the Cornwall Alliance statement against protecting our unborn from mercury poisoning. It is this contradictory message of defending the unborn from abortion, but not from powerful industries and donors who profit from mercury pollution that diminishes one’s quality of life, that gives the evangelical community a black eye to so many in our society. Many are asking, how can you be pro-life and ignore the impacts of toxins like mercury on the unborn?

Life is a gift from God and remains sacred in our eyes. Together we stand committed against abortion that terminates the life of over 1.2 million children in the United States each year. We also stand committed to protecting the lives of the millions of children whose lives and ability to reach their God-given potential is threatened by mercury and other hazardous waste. Only by protecting the quality of an unborn child’s future from pollution like mercury can we be consistently pro-life. Such consistency is how we begin to transform our culture into one that is seamlessly and totally pro-life.

Let’s stop this politically motivated attack against life and the value of our children. The Cornwall document, quoted by Congressman Shimkus, calls for a cost/benefit analysis, a cost benefit analysis to see if it is worth saving the lives of the unborn. Attempting to force dollar limits on whether to protect life lessens our nation and totally rejects our founders’ words of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is unconscionable and shows Cornwall’s overt libertarian bent.

As evangelical Christians let us value all life as a precious God given gift and protect that life, especially the most vulnerable from mercury and other toxins. Bishop Stephen Blaire of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who stated in support of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, “Who wouldn’t want cleaner air and water, it just makes sense.” We couldn’t agree more.

Rev. Mitchel C. Hescox is the President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network.

 

Correction

by EEN Staff

The best of us makes mistakes and it happened to us.  In our recent radio ads in Michigan, we suggested that Senators Stabenow and Levin are pro-life.  Their voting record indicates they are not but are very protective of children’s health – what the ads intended.  During recording, the scripts simply were mixed as we also had ads for those with strong pro-life records.  As soon as the mistake was realized, the ads were removed.

However, our constant critic Cal Beisner has focused on our mistake instead of the truth behind our work.  Mercury poisoning threatens 1:6 unborn children and the neurological damage lasts forever.  Suggesting that neurological damage disappears as Cal suggests is simply untrue.  Our children deserve a better life than faced with lowered IQ and developmental disabilities resulting from mercury.

Reducing mercury remains a significant pro-life concern and attempting to hide behind our mistake is a simply a smokescreen.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the doctors trained to protect our children’s health, have been fighting for this mercury standard for 25 years.  When it comes to our children’s health, it their position and recommendation, I will take – not Cal’s.

Were not perfect, but we admit to our mistakes.