Green Christians mount major campaign


The aim of the screenings, like one held in Kansas last week, is to turn the large and powerful conservative Christian constituency into a voting block united behind making the reduction of greenhouse gases a top priority among politicians.

Evangelical Christian leaders have embraced the cause and are now helping spur momentum before both midterm elections in November and the 2008 presidential election. "In the past, white evangelicals have been largely Republican and the environment has traditionally been a Democratic issue … so there are political implications in terms of alliances," said Joel Hunter, who serves on the National Association of Evangelicals board and as senior pastor of the 12,000-member Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. "But there is no doubt about the mandate of scripture here. We need to do what we can to care for the Earth," Hunter said by telephone. "We want to lead people into the arena where it will have an affect on how they vote."

The movement by faith communities to become more active on environmental issues has been growing over the last several years with many undertaking energy-saving and energy-education projects that they describe as "creation care." Indeed, according to a July survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, more than 70 percent of people of faith polled believed global warming was occurring. But the movement to turn that devotion into a political power base on global warming is only now getting under way.

Advocates said they intended to put pressure on both Republicans and Democrats to be more active in seeking to reduce global warming. A national rollout of "The Great Warming" at U.S. cinemas starts in October.

The plan also calls for more than 500 sermons on global warming and lists of questions for church members to ask political candidates.


The National Council of Churches, with an estimated 45 million members, Presbyterians for Restoring Creation and leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals are helping develop online promotions, newsletters and campaign materials for film screenings, including one planned for Sept. 30 at the Washington National Cathedral. African-American mobilization is part of the agenda as well, with a Sept. 21 screening led by the Rev. Gerald Durley, a former civil-rights activist who leads a large Baptist congregation in Atlanta.

"We’re hoping to get this in before the elections," said Karen Coshof, the independent Canadian documentary maker who produced "The Great Warming." "It’s time to get beyond talk to action." Global warming concerns stem from scientific evidence that layers of carbon dioxide heat — generated in part by power plants and automobiles — is altering the climate and leading to deadly heat waves, drought and disastrous flooding.

Many conservative political and business groups, which generally support the same politicians as white evangelicals, challenge the conclusions as faulty and alarmist, however, and say efforts to rein in CO2 emissions will hurt the economy. Still, "Great Warming" backers say the tide has turned in their favor amid overwhelming scientific data and growing public concern. And they say, many businesses are recognizing action is needed, including Zurich-based Swiss Re <RUKN.VX>, one of the world’s leading reinsurance companies and a chief financial backer of the film.

"I am what you call a green Republican … and there are a number of us out there," said Troy Helming, founder of the Kansas-based Krystal Planet alternative energy company, which also backs the film. "It is unfortunate that the party … has kind of lost its way in terms of environmental issues."

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