June 21st, 2010
03:04 PM ET

Is global warming the civil rights issue of the 21st century?

If you want to know how the issue of global warming is dividing the evangelical world, Richard Cizik’s story is a good place to start.

Cizik was recently a leader in the National Association of Evangelicals, a powerful, 68-year-old conservative group. When Cizik tried to convince the NAE to take a public stand on global warming, he was booted from the association, according to Paul Rogat Loeb, author of “Jesus and Climate Change - The Journey of  Rich Cizik.”

The firing was big news. Some of the nation’s biggest evangelical leaders called for Cizik’s removal. Cizik also hurt his cause with some conservative leaders when he told a National Public Radio interviewer that he was also rethinking his opposition to gay civil unions.

Cizik, who has since formed a new group calledThe New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good,” said the science backing global warming was too compelling to ignore.

Cizik says he thought little about climate change until he attended a 2002 conference on the subject and experienced a conversion.

“I didn’t want to be like the evangelicals who avoided getting involved during the civil rights movement and in the process discredited the gospel and themselves,” Cizik wrote in an essay.

Cizik now calls climate change “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”

Is he right? Will the evangelical leaders who question global warming look one day like some evangelical leaders who stood silent while marchers were beaten in the streets during the civil rights movement? Or should religious leader stay out of the scientific debate on global warming?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Environment • Jesus

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. guest

    One excellent solution to future population concerns as well as alleviating many of the effects of potential global warming is the proposal for the construction of the "Trans Global Highway". The proposed Trans Global Highway would create a world wide network of standardized roads, railroads, water pipe lines, oil and gas pipelines, electrical and communication cables. The result of this remarkable, far sighted project will be global unity through far better distribution of resources, including heretofore difficult to obtain or unaccessible raw materials, fresh water, finished products and lower global transportation costs.

    With greatly expanded global fresh water distribution, arid lands could be cultivated resulting in a huge abundance of global food supplies. The most conservative estimate is that with the construction of the Trans Global Highway, the planet will be able to feed several billion more people, using presently available modern farming technologies. With the present global population of just under 7 billion people and at the United Nations projection of population increase, the world will produce enough food surpluses to feed the expected increased population for several hundred years.

    Thomas Robert Malthus's famous dire food shortage predictions of 1798 failed to take into consideration modern advances in farming, transportation, food storage and food abundance. Further information on the proposed Trans Global Highway can be found at http://www.TransGlobalHighway.com .

    March 9, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  2. Daniel

    No. Tolerance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons as human beings made in God's image is the Civil Rights issue of the 21st Century.

    July 4, 2010 at 2:08 am |
  3. Patrick

    This is a rare occasion when the Christian Movement sides with the Scientific Community putting aside Evolution VS Creationism and together focus on protecting the creation , Earth..
    When NASA, NOAA, and The U.S. Military all state Global Warming is occurring and it is man made how can anyone dismiss the science produced by different agencies with different agendas.
    That is nothing but denial and sticking your head in the sand. For the Republican Party to adopt Global Warming Denial as their platform when all the best scientist have proven the contrary , leadership is no longer an option for Republicans. This combined with the parties history of lying to the Christian Right has prompted many Christians to side with the other team, Liberal Environmentalist. For short term gain Republicans are flirting with long term devastation .Most of this current Republican Denial is bought and payed for by industries impacted by the Cap and Trade Proposals.
    Without legitimate Republican Representation on Global Warming Christians have been forced to become Environmental Activist.. Republicans have forgone their alliance with Christians for the short term benefits of the Tea Party. All the while gambling the Earths future and delaying legislation that many Christians now support. The Republican Party is owned and operated by Big Industry and this is proven by the fact that they will not even listen to NASA, NOAA or the U.S Military.

    June 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  4. Patrick

    There are now several influential Christian Environmental Organizations that have joined forces with powerful Environmental Organizations. The Christian Environmental Movement is based on the simple fact that Christians recognize that they are the Stewards of Gods Creation The Earth.
    If the political wing of the Christian Right is in conflict with being the Earths Stewards then they just have not gotten the message and I would not listen to any other message that type of Christianity had to offer.
    This is a moral issue not a political one and any Christian who believes otherwise has been fooled again by conservatives who have used them for political gain.

    June 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  5. Cody

    The civil rights issue of the 21st Century is GLBT issues. Its complete fact that global warming is real and we have some kind of direct connection to it.

    June 23, 2010 at 1:07 am |
    • Scott

      The right to drive a hummer? Don't remember that in the constitution. Just because you have gotten used to using something does not make it a right.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:07 am |
  6. TheRationale

    It is not within the jurisdiction of a religious group to decide what is and isn't scientific. If climate change is supported by lots of scientific evidence, which it is, it would be both foolish and malignant to deny it.

    June 22, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • Reality

      A number of years ago, "Scientific" studies/evidence showed that there was global warming. Now "scientific" studies/evidence show that it is actually climate change. So what is it!!!

      June 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
    • RichP, easton, pa

      In the 70's it was global cooling, there was a fast approaching ice age that was going to put NYC under 20 feet of ice in the next 50 years, every scientist jumped on that band wagon too. Several companies made millions producing products that would melt ice or prevent water from freezing, from huge sheets of black plastic to devices that would spray black carbon on the ice caps. This is just a new racket where those who backed it will make billions. Cap and trade, follow the money and see where that extra $3 a gallon for gas goes and it's not in any new research for products to replace things either, it goes to STOCK HOLDERS in those companies that trade carbon credits. This scam is no different, just follow the money.
      Imagine if 3% of that bailout money went towards replacing a large number of the roofs in tne US with solar shingles or solar panels, 50 MILLION homes to do it on, so what if it's not 'efficient' neither is your hybrid but that does not stop you from using it. Imagine the jobs it would create for installers, service, etc.

      July 15, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  7. Jay

    if my rights to drive a Hummer, water my garden and heat my house in the winter are violated, THAT'S civil rights abuse.

    June 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Driving is a privilege, not a right.

      June 23, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  8. K. James

    Religious leaders have a lot of sway over their congregation, many of whom believe the ministers words to be the words of god (no pun intended). Maybe if more leaders talked about it(climate change) as though it were a serious (or ever real) threat there would be more public outcry.

    June 21, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  9. Reality

    A lot of conjecture but no references to scientific studies that global warming is occurring nor studies as to what is causing it if it is real. One could speculate, for example, that it is simply due to more active volcanoes under the oceans which is something we have no control over. Then there is that ball of energy aka the Sun that is slowly expanding and gets closer every year. Again something out of our control.

    June 21, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.