In last weekend’s issue of Amandala, a long article by Joyce Nelson, entitled LOOMING BATTLE OF THE CHURCHES OVER THE ENVIRONMENT, was published on pages 38, 39, and 42. I suspect many of our readers would not have examined such an extended article with all the intensity this particular article deserves. (Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher working on her sixth book. Her article was originally posted on the Weekend Edition May 15-17, 2015 of counterpunch. org.)
In order to emphasize how important this article is, I decided to include/repeat selected extracts from it this week in my column. The ideal would be, of course, for you to read the whole article carefully. But, yes, you’re busy and all that, so to make it easier for you, I have reproduced choice portions.
For me, the most critical thing for Belizeans to know is that there are corporate entities, featuring big oil, which finance certain evangelical efforts in countries like Belize which have strategic reserves of natural resources. The enemies of Third World people don’t have to be shooting and bombing us all the time, although they will do that when they feel it necessary. In some cases, they are successful in confusing our minds with their version of religion to the point where we support neoliberal corporations instead of our native, Indigenous selves.
Excerpts from Joyce Nelson’s article follow, in alternating italics and bold type:
Any day now Pope Francis leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, will be issuing a rare papal Encyclical on climate change and the environment. The Encyclical will apparently be urging all Catholics to take action against climate change. It will be sent to 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests around the world, who will be asked to distribute it to their parishioners. The expected 60-page Encyclical comes months in advance of the next UN climate meeting set for December in Paris.
Resistance to Pope Francis’ environmentalism is already mounting, especially in the U.S. where some powerful right-wing evangelical Christian churches consider science and environmentalism as hostile to the Bible. E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman and founder of an evangelical lobby group called Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, told the UK’s The Guardian in December that “the pope should back off” regarding climate change, adding that the “Catholic Church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the politics the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the U.S.”
The “Dominion Mandate”
Beisner has been described by religiondispatches.org (Aug. 15, 2014) as “the most influential evangelical anti-environmentalist in the United States.” He is vehemently against any government regulation of the environment as an impediment to the will of God. That’s because Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance are squarely in the evangelical tradition called “dominionism” based on the so-called “dominion mandate” proclaimed in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them (Adam and Eve), and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth.”
Many (although not all) dominionists take that passage as a divine trump-card against those who call for environmental protection or regulation. The Cornwall Alliance Declaration of Environmental Stewardship states: “We aspire to a world in which liberty is preferred over government-initiated management as a means to common goals.”
Most dominionists also believe that the Bible is “inerrant” and the Second Coming is “imminent.” In taking the Bible literally and as incapable of being wrong (rather than as metaphorical or symbolic truth), most dominionists believe that Earth is a mere 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and that the “end times” are not only “imminent,” but to be welcomed, because the Faithful will be “Raptured” to Heaven before the Battle of Armageddon erupts in the Middle East.
Of course, if you believe that the “end times” are imminent, then long-term planning for the health of the environment is as futile as it is unnecessary.
More recently, Beisner has stated that climate change may be happening and may be caused by human activity, but any attempts to mitigate it by transitioning away from fossil fuels would “hurt the poor.” According to Bloomberg News (Dec. 12, 2014), this is the same stance now being taken by Peabody Energy Corp., ExxonMobil and Chevron Corporation – the latter two known to be funders of right-wing evangelical groups.
The website thinkprogress.org investigated the Cornwall Alliance in 2010 and found “deep ties to the oil industry,” especially ExxonMobil and Chevron, as well as direct connections to “longtime right-wing operatives orchestrating the climate science denial machine.” When asked about such ties by the UK’s The Guardian (May 5, 2011), Beisner said, “There have been no corporate donations and certainly no oil money,” although he did not deny connections to the “climate science denial machine” long funded by fossil fuel interests.
In its list of aspirations, the Cornwall Alliance hopes for “a world in which the relationships between stewardship and private property are fully appreciated, allowing people’s natural incentive to care for their own property to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of resources and enterprises …”
Fully in the free-market neoliberal economic camp, the Cornwall Alliance is apparently opposed to collective (i.e., public) ownership of parks and wilderness areas, collective ownership of natural resources and utilities, and of collectively owned Aboriginal lands.
Beisner’s rhetoric has been heating up lately. In 2013, he called the environmental movement “the greatest threat to Western civilization” because it combines “the utopian vision of Marxism, the scientific façade of secular humanism, and the religious fanaticism of jihad.” He has also angrily denounced the very concept of “social justice,” and has strongly criticized other evangelical Christian churches which don’t take the same hard-line stance against environmentalism that he does.
The Cornwall Alliance is a key member of the Council for National Policy (CNP) – a secretive organization that is considered one of the pillars of the New Right in the U.S., which gained control of Congress in the 2014 mid-term elections through Tea Party/Republican victories. Many of the winning politicians (including state governors) are climate skeptics whose campaigns were heavily funded by fossil fuel interests.
These newly elected politicians (and their Big Oil backers) are looking to prevent climate-change regulations that would threaten industry profits. They are also looking to stop the creation of new wilderness areas, roll back environmental regulation, force through the Keystone XL pipeline, and open the Pacific Coast to energy exploration.
The membership of the CNP has been described as “essentially a secret society of wealthy, hard-right Republicans” with an agenda of “cleaving to Christian heritage, unqualified support of Israel, a strong military, gun rights, traditional values, and small government.” Over the years, a variety of right-wing speakers have addressed the CNP, including Ronald Reagan, free market economist Milton Friedman, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and, in June 1997, Stephen Harper, now Prime Minister of Canada.
The CNP meets in utmost secrecy three times a year and gives billions of dollars to right-wing evangelical organizations. The CNP membership and donor lists are kept secret, and its events are closed to the public and the press. The CNP is known, however, to have given an award to the billionaire Koch brothers, who are heavily involved in Canadian tar sands development and other fossil fuel interests, and who have long been funding a large roster of U.S. and Canadian right-wing think tanks, lobby groups and evangelical organizations collectively known as “the Kochtopus.”
On January 14, a new international coalition called the Global Catholic Climate Movement was launched, bringing together primarily Catholic lay organizations around the world to take action on climate change in tandem with Pope Francis’ Encyclical. Other large religious coalitions, including the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate and the Evangelical Environmental Network, are also organizing to address the issue in advance of the Paris 2015 conference.
The Cornwall Alliance’s E. Calvin Beisner continues to insist that Pope Francis is “badly misinformed” on climate science. On January 20, Beisner told The Heartlander (a publication from the climate-denying Heartland Institute) that Pope Francis and his advisors “need to learn the empirical evidence.” The author of the article, H. Sterling Burnett, is an advisor for the Energy, Natural Resources and Agricultural Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – brainchild of the Koch Brothers.
Pope Francis’ forthcoming Encyclical and his September visit to the U.S. both promise to be major events in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks in December. The elaborate Kochtopus spin machine, including its evangelical arms, will be working overtime in 2015.