Sunday Special: On Earth, Religion, and Politics

This is not quite the topic, but it gets us there: a Discovery News article details the League of Conservation Voters rubric rating the 2008 presidential candidates on environmental policies. The LCV is an independent group with stated policy opinions, and rates the candidates as to how they stack up against an “ideal” (ie, do you support this percent change in this by this year?). Even if you don’t agree with LCV goals, the rubric illuminates stark divides between the candidates and parties. Prepare for a slightly annoying interface, but do go ahead and “Chart the Candidates” at their site– you can also see more nuanced stands by individual candidates, with excerpts from speeches, responses to a questionnaire the LCV gave them all (not for the Republicans, though- McCain is the only one who filled it out and returned it on their side), and an analysis of voting records.

Discovery ends the article with a note that while McCain scored highest on the Republican sides for various data collection reasons, Huckabee comes in second, given the way he addresses conservation issues (which appears to substitute for terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in Republican-speak). Huckabee comes in second because he talks about God.

Ah, now we come to the point. Huckabee, as you might have heard in any of several billion campaign reports, is a pastor. He has lead large Baptist congregations, and speaks of the environment in terms of man’s responsibility to protect God’s creation- stewardship. This religious man, and representative of his faith, would have us care for the world because God wishes it. He is less clear on how he, as President, would enact God’s will in environmental legislation, but he’s pro-emission caps.

The Pope has increasingly made stewardship on the environment a part of his message to his flock. I mentioned it earlier, but the Vatican has solar panels (with more on the way!) and carbon credits now. In his Christmas address a couple weeks ago, Benedict XVI reminded his faithful explicitly of their duty to Creation.

He cited St. Anselm of Canterbury, who in the Middle Ages “in an almost prophetic way, once described a vision of what we witness today in a polluted world whose future is at risk: ‘Everything was as if dead, and had lost its dignity.'” Likewise, he said, Gregory of Nyssa, a theologian of the fourth century, saw the place of Christ’s birth, a rundown stable, as the symbol of an “ill-treated world.” “What would he say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation?” the pope said. Christ “came to restore beauty and dignity to creation, to the universe,” he said, and in this sense “Christmas is a feast of restored creation.”

The head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, also included a message on God’s plan for sustainability in his end of the year address, which is, of course, available on YouTube.

“Despite constant talk about recycling and thinking ‘green’, we’re still a society that produces fantastic quantities of waste,” he says. “Look at the number of plastic bags flapping around by the roadside, in town and country alike and you see what I mean”…In the message, filmed partly in Canterbury Cathedral and at a local recycling centre, Williams says God is involved in building to last. “He doesn’t give up on the material of human lives. He doesn’t throw it all away and start again. And he asks us to approach one another and our physical world with the same commitment,” he says. “God doesn’t do waste.”…

I’m not Catholic or Anglican, but I do believe in god, and The Pope and the Archbishop are an excellent reminder for me that that sustainability and living wisely with nature begin personally and internally, and must be tied to all those other things that guide our moral values if they’re going to be expressed in our actions. Good on them, and their efforts to reconnect people with the meaning behind their actions, and to realign the green bandwagon.

The way Huckabee politicizes his faith gives this another twist. The Pope and Archbishop are rarely directly political (especially since they’ve stopped crowning Europe’s kings)- and these messages on the environment and sustainability are non-political. They do intend that their followers internalize and act on these messages, though- including while voting, and running for office, and any other political what-have-you. Huckabee is just bringing his faith straight into office, and using his word of God as justification for his positions, or non-positions. Even without commentary on the separation of church and state that’s eroding so quickly in our country, it bothers (scares, annoys) me that this man is a contender, and finds no contradiction in his wish to guide us politically and spiritually. I want policies from politicians, without religious overtones, and I want the religious leaders to stick to moral guidance.

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