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Remaking Evangelicals In Ted Turner's Image? By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 14, 2009

Long-time National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) lobbyist Richard Cizik, now working for Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation, is comparing his global warming alarmism to the Civil Rights movement. And he says skeptics of the climate apocalypse are akin to the naysayers who ignored ascendant Nazism in the 1930’s.

"If the `civil rights' campaigns of the late 20th century were aimed at restoring the voting rights of African-Americans, a new kind of `civil rights' campaign is needed to protect the lives of a billion of our fellow human beings,” Cizik pronounced in a recent interview with Religion News Service (RNS). The RNS report paraphrased Cizik as saying that humanity’s “mistreatment of the planet will be questioned as much as silence about the rise of Nazism and toleration of slavery.” Apparently Cizik cited a British relief group’s warning that global warming ultimately could victimize one billion people.

With such purported high stakes for all of humanity, it's no wonder Cizik has virtually immolated his former career as a mainstream evangelical advocate in favor of what he considers the premier moral issue of our time.

Burning with such zeal, Cizik helped transform the 60-year-old previously conservative coalition into a pawn of the rising new Evangelical Left. Once strongly concerned about sanctity of life, protection of marriage, and international religious liberty, NAE now pushes for open borders immigration and environmental activism, while denouncing U.S. “torture” policies.  

But Cizik’s announced support on National Public Radio last year for same-sex unions was too much even for NAE, and Cizik was ousted. From there, Cizik moved right along to the United Nations Foundation, which is engorged with Ted Turner’s largesse, where Cizik has attempted to recruit young evangelicals into various Malthusian scare scenarios. Turner created the group, headed by former Colorado Democratic Senator Tim Wirth, in 1998 with an ultimately $1 billion endowment, much of it devoted to pushing for greater U.S. support of the UN.  

Cizik -- whose turn to the political Left in recent years was hailed by the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time, and other prestige media as evidence of the evangelical world’s supposed maturation -- plans to remain in the spotlight. On Earth Day last month, Cizik joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic committee chairmen Henry Waxman, and Congressman Charlie Rangel for a Capitol press conference touting the Obama administration's environmental legislation.

"I have more [speaking engagements] now than I had before, maybe in part due to some of the controversy associated with my name," Cizik told RNS. "It's also true that some people have told me `You're too controversial and we'll invite you next year."' The former lobbyist can no longer claim to speak officially for millions of evangelicals, most of whom never knew that Cizik was their Washington representative, anyway. But Cizik has not lacked media opportunities to portray himself as a martyred evangelical official who has been liberated for even more expansive truth telling, thanks to Ted Turner's bucks. 

The RNS coverage of Cizik cited a recent poll showing Protestant clergy are evenly divided on whether global warming is man-made. Unmentioned in this RNS report was that only 32 percent of clergy in evangelical churches, Cizik’s supposed constituency, believe man plays a role in global warming, compared to 75 percent of clergy from liberal-dominated mainline Protestant churches.

"It just reveals that there's a lot of work yet to be done to...convince the unpersuaded," Cizik patiently told RNS about the poll. "Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.”  He emphasized “new evangelicals” like himself will have to “partner” with other faiths in order to “save the planet,” presumably from the majority of evangelicals not interested in currying favor with liberal opinion. Cizik recently explained to The Washington Post that he is mobilizing these “new evangelicals” to champion the Evangelical Left message. "What I'm in essence doing is creating the future,” Cizik told the Post rather immodestly.

Speaking last month at a “Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth”  jamboree sponsored by the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and held at a liberal United Methodist congregation, Cizik fervently beat the drums for global warming alarmism. “The tinder is dry. The condition is right, and all it takes is a heart here and a match there and the interfaith religious community is going to wake up,” he declared, to an audience filled with generically left-leaning Unitarians, Episcopalians, and the like.

These religious progressives are perhaps Cizik’s model for “new evangelical” political activism. But believing Cizik is “creating the future” of American evangelicalism by remaking it in the image of Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation strains credulity.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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