The Greening of American Faith and the Climate Change Bill

How religious environmentalism may influence the Senate push for a climate change bill

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

The greening of American religion is a very real phenomenon that stands to have a big influence in the coming Senate push for a climate bill, as I explain in my latest God & Country column for U.S. News Weekly. At a time when many senators are skittish about adopting the House climate bill's cap-and-trade provision because of fears it could further slow the economy, religious activists may prove crucial to building support, or at least dampening opposition, among important religious constituencies.

Here's the top: 

When Orthodox Jews met with top White House adviser David Axelrod and a handful of U.S. senators this month as part of an annual lobbying effort, they talked up climate change legislation as a way to improve security for the United States and Israel. "America's reliance on imported oil from the Arab Middle East has been a grave concern for a very long time," says Nathan Diament, public policy director for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. "The Jewish community is interested in energy independence."

But the Jewish delegation also based its case for a climate change bill, which cleared the House earlier this year, on another premise: the Bible. "We are getting ready to read Genesis and the creation story in our synagogues in a few weeks," Diament says. "Our responsibility to tend the garden is part of our understanding of the Torah and of our worship." Indeed, some Jews have begun referring to their green activism as "creation care," a term coined by environmentally inclined evangelical Christians.

As environmental interests begin pressing the Senate to pass major climate legislation before next year's midterm elections, groups and activists from across the spectrum of American religious traditions have emerged as an integral part of the effort. Some denominations and faith-based organizations are planning grass-roots campaigns around the bill for this fall. The White House's faith-based advisory council has convened a climate change task force. And Pope Benedict XVI's environmental proclamations, including writing recently that "the environment is God's gift to everyone," have earned him the nickname the "green pope."

Read the full piece here.

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