The New York Times has a new articled titled “Religious Conservatives Embrace Proposed E.P.A. Rules” that raises the question: are the Times’ editors irredeemably biased or are they just not all that bright?
Presumably, you have to be smart to work for the Times, right? So it must be another example of what my friend and former Get Religion boss Terry Mattingly calls “Kellerism.” Mattingly coined the term Kellerism in homage to former Times editor Bill Keller, who said that the basic rules of journalism no longer apply to coverage of religious, moral, and cultural issues.
Unabashed Kellerism can be the only explanation for using a headline about religious conservatives embracing EPA rules on a story in which not a single religious conservative is quoted as supporting the proposed new EPA rules.
Let’s look at who they try to pass off as “religious conservatives”:
Rev. Lennox Yearwood — Yearwood is the co-creator of the 2004 campaign “Vote or Die” with Sean Combs. He was the Political and Grassroots Director for Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit in 2003 and 2004, and functioned as Senior Consultant to Jay Z’s “Voice Your Choice” campaign. He has also been arrested several times at liberal political protests.
Lisa Sharon Harper — Harper is the senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners, one of the most liberal evangelical organizations in America.
Rev. Richard Cizik — Cizik is the former Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). He was forced to resign because his position on several issues was considered too liberal for the NAE’s core constituency. After leaving the NAE he co-founded the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good together with progressive evangelical ethicist David P. Gushee.
Katharine Hayhoe – The Times mentions Hayhoe is an “evangelical Christian who is a climate scientist.” Her political leanings are not stated, but the quote in the article gives you some idea: “Rather than letting our faith dictate our politics, we’ve gotten to the point for many of us where we’re letting our politics — typically what the Republican Party says — dictate our faith.”
The only actual religious conservative quoted in the article is E. Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. Because of the context, some readers may think that Beisner supports the EPA proposal. But Beisner and his group have been some of the leading opponents of the proposal.
The disagreement is not merely semantic (though I suspect most of the folks mentioned would not like to be called “conservatives.”). The reason religious conservatives like me don’t want to be lumped in with these individuals and groups is the same reason many religious liberals avoid associations with the “religious right”: the issue has nothing to do with religious belief and is solely about partisan identity politics.
While there may be some religious liberals who have been duped into thinking the new proposals will actually affect climate change, most are just signaling their allegiance to the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.
As I wrote in June, the proposed EPA change is equivalent to a roughly 6 percent cut in overall US emissions, a 1 percent cut in total global emissions. No serious climate scientist believes that will have any affect on climate change. What is will do, however, is hurt the poor and middle class in America. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report predicting that the new rules could cost the economy $1 billion a year in lost jobs and economic activity. The EPA itself estimates the total compliance costs of this proposal to be approximately $5.5 billion by 2020 and $8.8 billion by 2030. And even the supporters of the proposal admit the average monthly electricity bills are anticipated, according to the EPA document, to increase by roughly 3 percent in 2020.
We shouldn’t support policies that hurt the poor merely so liberal Christians can signal they are on the right side of the progressive agenda. Similarly, we shouldn’t tolerate propagandistic and dishonest tactics by the media, even if we no longer expect anything less than doctrinaire Kellerism from the Church of the New York Times.
A fair and honest debate about religious responses to environmental issues should always distinguish theological principles from prudential judgments.nt.