Scientists and evangelicals slept side by side last summer on the floor of a preschool in the Alaskan village of Shishmaref. We were there to see for ourselves the devastation of climate change on the Inupiaq Eskimos, whose island is eroding into the Chukchi Sea.
The leaders of our small band were the unlikely pair of Eric Chivian, 65 (left, in picture), and Richard Cizik, 56. Chivian shared the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1985 for his efforts to stop nuclear war, and is now a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of its Center for Health and the Global Environment. Cizik, an ordained Evangelical Presbyterian minister and head of the Office of Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), came to prominence 25 years ago when he drafted a letter to President Ronald Reagan inviting him to talk to the NAE. That address became Reagan's "evil empire" speech. The event helped give Evangelicals the political clout they still enjoy.
What brings Chivian and Cizik together is a shared passion for the environment, although they act on that passion in very different ways. Chivian is a highly trained scientist who tells stories like a teacher with the bedside manner of the general-practice physician he used to be. Cizik quotes the Bible, carefully referring to "creation care" rather than climate change or global warming, and advocates a brand of pro-life politics that extends well beyond human conception, up through the care of God's creation itself.
They both have their critics. Why would a scientist like Chivian collaborate with Evangelical Christians who talk about the authority of the Bible and their faith in Jesus Christ? Cizik's detractors say there are more important issues for Evangelicals to tackle, and there is no consensus within the community about global warming anyway.
Coming from different directions, the physician and the preacher combine their influence, persuading Americans to take better care of God's creation. And they practice what they preach: Chivian keeps his thermostat at 60°F (16°C) on cold New England nights, and Cizik drives to work in a Prius hybrid.
Anderson is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, based in Washington
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