(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Washington D.C. — Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, has called for people of faith to search their scriptures and find out what God wants for the planet and for the people on it rather than follow what the Republican or Democratic Party have to offer.
“We don’t submit our faith to a political ideology, a Republican ideology. We won’t do that because it’s heresy to do it. It’s a denial of all that faith is to submit it to a political ideology,” says Cizik. “You need to follow the scriptures, follow God’s lead, and He will reveal it to you.”
Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance
The New Evangelicals aren’t the only group calling for traditionally religious political conservatives to open their eyes to the Gospel and its message. The Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance (MESA) is calling on Mormons to be aware of their impact on the environment and to do something about the damage being caused by people.
MESA Co-Chair Ty Markham says that originally, the Mormon faith was “on the cutting edge of social structures” and not well accepted in mainstream America. The LDS religion took on more mainstream religious values after World War II to gain wider acceptance.
“In America, it looks pretty conservative,” says Markham. “There are a lot of LDS people who see through that artifact of our time.”
According to Markham, Utah Mormons provide a different picture than Mormons elsewhere in the world, and part of that picture is the affluence that has infested the Mormon culture as members of the church chase the trappings of American culture.
“If you go into the bigger cities, you’re going to find a lot of more progressive thought,” says Markham. “Mormonism needs to get back to its roots and look at its radical values.”
Taking care of the poor, the widows, the downtrodden and the oppressed are central to the LDS religion. Every person is a part of the brother and sisterhood of the LDS church, even if they are not yet a member of the church.
“You’re going to hear it over and over. We need to take care of each other,” says Markham. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine. We must live as one people.”
What MESA’s co-leader characterizes as super-capitalism and greed is in direct contrast to the Celestial Law of Consecration, also called the United Order. This highest law, required of those that would live in the Celestial Kingdom of God, says that the individual must consecrate everything to the church and must hand it over voluntarily when asked to do so. Societies in Mormon lore have been able to practice the United Order way of life.
“They lived it, and they were happy and prosperous,” says MESA’s Co-Chair. When greed reared its head, however and the people stopped living the Law of Consecration, the society decayed. “We see that same pattern throughout history.”
MESA is looking to get people to move to a no-growth model when it comes to society and getting people to commit to living more simply.
“MESA recognizes the urgency not only for the planet but also for the survival of all the human beings on the planet,” says Markham.
Founded in February 2013, MESA was pleasantly surprised when the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints approved of a talk given by General Authority Marcus B. Nash on April 12, 2013. Nash’s talk, given at the 18th Annual Stegner Center Symposium, focused on the meaning of “righteous dominion” and how members of the church should engage in caring for the planet.
“We are called to be stewards of it [the Earth],” says Markham. “We are called to replenish the Earth.”
For MESA, replenishing means to fill the Earth again not strip it of everything. The group cites the words of Brigham Young and LDS Scholar Hugh Nibley to back its claim.
“Not only are we jeopardizing our afterlife by being selfish consumers, but we are also dooming our children and grandchildren,” says Markham while explaining that a planet and lifestyle that is hand to mouth and will not foster their growth.
Markham feels that the church is doing the best that it can to reinforce positive behaviors like being kind, getting people to try not to judge and having reverence for life. “Basically, they’re teaching peace,” she says.
The challenge comes from the fear propaganda of the media that includes an emphasis on terrorism and divisive reporting that pits neighbor against neighbor. Markham says that Fox News promotes those fear campaigns and that the other side is doing the same.
The LDS church respects science, and many feel that the six days of creation may be a metaphor with actual creation taking six billion years; it isn’t the time span that is important in the text according to MESAs co-leader.
“We respect the truth that is brought to us in the realm of scientific inquiry,” says Markham. “We don’t have the luxury of time to stay asleep in our halcyon state of bliss.”
MESA is trying to help people live more with less. Technology isn’t going to solve the problems of overconsumption and the rising levels of methane and carbon dioxide. Things need to change on the demand side of the equation starting with the demand for fossil fuels.
“We’ve done our part to multiply,” says Markham. “Maybe it’s time to focus on replenishing the Earth.”
MESA encourages people to slow down — get closer to family members, repurpose what they own, and maybe grow some of their own food if possible. Many are doing this already, and these are all things that the Apostles and Prophets of the church have already been telling members from the pulpit.
“We can have happier lives if we do so,” says Markham. “This is an opportunity for growth.”
In the LDS faith, the Earth is not just a planet, it is a being with a soul that has its own plan for salvation. The flood at the time of Noah has been compared to the Earth’s baptism, and now the planet is said to be awaiting the conferring of the fire of the Holy Ghost.
However, there is no reason that people should try to manipulate God’s plan and speed up the process. For Mormons, there is more work than can be done before the Resurrection, and protecting the Earth from global warming will help lengthen the amount of time available to do that work.
Even if the efforts to mitigate the coming cataclysm fail, Markham believes that the Mormon people are charged with doing what they can to help their fellow human beings and to stop the destruction of the Earth.
“We have been challenged to save the one,” Markham referred to the Biblical story of the shepherd who left his flock of 99 to save the one. “If we don’t try, we are individually and spiritually accountable.”
In a religion that values personal choices and freedom, MESA is sounding the call to repentance when it comes to the care of the planet and the sharing of resources with less fortunate “brothers and sisters” of the Earth.
“This is a moral choice. It’s a moral choice to stand up and say, ‘I will do what I can in my lifetime to make the world a better place for everyone,’” says Markham.
Utah Interfaith Power and Light
Susan Soleil, executive director of Utah Interfaith Power and Light, an organization creating a religious response to climate change, believes that not caring for the Earth harms brothers and sisters.
“Caring for the downtrodden is in every faith. When people are engaged in that work their values are aligned with their faith,” says Soleil.
The idea that the religious are also politically aligned right glosses over what different religions have been doing. Soleil cites that the pope has been outspoken about the carbon footprint of the Catholic Church, and that there is an LDS meeting house in Farmington that has installed 150 solar panels.
“Not all Christians are skeptical of climate scientists,” says Soleil. “[Climate denial] is more based on political party than faith.”
The Republican Party and Christian Beliefs
For some, it is hard to fathom why Christians would flock to a party that exhorts a Darwinist economic system, a system that encourages selfishness and greed and that many Republicans deny exists in its original sphere of science. For others, it is the Republican party’s health care policy and stance on helping the poor by removing government assistance that call into question the party’s real family values.
While the Republican Party continues to deny fellow human beings the very things that Christ said all people should have, it is also “the largest impediment to action on climate change” according to Cizik. The sentiments of the New Evangelicals, MESA and Utah Interfaith and Light seem to be that those who want to fulfill their obligation to love their neighbors as Christ loves them would do well to search the Scriptures and their hearts. Perhaps then, they will find that many Republican values align poorly with the values of Christ-centered faiths.