I've always like Richard Cizik, until yesterday the top lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals. But I have also always suspected that he was going to get in trouble for his aggressive, not entirely orthodox position on global warming and "creation care" in general. (Take this interview, for instance.) As the WaPo notes, it was just last year that Cizik received a snippy letter from a dozen prominent religious leaders, including Focus on the Family's increasingly self-important James C. Dobson, urging him to either drop his "relentless campaign" on global warming or resign. Cizik, quite rightly, refused.
Knowing that many of his fellow conservatives were gunning for him, one might have expected Cizik to watch his step. Instead, last week the man trudged smack dab into the ultimate evangelical mine field, telling NPR's Terry Gross in a December 2 interview that he is "shifting" on the question of gay marriage, now believes in gay civil unions, and thinks that religious conservatives "have become so absorbed in the question of gay rights and the rest that we fail to understand the challenges and threats to marriage itself--heterosexual marriage. Maybe we need to reevaluate this and look at it a little differently."
The fallout was pretty much what you'd expect. For his honesty, Cizik was rewarded with such a shit storm of outrage that he wound up stepping down as VP of the NAE yesterday. As the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land (who I also enjoy talking with, despite almost never agreeing with) basically put it to the WaPo (I'm paraphrasing here): Rich's tree hugging was annoying, but his not toeing the line on this "mega-issue" was more than the movement's big wigs could swallow.
And, really, who can blame Dobson, Land, et al? Cizik gave voice to a fundamental truth. I mean, if religious conservatives paused in their ongoing campaign to impose their religious views on the entire populace long enough to consider the possibility that gay marriage is not, in fact, the biggest, baddest threat to Traditional Marriage, they might have to ponder what the real threats actually are. And where would that leave them?--particularly since most churches long ago stoped giving people a hard time about the sin of divorce. No, much better to keep shrieking about gays and hope for the best.
As for Cizik, I'm betting he lands somewhere that gives him a nice platform to keep spreading the good word on "creation care." (A column somewhere? A semi-regular gig on CNN?) Dobson and his ilk may find Cizik's "relentless campaign" a distraction from the "great moral issues" (i.e., abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity) that dominate the movement's political agenda, but there are plenty of Christians out there who occasionally like to talk about something other than sex.