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Cizik Speaks Out on "Creation Care"

Richard Cizik and Glenn Palmberg

CHICAGO, IL (April 10, 2008) – Today’s young people must become "the greenest generation" if the world is to stave off ecological disaster, students at North Park University were told Wednesday.

"My generation has, in effect, been the greediest generation, I'm sorry to say, and yours needs to become the greenest," said Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

Cizik spoke during a chapel service and later met with students for further discussion. The accompanying photo shows Cizik (right) with Evangelical Covenant Church President Glenn Palmberg.

He has been a leader in moving evangelicals to promote "creation care," a phrase he has popularized. The upcoming May issue of TIME Magazine names him as one of the 100 most influential people in America.

"The biggest challenge you will face is living out your lives in the 'Great Warming,'" he said.

He warned them that the threat is real, recalling his visit with other evangelicals and scientists to the Alaskan fishing village of Shishmaref, a small island located above the Arctic Circle. The village is gradually being swallowed by water levels that are rising due to global warming. On the last day of the trip, the group watched one house fall into the water.

Cizik says "creation care" connects Christians to the biblical mandate in Genesis 2:15: "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (TNIV) "We were given a mandate," he believes.

Despite that mandate, Cizik said, "We've acted like we can have dominion over (the earth) and can do anything we want with it."

Cizik told the students that when they get to heaven, God will not ask them what they believe about how the earth was created, but what did they did with it. If Christians do not work to save the environment, he added, "then we will experience God's judgment, I assure you."

Christians will need to live with a new perspective if they are to stop the destruction of the environment, declared Cizik. "The vision you have to have is stewardship."

Cizik, warned, however, that, "A vision without a strategy is a hallucination." That strategy also will require "a whole new way of thinking, a whole new way of living."

The paradigm shift would mean turning from a way of life he described as "take, make and waste" and turning to "borrow, use and return."

"We make things and then we wasted them," Cizik said. "We have to live by a different ethic."

Tactically, Cizik said, Christians must hold their political leaders accountable for change because there are too many powerful interests that will try to stop it. He likened the situation to the power-hungry Darius throwing Daniel into the lion's den for not honoring the king as god. "There are a lot of Dariuses in Washington trying to build empires," Cizik said.

Cizik is trying to bridge the worlds of scientists and evangelicals, who often have distrusted and even sneered at each other. A lot of progress has been made, he said.

Cizik told the students that James Gustave Speth, dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences at Yale, said scientists know they cannot change the hearts of people, but that Christians can. "At this time in history, the rest of the world is looking to ways faith can save us," Cizik added.

Not all evangelicals agree with him. Some such as James Dobson called on the NAE to fire him last year, saying Cizik was anti-capitalist, un-American, and leading evangelicals astray from being concerned about issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

"None of that is true," Cizik later told students, noting that he still holds his position and has received support from the board.

(SF)