As voters cast ballots in Oregon's First Congressional District it is particularly important for people of faith to weigh the issue of climate change.
Rob Cornilles, the GOP nominee, has declared that he is running for Congress and not "scientist" but that he believes that there is still serious scientific debate over the issue. There isn't. Climate change skeptics have become the moral equivalent of birthers, who despite all the evidence believe that President Obama was born on Mars, or wherever.
The National Council of Churches USA (mostly mainline and orthodox Christians), the National Association of Evangelicals (mostly conservative Christians) and the U.S. Conference of Bishops (Roman Catholic) have all issued statements in recent years supporting the science behind climate change and arguing from a Biblical perspective that we have an obligation to protect creation.
In 2005, more than 1,000 mainline Christian leaders from across the United States (including many from Oregon) issued a statement entitled God's Mandate: Care for Creation that read, in part:
To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly; it is sin. As voiced by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who has taken the lead among senior religious leaders in his concern for creation: "To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation ... for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands ... for humans to injure other humans with disease ... for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances ... these are sins." We have become un-Creators. Earth is in jeopardy at our hands.
For Christians and other people of faith, this is one of the most serious issues of our time. Sadly, when God presented humanity with dominion over the earth many believe we were given control over creation to do as we please -- for the benefit of humankind above all else. That's where you get the "drill-baby-drill" mentality. "We have interpreted the 'dominion' granted to humankind as giving us raw power to exploit and abuse the rest of creation, rather than as requiring mature responsibility of us to show respect and loving care for creation," writes The Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. in his book Whose Gospel? "Like rebellious adolescents, we have been inclined to see the gifts of God as ours to use as we choose."
Rob Cornilles might not be running for scientist but members of Congress are charged with passing laws that set environmental policy. It takes an informed and curious mind to deal with complex issues that have such important moral implications. Will we leave the world better for our children and generations to come or will greed - and yes, sin - allow us to continue on the current path of ecological destruction that is already having profound impacts across our globe and right here in Oregon?
I do not believe that God endorses candidates and not all Democrats get this answer right, but Susan Bonamici does. Voters should take that into account.
Disclaimer: As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I trust deeply in the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state and my endorsement is therefore a personal one and does not reflect on my denomination. But as a citizen I believe that all Americans must engage in the political process as individuals for democracy to thrive. So I choose to participate in the political process as an individual when appropriate. This is one of those times.