Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a profile of Richard Cizik for Audubon magazine. He was, at the time, a prominent lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals and a member of good standing among social and political conservatives. But Cizik’s views on a number of hot-button issues were evolving. In 2008 he was forced to resign, or as he later put it, fired for remarks he made on NPR:
In a broad-ranging conversation about my work to educate my fellow evangelicals about the impacts of climate change, I told Terry Gross, the host of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” that I could support “civil unions” for gays and lesbians and that government funding of contraception was morally acceptable as a way to avoid abortion.
As I wrote in my Audubon piece, Cizik had come to view global warming as an urgent, moral issue. History would judge the evangelical community, he believed, just as it had on another defining issue:
“It was to our eternal . . . ” he says, struggling to find the right words, “it was to our discredit that evangelicals didn’t join [Dr. Martin Luther] King in the civil rights movement. It was forever a black mark on us that we weren’t part of that. And I dare say—I could be wrong, I’m not a prophet—in a few years people will say, ‘Were the evangelicals engaged in the environmental issue?’ And again, it will be to our discredit if we are not.”
I think it’s still too soon to say, even nine years after he told me this, if the conservative evangelical community has fully embraced climate change as a morally compelling issue. But that day appears to be coming.