May 11, 2024 Editor

Re-issuing: How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God

by Brendan O’Connor

August 8, 2017

WN: I decided to republish this article of seven years ago.

The supreme haughty superiority of Christians who just know all the massive, irrefutable science about human-caused climate change — as the massive scientific support for the Darwinian theory of evolution — are all a big hoax, “because the Bible tells me so…”

An outstanding yet sobering article analyzing the move by white American Evangelicals (with lots of white Evangelical Canadians in their train!) may be found here: Comments On: Amazing Disgrace: How did Donald Trump—a thrice-married, biblically illiterate sexual predator—hijack the religious right?

One of the worst and most prolific of American Calvinist scholars is E.Calvin Beisner. Amongst his most outrageous statements highlighted in the article below is, while imputing God’s punishment on humanity for Roe v. Wade1:

One experimental way of trying to test that would be to end the abortions and see if the climate change ended.

Well, seven years on, long since abortion in the U.S. was ended by the Supreme Court. . . The previous article gives us the latest on the climate crisis: it has not ended!. . . Fully the contrary!

The prophet Hosea has words for Beisner and activist anti-anthropological climate disruption (ACD) deniers:

They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind. The stalks of grain wither and produce nothing to eat. And even if there is any grain, foreigners will eat it. (Hosea 8:7–NLT)

excerpts:

“Throughout the history of the church, people have always found ways to use God and scripture to justify empire, to justify oppression and exploitation,” Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, an organizer with a pro-environmental Christian group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), told me. “It’s a convenient theology to hold, especially when we are called to drastic, difficult action.”

Many of these soothsayers are gathered together in an organization called the Cornwall Alliance—formerly known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, the same group that mobilized against Cizik’s environmental proposal—a network with ties to politicians and secular think tanks across the conservative landscape. In 2013, Cornwall published an anti-environmentalist manifesto called Resisting the Green Dragon. “False prophets promise salvation if only we will destroy the means of maintaining our civilization. No more carbon, they say, or the world will end and blessings will cease,” it warns. “Pagans of all stripes now offer their rival views of salvation, all of which lead to death.” Members of the Cornwall Alliance and their ilk are not simply theoreticians but enforcers, stifling dissent in the wider American evangelical community, smothering environmentalist tendencies before they gain a following.

“There’s a wing of the evangelical church that’s historically distrustful of science and of modernity,” Meyaard-Schaap, the YECA organizer, told me, citing the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 and the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. “This was a faction of the church that had been here for a while, who had significant cultural power and saw that power diminishing,” he said. “In the face of what they saw as significant threats to their identity, that wing of the church decided that their best reaction was to retreat, to pull away from public life, to invest in their own institutions, to calcify this resistance to modernity and science.”

This retreat lasted until the Reagan administration. In 1984, right-wing Christian leaders and theologians formed a group dubbed the Coalition on Revival for the express purpose not only of re-politicizing evangelicals but of guiding them towards a particular fundamentalist worldview. In its own words, the Coalition’s aim was to “influence, penetrate, and permeate” every aspect of society and to “rebuild civilization on the principles of the Bible.” To accomplish this, members of the Coalition sought “to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

The most prominent climate hardliner in the U.S. Congress is Sen. Jim Inhofe. “Senator Inhofe will take an act of God to be changed,” Rev. Hescox said with a laugh when I asked whether the Oklahoma politician would ever see the light. “That one’s in God’s hands, not mine.” In 2012, while promoting his book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, Inhofe told a Christian radio program, “God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” In 2015, the Heartland Institute and the Heritage Foundation—two of the most influential and well-funded think tanks in the conservative political world—honored Inhofe with the Political Leadership on Climate Change Award. In his speech accepting the award, the then-chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee lauded the think tanks, telling their members that they “are on the right side of the Lord on all of these things,” and that God “will richly bless you for it.”

Morano dismissed these efforts. “Everything that needs to happen is happening. It’s going to happen naturally,” he said. “If you’re concerned about global warming, sit back and watch the innovation happen. It’s amazing.” He added: “We just have to have the courage to do nothing.”
“The greatest solution, if we did face a problem, which I don’t believe we do, is not central planning, is not putting U.N. bureaucrats in charge—it’s innovation and technology,” Marc Morano, a former speechwriter for Inhofe and prominent climate skeptic, told me. “If we really do face a crisis, the solutions will just happen naturally. You don’t need all this alarm. Whatever’s going to happen to address the problem, if there is a problem, is going to happen on its own.”

Over the course of the next two years, the Coalition—guided by Christian Reconstructionists like the influential R.J. Rushdoony, who believed that the United States should adopt Old Testament laws—staked out positions on the correct, Christian worldview on seventeen different spheres of human life, including government, law, the family, education, and science. A precocious young scholar named E. Calvin Beisner served as the group’s general secretary, helping to draft the “Manifesto for the Christian Church,” which was signed not only by religious groups like the Family Research Council and the Home School Legal Defense Association, but also by a Republican congressman, a representative from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and a White House liaison. Beisner also chaired the Economics Committee, which ultimately produced a twenty-one page document detailing Christian positions on economic issues. In an email, Beisner confirmed that he still endorses both documents.

“Prayer for a Free Market Economy and Energy Abundance,” Cornwall Alliance. Illustration by Jim Cooke; photo by Shutterstock

The only way to deliver humanity from poverty, then, is to reshape society according to Christian doctrine—which, as the Coalition interpreted it, looks an awful lot like free-market capitalism.

As luck would have it, the “Christian World View of Economics” is avowedly business-friendly, condemning any economic policy that would impede the enrichment of industrialists and financiers. “The root cause of all poverty—spiritual and material—is the Fall of man,” the paper proclaims. “The Bible and observation confirm that most poverty is due to disobedience to God’s laws by individuals and their societies.” The only way to deliver humanity from poverty, then, is to reshape society according to Christian doctrine—which, as the Coalition interpreted it, looks an awful lot like free-market capitalism.

Rather than seeking to save the planet on terms dictated by the Green Dragon, Christians ought to be preaching the only message that can save the planet—the gospel of liberty in Jesus Christ.”
In the decades since its publication, the coalition’s members have risen, fallen, and risen again in American politics. Beisner went on to found the Cornwall Alliance; one of the first Cornwall Declaration’s signers was Bill Bright—who was a mentor to the Trump Administration’s unofficial preacher Ralph Drollinger. “Cornwall doesn’t matter to your average politician, but it plays a very important role in buttressing evangelical resistance to climate action, or even acknowledging that climate change exists,” Bruce Wilson, researcher and co-founder of Talk to Action, told me in an email. “Evangelicals can point to the Cornwall Alliance as apparent evidence that there’s a broad coalition of conservative evangelical and fundamentalist academics and theologians who reject climate change science.” The group’s board of advisors has included a number of other Coalition on Revival alumni, including founder and director Jay Grimstead.

Chart by Jim Cooke

The Heritage Foundation hosted the 2015 premier of Where the Grass is Greener, a documentary produced by the Cornwall Alliance. In May, Beisner and senior executives from Heartland, Heritage, and a slew of other billionaire-funded political entities like Americans for Prosperity and the Competitive Enterprise Institute sent a letter to Donald Trump urging him to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and asking him to stop funding United Nations global warming programs.

Together, Cornwall, Heartland, and Heritage have been able to set the terms of the conservative conversation—evangelical or otherwise—about the climate. They determine what science is acceptable, which proposed solutions can be considered, and what the consequences of inaction might look like. “There’s a very strong connection between those institutions and the evangelical Right,” Rev. Hescox told me. “Their denial of the science—and really portraying this as a big government issue—is why there was so much pushback among evangelicals.”

The Cornwall Alliance, joined by scientists associated with organizations partly funded by ExxonMobil, continued hammering away at Christian groups that supported action on climate change. In 2008, it launched the bizarrely named “We Get It!” campaign, which targeted the Evangelical Climate Initiative and was endorsed by a slew of conservative organizations, including the Family Research Council and David Barton’s WallBuilders.

“The ‘We Get It!’ declaration speaks for me, and I believe it speaks for the vast majority of evangelicals, who are as tired as I am of being misrepresented by people who don’t bother to get their theology, their science, or their economics right,” Inhofe said in a statement. “Consequently, they put millions of the world’s poor at risk by promoting policies to fight the alleged problem of global warming that will slow economic development, and condemn the poor to more generations of grinding poverty and high rates of disease and early death.” According to journalist and historian Frances FitzGerald’s new book, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, the campaign was funded in part by Koch Industries.

In 2013, Cornwall (with assistance from the Heritage Foundation) launched the Resisting the Green Dragon campaign, which the sociologist Antony Alumkal calls “a case study in the paranoid style, using rhetoric that is extreme even by Christian Right standards in order to scare laypeople away from [environmentalism].” The campaign included both a book, written by physicist and “lay theologian” James Wanliss,” and a 12-part DVD series starring luminaries of the evangelical right, all laying out the case that green Christian movements are born of a “spiritual deception” that puts the needs of nature before people—a demonic worldview that requires an explicitly Christian response.

“History is…not a matter of fate, conservation, or man’s abilities, but of the decree of God,” Wanliss writes. “At the same time, God commands men to take dominion in the name of Christ, to fill the earth and multiply. This is not possible without a wholehearted embrace of Jesus Christ, on a global scale… Rather than seeking to save the planet on terms dictated by the Green Dragon, Christians ought to be preaching the only message that can save the planet—the gospel of liberty in Jesus Christ.”

Recently, Beisner, a prolific writer equally comfortable deploying poststructural literary theory or Calvinist theology, has infused his rhetoric with even more fire and brimstone. “We are made in the image of the Creator. So we don’t have to leave nature as we found it,” he argued recently. “We can steward the earth to enhance its fruitfulness, beauty, and safety. And we can do it to glorify God and serve our neighbors.” In May, he described the climate marches as “thuggery—typical of communist movements from the French Revolution through the socialist revolutions of the 1840s and the Russian and Chinese revolutions.” A prayer for the free market economy published on the Cornwall website reads:

Dear Father in Heaven,

We pray that trade and business across the globe would flourish. We pray for the leaders of the countries and various international institutions who decide economic policy. Please give them wisdom and let them uphold an economic system that is not restrictive.

We also pray for an abundance of energy that will support the growing economies of the world.

We ask You to help people understand the importance of conventional and clean energy sources like coal and nuclear to the developing nations of the world. Lord, let Your wisdom guide the decision makers in academia and governmental institutions.

We pray this in Jesus name,

Amen

Beisner sent fundraising emails before and after the Trump administration’s announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, asking supporters to donate money to the Cornwall Alliance and to implore the administration to pull out of the agreement. Beisner says that the group doesn’t take corporate money and that most contributions come from small donors. But the Cornwall Alliance is in fact a project of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the James Partnership, run by Chris Rogers, of CDR Communications, a Virginia-based consulting firm. The James Partnership, financial records show, is embedded in the very same world of shadowy corporate political spending as Heritage and Heartland.

So concludes nearly four centuries of Calvinist thought, decades of fundamentalist resentment, and several billion dollars in political spending.

Given that it is a relatively small operation with relatively low overhead, the money that the Cornwall Alliance receives is a vanishingly small fraction of the hundreds of millions spent by the Koch, the Mercer, or the DeVos families. (The Kochs are oil, coal, and gas scions; Robert Mercer is a hedge fund manager who, with his daughter Rebekah, fueled Trump’s rise; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick are long-time Republican donors).

Their money flows through a multitude of nonprofits, front groups, and donor-advised funds. (A donor-advised fund is a kind of money-laundering service for philanthropists who don’t want anyone to know where their money is going: They make a contribution to the fund, and then tell the fund where to send the money; as a nonprofit, the fund has to disclose all of the grants that it makes, but it does not need to disclose its own donors, nor what direction those donors attached to their money.) Donors Trust, the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement, contributed $1,001,500 to the James Partnership between 2009 and 2015; in most years, this constituted around half of the Partnership’s total revenue.

In 2013, Donors Trust gave only $35,000, but another nonprofit, the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics swooped in with a $100,000 grant; together these accounted for 46.3 percent of the Partnership’s revenue. (Beisner wrote a chapter on why capitalism is less harmful to the environment than socialism in a forthcoming book to be published by the Institute.) The Institute is controlled by EvangChr4 Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to convincing lawmakers and academics of the Biblical foundations of free-market capitalism; both are run by Paul Brooks, a retired Koch Industries executive. Channelling millions of dollars from the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners nonprofit, EvangChr4 Trust has also made significant donations to the virulently homophobic and anti-choice Family Research Council—a Coalition on Revival signatory—and CitizenLink (a.k.a. the Family Policy Alliance), the political action arm of Focus on the Family. Both EvangChr4 and the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics were listed in tax documents as “related organizations” of the Koch brothers’ now-defunct voter database project, Themis Trust; Brooks was also a trustee of Themis. He did not return multiple requests for comment; nor did the Institute.

Donors Trust refers clients to Donors Capital if they are planning to contribute more than one million dollars; the executive director and co-founder of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, where Beisner is an adjunct fellow, sits on Donors Capital’s board of directors. Acton’s other co-founder, a Catholic priest, is also part of the Cornwall Alliance. Both Heritage and Acton have received millions of dollars in funding from donor-advised funds administered by the National Christian Foundation, and, as with contributions that come from Donors Trust and Donors Capital, it’s difficult to know whose money is going where when it passes through NCF. As it turns out, the organization that would eventually become the Cornwall Alliance began in 1999, as a project of the Acton Institute, which has received millions from Donors Capital, Donors Trust, NCF, and private foundations controlled by the Koch, DeVos, and Bradley families.

Beisner declined to identify Cornwall or the James Partnership’s more significant donors. When I asked about the contributions from Donors Trust, he said, “You need to deal with the actual evidence rather than just writing it off as bought and paid for by somebody.” Rogers declined to comment.

“A free market economy is the closest approximation in this fallen world to the system of economy revealed in the Bible.”

The “evidence” against climate change, as Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance’s network of scholars interpret it, indicates that whatever fluctuations are happening in the global climate are insignificant—that to whatever extent the climate is changing, the consequences of those changes are not catastrophic. “We think that an infinitely wise God designed, and an infinitely powerful God created, and an infinitely faithful God sustained the Earth and its various subsystems for the benefit of all the living creatures in the Earth,” Beisner told me.

“A lot of people tend to go where they find theology that matches their own opinions,” Reverend Hescox told me. “It’s much easier for people, rather than being challenged by the Bible, to find some version of the faith that matches what their pre-existing belief structure is.”
“It could of course always be the case that the all-wise, all-powerful, all-faithful God has so designed the system as to react to abusive action in a manner that expresses God’s judgement on that abuse,” he said. “We abort millions of babies every year. Maybe God will express his judgement of that through the climate system. We have millions of people killed in unjustified wars. Maybe God expresses his judgement of that through the climate system. Or God doesn’t like our pulling coal and oil and natural gas out of the Earth, so he’s going to make the climate system react in a way that would not seem likely on our prior thinking basis.” [E. Calvin Beisner] added later: “One experimental way of trying to test that would be to end the abortions and see if the climate change ended.”

In 2015, Beisner wrote a position paper on economics and the environment for Acton with Michael Cromartie, a Cornwall advisor and longtime courtier of the secular media. Free markets encourage both competition and stewardship, they argued paradoxically, and are “essential to human welfare.” Therefore, capitalism must have “a moral priority on our thinking about how society ought to be ordered.” The influence of the Coalition on Revival’s Economics “World View” from nearly two decades earlier is clear: “A free market economy is the closest approximation in this fallen world to the system of economy revealed in the Bible.” So concludes nearly four centuries of Calvinist thought, decades of fundamentalist resentment, and several billion dollars in political spending.

“I think in the next five or ten years, as more and more young evangelicals get plugged into the political process, that grassroots movement is going to grow to the point where politicians who might be getting money from the fossil fuel industry will say, ‘Look, this isn’t gonna cut it. I can’t protect my seat anymore and I have to change tack.’”

Those billions are paying off. Not only have the people who funded Cornwall successfully stopped the government from pursuing policies that might make the lives of people who are living with the consequences of climate change a little bit better, but under the Trump administration their lackeys are actively working to dismantle what little progress has been made. When Drollinger teaches that God’s covenant with Noah means that the consequences of climate change not only will not but in fact cannot be as devastating as scientists believe, he echoes a lengthy essay published by the Cornwall Alliance in 2009 that lays out the same argument. Typical of the organization’s style, it appears to the casual observer like any policy paper drawn up at one of D.C.’s many think tanks and nonprofits; in reality, the document blends quotations from scripture with pseudo-scientific data—citing, for example, the Mercer-funded Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, Republican Sen. John Barrasso favorably cited Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance’s support for the Oklahoma attorney general.

“A lot of people tend to go where they find theology that matches their own opinions,” Reverend Hescox told me. “It’s much easier for people, rather than being challenged by the Bible, to find some version of the faith that matches what their pre-existing belief structure is.”

Meyaard-Schaap believes that the green evangelical movement already has sufficient support in Congress for climate action; the issue now is getting the electorate to communicate to their representatives that this is, in fact, what they want. “I continue to believe wholeheartedly that grassroots power is more powerful than small, monied interests. If politicians recognize that there is a bona fide grassroots movement around this issue, and that their seat—regardless of how much money they might be getting from the other side—is in danger, that’s when you get their attention,” he told me. “I think in the next five or ten years, as more and more young evangelicals get plugged into the political process, that grassroots movement is going to grow to the point where politicians who might be getting money from the fossil fuel industry will say, ‘Look, this isn’t gonna cut it. I can’t protect my seat anymore and I have to change tack.’”

Morano dismissed these efforts. “Everything that needs to happen is happening. It’s going to happen naturally,” he said. “If you’re concerned about global warming, sit back and watch the innovation happen. It’s amazing.”

He added: “We just have to have the courage to do nothing.”

Please click on: Christian Climate Change Deniers Exposé

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Footnotes:
  1. “It could of course always be the case that the all-wise, all-powerful, all-faithful God has so designed the system as to react to abusive action in a manner that expresses God’s judgement on that abuse,” he said. “We abort millions of babies every year. Maybe God will express his judgement of that through the climate system. . . . Or God doesn’t like our pulling coal and oil and natural gas out of the Earth, so he’s going to make the climate system react in a way that would not seem likely on our prior thinking basis.” WN: Or maybe God agonizes over humanity’s sin against Creation, yet cries out also with Hosea:

    Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.–(Hosea 11:8–NLT) []

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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.