For Evangelicals, Is Gulf Spill a Moral Issue?

How Should Faith Leaders Raise Environmental Questions?

He said that though nobody disagrees that humans should strive to be good stewards of the environment, "by delving into such secular matters, these asserted religious leaders are dividing, rather than uniting, believers. And this is wrong in my opinion," he said.

While it's appropriate for religious leaders to cite scripture to encourage people to be good stewards, he said, advancing a particular view of what that means can be counter-productive.

"The best way to produce energy or what particular type of technology enables us to be good stewards ... are issues that certainly may be of interest to Christians, but the answers are derived more from secular debates than from scriptural ones," he said. "[That] tends to take the focus off of what evangelicals should focus on."

Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, said a fundamental Christian commitment is to "tend the garden," but "there's definitely some tension, especially when you get into the specificity of policy."

National Day of Prayer to Be July 18

"I think we've had an ecological conscience," he said. But "there's been some disagreement in our community over how that should be lived out."

Carey, who was in the Gulf area last week, said that when he spoke with people affected by the spill, the most often repeated request was for prayer.

"They ask for our prayers because they believe that divine intervention really is needed to bring the oil spill to a stop and restore all that's been damaged," he said.

In response, he said, the NAE has called for a National Day of Prayer on July 18 and is encouraging churches across the country to take some time during their services to remember the people in the Gulf region, as well as the natural environment.

"The Church believes that Jesus is lord of all, and that's a key belief, especially for evangelical Christians," he said. "That includes politics, science, the environment -- everything comes under the lordship of Christ."

The oil spill, he said, could be "a call for us to renew attention to the issue so we can understand better and come to greater clarity in how our people can be involved."

Could Gulf Spill Be an 'Epiphany' for Faith Communities?

While the impact of the spill on the people of the Gulf is the most immediate concern, he said, the ongoing leak heightens awareness about our dependency on a limited resource that not only jeopardizes the environment but national security.

And though debates over the environment and energy have traditionally divided the faithful -- and not-so-faithful -- along partisan lines, some religious leaders believe the massive environmental disaster in the Gulf could potentially lead to a massive shift in thinking within faith communities and perhaps beyond it.

"Epiphany is what comes to mind for me," said Jim Wallis, president of the progressive social justice group Sojourners and author of "Great Awakenings." "I think this has the potential to be, some might call it, a wake-up call for the faith community. I think it's deeper -- an epiphany -- a recognition that your faith is at stake in something."

He said that over the past decade, he's observed that, led by young evangelicals, more people in religious communities have rallied around environmental issues.

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