Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Behold the 'Green Dragon'

Posted By on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 at 11:28 AM

lilgreendragon.jpg

It’s been more than a decade since various Christian factions began adopting a mantra called “creation care,” an idyllic and self-referential view that interprets biblical doctrine to call on Christians as protectors of the natural world from the ills and harms of mankind. The movement has picked up pace in recent years, especially among evangelical Christians; last summer, leaders staged a national day of prayer for creation care and marched on Washington, D.C.

In Tennessee, more than 2,000 Christian churches carry and promote materials from LEAF, the Lundquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship, a Knoxville-based creation care group whose bill to curb mountaintop removal in the state has died on the vine the last two years. And Nashville’s Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ school, has undertaken a progressive new calling to promote sustainability.

Needless to say, the real estate on which old-school evangelical crusaders used to mount their stands against federal regulation of greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and destructive coal mining practices has largely been foreclosed on.

But a group announced in June 2010 and bearing the catatonic name “Resisting the Green Dragon” is now using The Tennessean to peddle its wares, according to an article that appeared Tuesday. The group, a top-down kind of affair composed of a few heavy-hitters in the evangelical community, is suggesting the creation care movement is a “cult” and that Christians who believe in environmental stewardship are “radical.”

For an idea of the logical long-jump the group is making to promote its view that environmentalism’s endgame is global domination of organized religion, poor people and the unborn, take this quote from Janet Parshall, a Christian radio talk show host, in the third paragraph of the fish-wrapper’s story: “Around the world, environmentalism has become a radical movement. Something we call the ‘Green Dragon.’ And it is deadly. Deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom. And deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Leaving aside sticky biblical questions over who’s called to do what and where the Good Book demands less government regulation over companies polluting God’s Green Earth, The Tennessean conspicuously ignored a few key facets of this organization. Chief among them: who’s funding it.

“Resisting the Green Dragon” isn’t so much a movement as a DVD series and soon-to-be book in which 12 Christian evangelical leaders dramatically exaggerate — we are left to assume based on this trailer for the six-hour series — the tenets of modern environmentalism in order to scare $49.95 out of your wallet.

Speakers connect modern, Christian-based environmentalism to population control and suggest curbing carbon emissions will lead to a full savaging of the poor. (It’s worth noting an example here: According to figures presented by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the new fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles that Congress passed in April will, by 2016, reduce total U.S. oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels, cut 950 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and save your average American driver $3,000.)

One of the featured speakers in the series is Nashville’s own Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Land’s name shows up in The Tennessean pretty much any time a story mentions religion and government on the same page. He frequently contributes op-eds to the paper (here, here). And yet Bob Smietana, the typically reliable religion reporter, ignores Land’s presence in this case. Granted, it’s an awkward question: “Mr. Land, why is it that despite your reasonable intellect — which has been on display in our newspaper for years — you have aligned yourself with a batshit idea like this?” Still, it’s the reporter’s job to ask.

But while Land’s absence raises a question about personnel, far more troubling is the fact that the story makes no mention of where “Resisting the Green Dragon” gets its money.

“Green Dragon” is an offshoot of the Cornwall Alliance, a collective of evangelical leaders funded by the oil industry, whose ties to right-wing extremists currently denying climate science should raise any reporter’s hackles.

Witness the extensive investigation by the website ThinkProgress.org (h/t Elmer Gantry):

The Cornwall Alliance appears to be a creation of a group called the James Partnership, a nonprofit run by Chris Rogers and Peter Stein, according to documents filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Rogers, who heads a media and public relations firm called CDR Communications, collaborates with longtime oil front group operative David Rothbard, the founder and President of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and Jacques Villarreal, a lower level staffer at CFACT, for his James Partnership group. In the past, Rogers’ firm has worked for the Bush administration and for the secretive conservative planning group, the Council for National Policy.”

ThinkProgress dug up the public records that show all four groups — “Green Dragon,” Cornwall, the James Partnership and CDR — registered to the same address, an office park in suburban Virginia.

Maybe the relationship ends with shared office space. After all, the Scene splits its digs with notorious über-conservative climate-science denier NFocus, right?

Well, it’s not quite the same. Cornwall is actually the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance — just under a different name. The ISA launched in the mid-aughts to counter the growing creation care movement in the evangelical community. One of the ISA’s leaders was Paul Driessen. According to ThinkProgress, Driessen was also a consultant for ExxonMobil, the coal mining industry and CFACT, the oil industry front group. After all that was revealed, the ISA became the Cornwall Alliance. Because it’s bad juju to try to keep up appearances after such an ugly revelation.

Again, to ThinkProgress:

For “stream lining” reasons, ISA relaunched as the Cornwall Alliance in 2006. With the new name came a redesigned website, highly produced web videos, and an organized network of churches to distribute climate change denying propaganda to hundreds of pastors around the country. The branding for the Cornwall Alliance is derived from the “Cornwall Declaration,” a 1999 document pushing back against the creation-care movement in the evangelical community. The Declaration “stressed a free-market environmental stewardship and emphasized that individuals and private organizations should be trusted to care for their own property without government intervention.” CFACT President Rothbard has been hailed as the “driving force” behind the Cornwall Declaration public relations effort.

CFACT is a gimmicky right-wing organization that does everything it can to try to discredit the science underpinning climate change. For instance, staffers from the group traveled to the Copenhagen conference on climate change to stage silly press conferences with Rush Limbaugh’s former producer and stunts aimed at mocking Greenpeace.

But who is the “driving force” behind CFACT? According to disclosures, CFACT is funded by at least $542,000 from ExxonMobil, $60,500 from Chevron, and $1,280,000 from Scaife family foundations, which are rooted in wealth from Gulf Oil and steel interests.

So where does that leave us? Right about here: The Tennessean is doing a bang-up PR job for a climate-science denier group funded by oil interests and with a distinct Nashville connection. This group is trying to convince well-meaning Christians to part with 50 hard-earned dollars in the worst economy since the Great Depression by suggesting environmentalists are trying to steal their rights and kill poor people. All to ensure that companies like ExxonMobil can continue to pocket more of your money without pesky government regulators stepping in the way.

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