Green religion on the defensive

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 1, 2000

The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) is defending its parent organization, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE). In a letter sent to "evangelical leaders," Jim Ball, EEN executive director, attacked the Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship (ICES), for what Ball says is a misrepresentation of the NRPE's objectives.

The acronyms are confusing: one green religious group (EEN), is charging another religious group (ICES) with misrepresentation about still another green religious group - the NRPE. Let's try to sort it out.

The ICES recently issued the "Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship," which, according to Ball, "was sent to about 50,000 people with a letter attacking the NRPE." Ball says he is not issuing a press release, "...because we don't want to raise the profile of the group any more than we have to...." Ball tells his leaders that the ICES claims that the NRPE "seeks to redefine traditional Judeo-Christian teachings on stewardship," and "supplement Judeo-Christian teaching with the theologies that frequently portray the earth as our mother." Ball's letter says: "If this were true...we [EEN] would have no part of it."

Well, well. Let's see if the allegations are true.

The NRPE is the outgrowth of a project which began in 1960, with the formation of the Temple of Understanding, housed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. A detailed and fully documented history of the development is presented in a 28-page special report, "The Rise of Global Green Religion", published by the Environmental Conservation Organization in 1997. (Available on the web in the members' section).

The Temple convened a series of "Spiritual Summit Conferences" that met in Calcutta (1968), Geneva (1970), and Harvard University (1971).

In 1982, the Temple, with its strong affiliation with the United Nations, helped to bring into existence the U.N. Global Committee of Parliamentarians on Population and Development. The U.N. Population Fund, and the U.N. Development Program provided the funding for the Global Forum Council which featured 12 members of the Board of Directors and Advisors of the Temple of Understanding. James Parks Morton, then Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and President of the Temple of Understanding, was co-chair of the Global Forum.

In 1984, the Temple convened a conference on Mount Sinai to "thrash out an inter-religious consensus." Dr. Robert Muller was designated to draft a "Declaration of the Unity of World Religions." We'll come back to Robert Muller.

In 1988, the Global Forum convened in Oxford, England and the featured speaker was James Lovelock, author of The Ages of Gaia. He told his audience: "On Earth, she [Gaia] is the source of life everlasting and is alive now; she gave birth to humankind and we are a part of her."

The 1990 Forum was held in Moscow. It was sponsored by the Supreme Soviet, the Temple of Understanding and the U.N. Global Committee of Parliamentarians on Population and Development. Gorbachev said "Perestroika has changed our view of ecology; only through international efforts can we avert tragedy." (Gorbachev and Maurice Strong, the number-two man at the U.N. are co-authors of the Earth Charter). James Parks Morton, again, co-chaired the conference.

Five months after the Moscow Forum, a similar conference was held in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the North American Conference on Religion and Ecology (NACRE). The program included HRH Prince Phillip and Russell Train, of the World Wildlife Fund, Jessica Mathews, aide to Al Gore and member of the National Security Council, Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute and Brian Swimme, co-author of The Universe Story.

The conference title was: "Caring for Creation."

It may be just a coincidence that the web address for the EEN, is "www.creationcare.org."

The Temple of Understanding created what it called a "Joint Appeal," headed by Paul Gorman who also led a coalition of 200 environmental organizations to assist in the election of New York Mayor, David Dinkins. As a part of the campaign, the coalition invited then-Senator Al Gore to a breakfast symposium with its members before Gore delivered the Sunday sermon at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Gore and then-Senator Timothy Wirth, arranged a breakfast meeting in Washington which led to the expansion of the Joint Appeal, to "initiate environmental programs and to measure interest in grassroots religious environmental activity."

A similar meeting was arranged in June, 1991 from which came the endorsement of eleven major environmental groups. On May 11, 1992, the four major partners of the NRPE met and agreed to a three-year program.

After a year devoted to raising $3 million, the NRPE was launched in September, 1993, at a press conference featuring Vice President Al Gore.

By 1996, the NRPE program was in full swing, supplying "education and activity kits" to 67,000 congregations. One such kit, prepared by the Evangelical Lutheran Church, a member of Jim Ball's Evangelical Environmental Network, was mailed on January 23, 1996. Material in the packet praised Clinton's veto of the Republican welfare reform bill.

Another item urged Christians to "continue to express your concern..." about budget cuts and housing for the poor. Readers were told "advocacy is needed on these issues." The packet misinforms readers, saying that 75 to 100 species are going extinct each day, and implies that this is a "spiritual" issue that the federal government should address.

The following week, Fenton Communications issued a press release announcing "Evangelicals Kick Off Million-Dollar Campaign to Protect Endangered Species." Fenton's client was the Environmental Information Center, whose board of directors included Francis Beineke of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Donald Ross of the Rockefeller Family Fund and coordinator of the Environmental Grantmakers Association; and Thomas Wathen of the Pew Charitable Trusts - the major funders of the NRPE.

The executive director of the Information Center was Philip E. Clapp, former employee of Senator Timothy Wirth, and a member of the steering committee of Environmentalists for the Clinton/Gore campaign.

Stan LeQuire, then-director of the EEN, on whose behalf the million-dollar campaign was launched, told the Washington Post that Fenton Communications was chosen because "we're not politically skilled." Fenton Communications is the same firm chosen by the Natural Resources Defense Council to orchestrate the infamous Alar scare in 1989, aired on 60 Minutes, which devastated the apple industry.

These events might be just a history lesson, except for the people involved in the creation of the NRPE. Take Dr. Robert Muller, for example. For 30 years an Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations, Chancellor of the U.N. University, author of the World Core Curriculum, and a member of the Board of Advisors to the Temple of Understanding. Dr. Muller told an audience in Costa Rica in 1989:

"Now we're learning that perhaps this planet has not been created for humans, but that humans have been created for the planet. We hear now of the Gaia hypothesis...that we are part and parcel of a living planetary organism. We are living Earth. Each of us is a cell, a perceptive nervous unit of the Earth. The living consciousness of the Earth is beginning to operate through us. The whole human species, has become the brain, the heart, the soul the expression and the action of the Earth. We have now a world brain which determines what can be dangerous or mortal for the planet: the United Nations and its agencies." (Note: Muller discusses this idea in an interview published by Lucis Trust). Thomas Berry is also a member of the Board of the Temple of Understanding. In his book, The Dream of the Earth, Berry explains why he believes that the traditional Christian view of an external God who created man is as wrong as the pre-Copernican view of the sun revolving around the earth.

He says:

"One of the finest moments in our new sensitivity to the natural world is our discovery of the earth as a living organism...awareness that the entire planet is a single organic reality...."

James Parks Morton, then-President of the Temple of Understanding, and a member of the Board of the NRPE, is described this way in the Amicus Journal, Quarterly publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council (Winter, 1993, p. 24):

"Morton shares Berry's belief that an ecological interpretation of the cosmos requires a corresponding re-interpretation of the story of creation." From his Cathedral of St. John the Divine, James Parks Morton has advanced the cosmology of Berry and Muller through the Temple of Understanding, the Gaia Institute, the Lindisfarne Fellowship , all housed, for a time, at the Cathedral, and the NRPE. A Cathedral newsletter reports a service at the Cathedral (Cathedral, Volume 8, Number 2 Fall, 1994, p. 7) :

"I saw children lying in the laps of large dogs and a boy bringing his stuffed animals to be blessed. I saw the not-yet famous elephant and camel march up the aisle; a lawyer who scoops the poop and enjoys being clown-for-a-day; a priest who finds himself covered with wriggling ferrets; a man and a woman who meet when their leashes become enmeshed; a volunteer gardener marching to the altar with a bowl full of copost and worms; a sermon by Al Gore, in which he called on the congregants to recognize that ‘God is not separate from the Earth.'"

Now go back to Jim Ball's complaint. Is the NRPE attempting to "...redefine traditional Judeo- Christian teachings?" Do the beliefs of the founders of the NRPE sound traditional in any way, or do they "portray the earth as our mother" - the giver of life?

If Jim were honest in his threat, he would have to abandon any association with the NRPE. But that's not likely to happen. In his letter to the "leadership," Jim, himself, engages in sleight-of- word misrepresentations in his attack on the ICES.

Jim tells his leaders that the ICES position on global warming is based on "...an Internet petition from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine that claims to have over 17,000 signatories. The only criterion for signing was a Bachelors degree in a scientific field."

Jim says further: "No checking was done on who signed, and for a time several fictitious persons (e.g. TV lawyer Perry Mason) were included."

That's what Jim told the "evangelical leaders." Now let's see just how far he distorted the truth.

The document Jim refers to was never an "Internet poll," as Jim implied in his letter. It is a petition distributed to scientists with a cover letter by Dr. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Science. Both are available for inspection on the web , along with the complete list of signers. To date, 19,200 scientists have signed the petition, of which, the credentials of 17,800 have been checked and verified. Yes, Perry Mason did sign the petition, and his name remains on the list because he is a Ph.D. Chemist. One fictitious name, Geri Halliwell, Ph.D. was eliminated from the list because the verification process revealed that it had been submitted by a prankster environmental activist. Two-thirds of the scientists have advanced degrees, 2,660 are physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, meteorologists, oceanographers, and environmental scientists.

The facts differ substantially from the impression Jim wants to convey to his "leadership."

The facts often differ substantially from the propaganda distributed by the EEN and its parent, the NRPE. The Interfaith Council for Environmental Stewardship, through its Cornwall Declaration, is a responsible effort to prevent the infiltration of the religious community by the likes of Thomas Berry, Robert Muller, James Lovelock, and the other "enlightened" elite who believe that the earth, not God, is the giver of life, and that the U.N. is becoming the earth's brain.

The NRPE provides yet another example of precisely how the undue influence of large foundations is used, in this case, to translate the gaia philosophy of Berry, Muller, Morton, Lovelock, and others, into political activism in American churches, with full support and participation of the Clinton/Gore administration.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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