South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), a Baptist, sees climate change as real and a threat to America's well being, a stance that differs sharply from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention that denies global warming. Once again, Graham has broken away from the Christian Right.
Sen. Graham has stepped forward with the intellectual integrity and emotional maturity that should inspire thoughtful Southern Baptists, those committed to the common good, Parham writes.
Graham expressed support for a climate change bill in a Sunday New York Times op-ed column with Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass), who introduced in the Senate the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act."
"[W]e agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change," wrote Graham and Kerry.
They called for investment in renewable energy—wind and solar—and support for nuclear power. They argued that a climate change bill was needed to help break America's dependence on foreign oil.
"We know that sending nearly $800 million a day to sometimes-hostile oil-producing countries threatens our security. In the same way, many scientists warn that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global instability and poverty that could put our nation at risk," they wrote.
Graham and Kerry added that they were convinced that they had "found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed in June the "American Clean Energy and Security Act." The House bill is considered less ambitious than the Senate bill. The House bill proposed cutting carbon emissions by 17 percent by the year 2020, compared to the Senate bill's 20 percent cut.
A Baptist Center for Ethics letter signed by more than 140 Baptist leaders and declaring support for the House bill was released to each member of Congress before the House vote.
"Planet Earth is the Lord's and we are caretakers of it," said the letter. "When we guard the environment, we also protect the marginalized and those most vulnerable to droughts, floods, deteriorating ecosystems and diseases."
A member of Corinth Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., Graham broke ranks with the SBC leadership when he split publicly from the Birthers—those who doubt that President Obama was born in the United States—and criticized Fox News personality Glenn Beck for cynicism.
He also parted company with the SBC over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, identifying her in the mainstream of judicial opinion two days after an SBC official accused her of being out of the mainstream.
Now, Graham has separated himself from Southern Baptists who not only deny global warming but claim the earth is cooling, a fringe position outside of the credible scientific community.
Southern Baptist laity and clergy would do well to read Graham's joint column and heed his insight, instead of relying on the SBC agency head who misrepresents continuously climate science and makes animal sounds when talking about those he wishes to belittle.
Graham has stepped forward with the intellectual integrity and emotional maturity that should inspire thoughtful Southern Baptists, those committed to the common good. He certainly helps to move the country closer to a bipartisan solution to climate change.
Reaction to his stance has been mixed. The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce applauded Graham. Right-wing bloggers called him a "fake Republican" and expressed hope that God would save the country from bipartisanship.
Goodwill Baptists and others of faith will say, "Bravo for Graham."
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.