Debating what moral issues are . . .

This debate is important . . .

Jim Wallis: Dr. Dobson, Let's Have a Real Debate

Last week, James Dobson and a number of other Religious Right leaders wrote a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals, claiming that work on climate change was a distraction from "the great moral issues of our time." I responded on our God’s Politics blog on Friday, with the piece Dobson and Friends, Outside the Mainstream. So far this week, we’ve had several other good responses from Brian McLaren, Bill McKibben, and Lyndsay Moseley. And, I’ve invited James Dobson to a debate on the question, "What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical Christians?"

James Dobson’s letter attacking Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals has caused a firestorm, and maybe the beginning of a really good dialogue. Brian McLaren’s post yesterday pointed out that the letter from Dobson and friends actually acknowledged that there is a real debate among evangelicals about the seriousness of climate change and the reasons for it. So instead of calling for Cizik’s resignation for saying global warming should be a moral issue for evangelical Christians, why don’t Dobson and his friends accept a real debate on whether climate change is, indeed, one of the great moral issues of our time? A major evangelical Christian university should host just such a debate.

But I want to focus on the following very clear statement from Dobson's letter:

"More importantly, we have observed that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children."

That is indeed the key criticism, and the foundation for the real debate. Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right - climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths - then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?