Evangelical Christians call on Obama to protect public lands from oil and gas leasing

obama public lands oil lease chart
Screen capture Equal Ground Campaign

When we started our Green Spirit series, our goal was to show that while there are certainly some differences between the world's major religions, there were communities within every faith that agreed that the environment (or creation) is to be protected. And the more the secular and religions communities work together on these common goals, the better off we will all be.

That's why I was pleased to see that Rev. Richard Cizik and the nonprofit New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good have released a video message to President Obama calling on him to do more to protect public lands from destruction by private industry.

The video references numbers from The Equal Ground campaign, which found that so far President Obama has a dismal record compared to other recent administrations on balancing the amount of public lands that are conserved versus those that are allowed to be leased by private companies for oil and gas drilling.

congress public lands oil lease chartEqual Ground Campaign/Screen capture

According to Equal Ground, during President Obama’s first term, the oil and gas industry leased more than 6 million acres of public land, while only 2.6 million acres were protected.

They call on him to permanently protect 4 million acres of land. And going forward, to protect at least one additional acre for each acre leased to the oil and gas industry.

Our parks and public lands have been called "America's best idea." But the Obama Administration has leased nearly 7 million acres of our public lands to oil and gas companies, and conserved only half that many acres for our families to access and enjoy. For recreation, wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and spiritual renewal. This isn't just about securing "equal ground" between oil leases and public parks. President Obama: "this land is our land." From sea to shining sea! We're called to be God's stewards on His behalf since He said to "care for creation." Join us in protecting God's creation: our parks, monuments and public lands.

In addition to the video, Rev. Cizik also asked his community to sign a petition to the National Association of Evangelicals demanding that they "affirm publicly the reality of human-caused climate change and endorse the moral responsibility of individuals, churches, and the federal government to act to reduce carbon emissions and protect our natural heritage for our children and grandchildren."

Rev. Cizik also took this message to The Washington Post in an op-ed this August.

For people of faith, this is about more than even changing policies which have been described as a “drill first” mentality, to an “equal ground” policy of both drilling and conservation of our public lands in equal measure.

It’s about saving a bit of God’s gift of plentiful natural resources for future generations. Call it a campaign to “save a bit of heaven.”

Why cast it this way? The New Testament scholar N.T. Wright in his book “Simply Jesus” puts it as follows: “Within Jesus’s world, the word ‘heaven’ could be a referent way of saying ‘God,’ and in any case, part of the point of ‘heaven’ is that it wasn’t detached, wasn’t a long way off, but was always the plan from which ‘earth’ was to be run. When, in the book of Daniel, people speak about ‘the God of heaven,’ the point is that this God is in charge on earth and will eventually set up his own kingdom there.”
One Millennialist, a young woman named Diane Umpierre, wrote on Facebook, “I never thought about it that way. We, our planet, is very much part of His kingdom, of heaven, of God’s universe.”

Exactly. Take it from a baby boomer, my generation sowed the seeds of this destruction, and yours will reap the consequences if we don’t act quickly.

Whatever your personal beliefs may be, with the dire threats from climate change and environmental degradation that we face today, it is important to recognize, support and collaborate with groups that are working towards solutions. To learn more or add your voice to the cause, visit the links above.

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