America

One thing I’ve learned in my meditation practice is that a change of atmosphere – something as small as standing up, or as big as taking a trip – can make a huge difference.

The Southern Baptist movement brought huge changes to the Republican party. From 1950 to 1980, membership increased from 7 million to 13.6 million. The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) was launched in 1973 to give the Republican minority the upper hand. It would take four decades for Democrats to launch the State Innovation Exchange in response. By 1981, the evangelical “electronic church” radio network had an audience of 40 million, compared to ABC, CBS, and NBC with 42 million.

The Republican Council of National Policy (CNP) engaged evangelical voters through the “Four Horsemen of Marketing: Position, Differentiation, Benefit and Brand. It stands to reason that poster child for branding, Trump, would glom onto this network.

This Shadow Network is chronicled by Anne Nelson in her book of the same name, detailing the history of how Southern Baptists highjacked the Republican party, their first major coup, getting Ronald Reagan elected and taking the Senate in 1980.

This movement also spawned entire generations of climate deniers. According to one of the most esteemed atmospheric scientists in the world, Katharine Hayhoe, white evangelical Protestants and white Catholics are consistently the least concerned about climate change, this despite theological leaders traditionally turning to Genesis 1:1 to conclude that “God gave humans responsibility over every living thing on Earth.”

With the media endlessly sounding the alarm about the climate, many feel reaching climate neutrality is like moving a giant boulder up a mountain. But, Hayhoe keeps the atmosphere light, focusing on the positive. She insists the boulder of carbon neutrality has been pushed far up the hill by millions of hands. Any additional effort no matter how small will help to push it over the other side.

She uses, of all places, Texas as an example. On the one hand, if Texas were a country, it would be the seventh-most prolific emitter of carbon dioxide in the world and is the number one emitter in the U.S. On the other hand, Texas leads the nation in wind energy. Texas also has the largest army base, which is 43 percent powered by clean energy. Dallas Fort Worth Airport is the first large carbon-neutral airport in North America. Houston is going to meet its Paris targets. Nationally, 90% of new energy installed last year was clean energy.

These days, religion is associated with greed, hubris, arrogance, and judgment. The Shadow Network has a lot to do with that. Hayhoe says Christians need to return to an atmosphere of love, joy, patience, and kindness. Amen.

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