Rich Cizik isn't the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals by choice. Formerly the group's chief lobbyist, Cizik took over after Ted Haggard was booted out for visiting a gay prostitute and using methamphetamines. It wasn't so much the prostitute and meth part of that story that brought Haggard down, but the gay part. The fallen pastor is now undergoing 'reparative therapy' to get rid of the gay in him -- a quack psychology 'treatment' for homosexuality pretty much guaranteed to leave the poor guy worse off than he was before. He'll be depressed, feel like a failure, and possibly become suicidal. I don't envy him. No word on whether he's being treated for drug dependency. People have their priorities.
Cizik has decided to take the NAE in a new direction -- environmentalism. He's willing to put aside debates over established science like evolution and concentrate on what he calls 'creation care.'
Rich Cizik, interviewed by Grist:
The public has long acknowledged our involvement on family values and pro-life issues, and they've begun to take notice of our engagement on concerns like human rights, slavery, and AIDS. Only recently have we begun to adequately address the challenge scripture presents to us to be faithful stewards of God's creation. We released a paper in 2004 titled "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" [PDF], which calls on our movement to articulate a public theology to address what we call "creation care." It urges our 30 million members to live their lives in conformity with sustainable principles, and our government to reduce pollution and resource consumption.
Cizik told the New York Times, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created." If you allow for a God, that seems a reasonable enough line of thinking -- who cares who built your house if it needs painting?
It's that old saying, 'politics makes strange bedfellows.' Don't see this as a step to the left by NAE, however. This has happened before. A coalition of pro-life and feminist groups lobbied Bill Clinton to veto welfare reform and, once that issue was resolved (Clinton signed it anyway), the pro-life groups went right back to being right wing nuts.
This new focus on environmentalism seems to be getting a lot more press than action, however. As I post this, the NAE's page listing the issues they're addressing tells us, "This page is in progress. Please check back for future updates." Some issues are linked, others are not. 'Abortion,' 'Same-Sex Marriage,' and 'Stem Cell Research' are all linked. 'Environmental Issues' and 'Muslim-Evangelical Relations' are not.
I always say that if someone's crazy and you meet them halfway, it makes you halfway crazy. I suppose the reverse is also true -- crazy people can become halfway sane. But it's the 'halfway crazy' thing that bothers me. The Democratic Party is making noises about bringing the evangelical 'values voters' into the fold. Two things will happen; they'll either get what they want and go back to the extreme right or they'll change the democratic party the same way they took over the GOP.
Just because Cizik is right on one issue, there's no reason to think you've got to have these people in the party -- on your side, sure, but not in the party. Let me remind you of the 'reparative therapy' I mentioned earlier.
Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D, Attempts To Change Sexual Orientation:
Many interventions aimed at changing sexual orientation have succeeded only in reducing or eliminating homosexual behavior rather than in creating or increasing heterosexual attractions. They have, in effect, deprived individuals of their capacity for sexual response to others. These "therapies" have often exposed their victims to electric shocks or nausea-producing drugs while showing them pictures of same-sex nudes (such techniques appear to be less common today than in the past).
A Clockwork Orange isn't really the best model for psychiatric treatment. Not surprisingly, it doesn't work.
American Psychiatric Association:
The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including
depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.
On the international issues, Cizik has been less than helpful, calling Islam the "modern-day equivalent of the evil empire."
I'm not saying that we shouldn't work with Cizik on environmental issues -- just that we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that he's somewhere outside Crazytown. He can help, but he is no friend of reasonable people.