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Climate Change, The Bible, The Political Right and Evangelical Christians

Updated on March 7, 2016
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Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University and as a missionary and pastor.

Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas

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Pointing a Critical Finger at Evangelical Christianity

In the past I have written a few articles regarding Evangelical Christianity. Those articles are descriptive and nonjudgmental in nature, designed to help those outside Evangelical Christianity to understand the movement.

This article will be different. Here, I will be very critical of Evangelical Christians and the manner in which they participate in the American political process, but please do not misconstrue that to mean I despise the movement or the individuals. I am no outsider to Christianity. I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, spent four years in a Christian college where I earned a B.A. in Biblical Education and labored for eleven years in professional ministry. I say this simply to show that I do have a basis from which to speak. My observations are practical and drawn from personal experience of being in league with other Christian laymen and ministers for more than fifty years of my life.

Voting In Brooklyn

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Why Single out Evangelical Christians Voters?

You may wonder why I am placing such an emphasis on Evangelical Christians and their participation in the American political process. The answer is simple. They turn out to vote in numbers unparalleled by any other single voting block. A survey conducted by Greg Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies following the 2014 mid-term elections, it was found that nearly one-third of the total electorate identified themselves as conservative Christians.

Ralph Reed, Faith & Freedom Coalition Chairman, had this to say at a news conference following the 2014 mid-terms:

"Conservative voters of faith were the largest constituency in the electorate in 2014. Their share of the electorate exceeded that of the African-American vote, Hispanic vote, and union vote combined."

Of course it isn't wrong for Evangelicals to vote, but I believe all Americans should understand, not only that Evangelicals are eager to vote, but also some of the biblical beliefs which drive them to the polls in such great numbers.

Ralph Reed on the 2014 Mid-Term Elections

The Politics of Climate Change Has Achieved Classic Status

The Politics of Climate Change
The Politics of Climate Change

"A landmark study in the struggle to contain climate change, the greatest challenge of our era. I urge everyone to read it."

Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America

 

Evangelical Christianity and the Natural Environment in General

Most Evangelical Christians believe that Jesus is coming soon and will, at a certain point, destroy this world by fire

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away in a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat and the earth and its works will be burned up." 2 Peter 3:10).

This belief is having a subtle effect on individual Christians and on Christianity in general. The following statement by a self described, evangelical ministry summarizes how many evangelicals view the natural world.

"Yet these prophecies (of impending natural disasters) have nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions; rather, they are the result of the wrath of God, pouring out justice on an increasingly wicked world. Also, a Christian must remember that God is in control and that this world is not our home. God will one day erase this current universe (2 Peter 3:7-12) and replace it with the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21–22). How much effort should be made "saving" a planet that God is eventually going to obliterate and replace with a planet so amazing and wonderful that the current earth pales in comparison?" From http://www.gotquestions.org/climate-change.html

Here is another quote by someone called "The Rambling Believer." Written on Earth Day, this person warns his fellow evangelicals to avoid participation in what he considers a pagan holiday and chastises those who do take part.

But here’s the worst news. Take a look at the sacred earth prayer found in this book [The Environmental Handbook]: “Mother, Father, God, Universal Power — remind us daily of the sanctity of all life. Touch our hearts with the glorious oneness of all creation as we strive to respect all the living beings on this planet. Penetrate our souls with the beauty of this earth, as we attune ourselves to the rhythm and flow of the seasons. Awaken our minds with the knowledge to achieve a world in perfect harmony and grant us the wisdom to realize that we can have heaven on earth.”

So why are people and especially some evangelicals lured into this? The direct reference to “Mother Earth,” “Heaven on earth,” and prayer to a “Universal Power,” should be huge red flags that “Earth Day” and some related ecology events are pagan events to be shunned. Instead, we have Web sites representing evangelicals who are promoting this big time. According to the Bible, we are to be good stewards of the Earth, but we cannot save it. Only God can. The Bible says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs” (Romans 8:22) as it waits Earth’s real liberation — the return of Christ. Make no mistake that “Earth Day” and climate Change does represent a “religion.” It is the religion of “Mother Earth”. https://peterygwendyta.wordpress.com/category/climate-change/

In my opinion, this attitude is the source of the rift between political liberals and political conservatives on environmental issues. Such is the extent to which Christian Evangelicals have commandeered the Political right.

Today’s disdain for the care of the natural world by the political right, which is controlled by Evangelical Christians, is due to the misunderstood and misapplied theological belief in the return of Jesus Christ.

Megiddo, Where it is Said Christ will Return to Destroy the Natural World

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The Creator/Creation Conflict for Evangelicals

Does being actively concerned about the environment and climate change really mean you are worshiping the creation rather than the creator?

Lake near San Luis Obispo, California During Drought

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Poll on Climate Change

Are you an Evangelical Christian?

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Poll for Evangelical Christians

Does being actively concerned about the environment and climate change, mean a person is worshiping the creation rather than the Creator?

See results

Evangelical Christianity and Climate Change

Prophecies of the Bible predict that great earthquakes, floods, droughts, famines and more will occur just prior to Christ's return. In fact, one gets the impression that the Bible doesn't give an exhaustive list of natural disasters to watch for but a representative one. In other words, according to these prophecies, all of nature should be expected to be in an enormous upheaval in the last days before Christ’s return. Here is one such prophecy:

“Then He [Christ] continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21:10-11.

A few verses later, Jesus continues, saying,

“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Luke 21:25-26 (New American Standard Bible).

Why are Christians who believe in these prophecies so dead set against believing in climate change? It seems to me that such phenomena have come along at a most convenient time. Climate Change has arrived, and according to Evangelical Christians, Jesus could come back at any moment. Climate change is all about the very things the prophecies are about, i.e. storms, droughts, famines, nature being in an upheaval all around us.

Why don't Evangelicals see the current changes in climate as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies? The reason they don't jump on board with current climate change is because there is too much emphasis on correcting the problems. Evangelicals only want to point out negative climatic events as they signify Christ's return. They do not want to make any positive changes to correct the natural catastrophes because, according to them, Jesus will do that when he destroys and recreates the earth (2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 21:11).

In these prophecies, the Bible does not elaborate on the cause(s) of such natural calamities. This is a point which Evangelical Christians should pay attention to. God does not say that He will cause these upheavals in nature. He also does not say that man will not be the cause of them. It is only stated that such things will occur.

I must ask a question of my Evangelical Christian friends. Why do you reject the idea of climate change, when your own scriptures predict it, and since, according to you, these are the Last Days, the very time when climate change should be occurring?

At some point, if the prophecies have any validity at all, Evangelical Christians must embrace the idea of a globally changing climate because that is exactly what the prophecies predict.

The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

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A Book on Evangelical Climate Care

Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change
Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change

Review from Amazon: "Very good read. Open, non-judgmental view of Evangelicals and the subtle shift in their view toward climate change and other environmental issues."

 

Evangelical Christians and the Biblical Basis for Their Responsibility Regarding the Environment

According to the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, God put Adam to work caring for the natural world around him.

“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).

This should be a primary theological point among Christians. It should be the basis upon which they build their beliefs about man's place in the natural world. Occasionally someone will give lip service to this verse by mentioning it in an article or sermon, but for the most part, this verse is ignored.

Evangelical Christians believe that they have one, primary, God given objective in the world, and that is to preach the Gospel in every language, to every ethnic group, in every country with the goal of converting as many as possible to Christianity before the day of Christ’s return. Credit should be given to Evangelical Christians for the humanitarian work that they do, but even this is done with the hope of converting to Christianity, those being helped.

In my view, Evangelical Christians are so focused on the return of Jesus Christ, so preoccupied with their eternal home in heaven that they are in danger of becoming no earthly good.

It is important for those who are not evangelicals to open their eyes to this reality of modern, American politics. One third of active voters are evangelical. Not all of them share the opinions of the individuals who wrote the blog posts I have quoted, but many do espouse these views. What is to be done in a free society, where the freedom to practice one’s religion is a foundational principle? We must at the very least, respond by educating ourselves on the subject of climate change. But the place we can make the most difference is at the ballot box. Evangelicals are the most highly motivated voters in the country. The rest of us need to examine our own voting histories and make appropriate changes in the future. Some might consider running for political office with environmental concerns high on their list of priorities if elected. But the responsibility does not rest only on the shoulders of non evangelicals.

Evangelical Christians must recognize that they do not have a license to bow out of participating in a positive way in the care of the natural world and fighting against human induced climate change which they helped to produce. In fact, according to their own scriptures, they have a God given responsibility to be at the forefront, championing that cause.

Planet Earth

Planet Earth is not a mere vehicle which carries us from creation to eternity. It is our home, our joy and our sacred trust.

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 24 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      I agree Deb. This should not be a religious issue. But the Evangelicals have made it just that.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 24 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      All I have to say is that humanity turned the planet into what it is, not a higher power. To mistreat the earth, is simply to cause its end.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      lawrence01, The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)is about being good stewards with gifts that have been entrusted. That could definitely apply. If there is a more specific statement of Jesus, I can't think of it right now. Thanks for reading and for giving this some deeper thought. Yes, I can see it now. Jesus returns and asks what the Christians had done with the earth He had entrusted to them. They show him a smoking cinder in space and reply that He came back just in time.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Cam

      A question for the evangelical naysayers and 'do nothings'. If we abuse God's creation with this earth what makes us think he's going to trust us with the new one? Didn't Jesus himself ask the same question?

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Shades-of-truth, Thank you for stopping by and reading my article. I'm glad you found it enjoyable to read.

    • Shades-of-truth profile image

      Emily Tack 2 years ago from USA

      That was a thoroughly enjoyable Hub. Great job!

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Austinstar/supreme commander of the entire universe, Thanks for stopping by. I share your hopes that evangelicals can be convinced to share in the work of restoring our planet to a healthy state.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Kylyssa, you have brought up a very powerful analogy. " It's like being a terrible child who destroys all his gifts through negligence and rough use yet claims to love and obey the parent who gave them." Spoiled children who do not appreciate the gift of a parent. This is right on the mark. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Christine, lessons for a simple drop of water are nearly endless. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Frank, I also was raised in a small church. Most of the people were farmers. It was warm and friendly. People cared for each other and cared for the land. Things are different now. Thank you for reading and for the encouraging comment.

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      Austinstar 2 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      There is such a dualism in Christianity - "The Lord giveth and the the Lord taketh away", that I am not surprised at the confusion over climate change. Good hub and I hope that it steers the evangelicals toward a more responsible stewardship of our planet.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 2 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      Thank for this very well-reasoned explanation of things. As an atheist, I've often wondered how some people could love God on one hand and care nothing about the world and diversity they claim to believe He gave them. It's like being a terrible child who destroys all his gifts through negligence and rough use yet claims to love and obey the parent who gave them.

      This piece really helps me understand where such people are coming from and reinforces what I've always thought, that Christians would logically treasure and take extra special care of things they believe their Creator has given them.

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      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Chris,

      Analogies:

      My plug in for the smallest of creatures in our climate, and your shared appreciation for my "saying so" is noteworthy:

      Water, as known, and it's temperaments in the earth, is vital. For me, that includes what can be seen and unseen. Attention given here will help human eyes and ears to see and know things whether it be the broad view of eye movements of a hurricane or a drop of water on a glass slide under a lens. I lean strongly that the latter actually may be more significant than the former.

      Both are here to enter into our minds for good.

      I have had the opportunity to see things skilled young photographers are posting on Flickr in the category of microorganisms and read older material written on the subject. It stirs my vision to look find greater beauty in how humans could interact politically or otherwise; despite obstacles that do get in the way. Technology coupled with writers of the past, who studied without these visual aids brings me closer to lifetales from the natural world to which all of ours must be added.

      These stories include the manbuilt political world; but can it truly operate honestly without knowledge of the natural temperaments and behaviors of living water?

      ~Christine

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      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      Cam, I was so use to the small get to know everyone gatherings for church and religious beliefs.. this overwhelming hub and important has information that will still keep me on the fence, a great job in your stand and research bravo my friend :)

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Eric, I remember those thoughts going through my head back when climate change was global warming. It just flashed into my head that if Jesus' return was really that close, it wouldn't really matter. Since then, I've heard the same things from other Evangelicals. Now that seems so absurd, but I'm convinced this is what is happening. Bill Maher, in his film Religulous, observed this same thing in Christians. Christ's return is being used by some to

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thank you Melissae, I will put something together. I appreciate the suggestion.

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      Yes, for some reason it seemed abrupt to me...like it needs a summary of some sort.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A wonderful read. I guess it just never occurred to me that one could use the Bible to justify not caring for earth. It just goes against my grain so much that I did not stop and think about that concept. So thank you for enlightening me.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      melissae1963 , Thank you for your visit and for the thoughtful comments. I'm curious about your comment regarding the conclusion to my article. You said it left you hanging. Do you mean it felt like it was not quite finished? Do you think the ending needs more development? Just curious, because I can add more if needed. I'm glad you stopped by.

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      This is an extremely well thought out and worded article. Your points are clear and succinct. You do a great job with your argument and counterargument. The conclusion left me hanging.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Christine, I love your analogies to microorganisms. There is nothing like having a good science teacher early in life to keep us looking at the world around us. Name on the ballot? haha, there isn't room for free thinkers in politics. Sheep are needed so the party agenda can be moved forward. I will keep writing though. Thanks for visiting, Christine, nice to see you.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Shauna, thanks for visiting. I really appreciate your analogy of our care for the earth to human love. You are right, taking care of the natural world is no more idolatrous than loving our neighbor. Good thought.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Bill, I know, fools go where angels fear to tread, and there goes Chris, skipping into sunset with daggers in his back. This is something that has been on my mind since I finally realized that a steady diet of right wing slop wasn't making me any smarter or wiser. I didn't just trade for left wing slop either. I'm attempting to think for myself, and therefore this article appears. I haven't heard these points argued before, but I'm sure I haven't stumbled onto an original thought. But these are my thoughts, and I stand by them. Thanks for reading and for the comment. Controversial topic? Yes indeed. Ain't it fun?

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, it is often so difficult, come election time, to choose among the candidates. We look and see no one who represents the long term, important choices to be made. Today's politics is short term, and centered on garnering more votes at the next election. Any politician who tries to champion something like climate change is in for a rough ride, and probably a short one. Thanks for your comment, Ann.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      pagesvoice, Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment. I find it interesting and sometimes distressing how little critical thinking goes on in Evangelical circles. Theology is set in stone, no thinking required, only memorization, if that even. A priest placing a wafer on the tongue of a parishioner is a very good picture for how "truth" is spoon fed to followers. Better to just give out Bibles and let people figure it all out for themselves. At least then, the study and learning would hold some excitement. Thanks for your visit.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Faith, there are lots of issues demanding the attention of voters these days. The conscientious voter has a great deal of work to do. I've gotten the impression though that many simply follow the lead of the party of their choice. On the subject of climate change, they tend to bow to the viewpoint of the leadership. So many Evangelicals mock those who actually believe climate change is occurring. They laugh at incremental rises in temperature, ignorant of the effects of the small change.

      I appreciate your thoughtfulness toward the issue and your ability to remain objective about the choices you have to make as a voter.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      salvation*

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      macrophotography*

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 2 years ago

      Chris,

      Are you seeking to be A President-Of-Sorts?

      Your hub is an invitation, an on-line heartbeat press release encouraging all who take a vested interest in candidates and the natural world. It is a word picture taken through the lens of your own experience.

      My RSVP:

      Debate or conflicts amongst people in the oftentimes shallow waters of human politics may exclude the hospitality seen and discovered in the behavior of microorganisms in the natural world. Unfortunately, the prevailing trends of public opinions about things that are happening around us can fall short of a correct representation of the natural course of thing. In the midst of "negative climate events" ( as you stated) I vote all be given to hospitality: inviting all to see the larger viewpoint in cytoplasm. An amoeba has enough energy to extend one of its arms outside the whole ( pseudopod activity) to hope for another shape to form an existence carrying attributes of its former state.

      Off the cuff: I am not a microbiologist, nor well-studied in biology. I do have a colorful fifth-grade science view that has been kept alive for 40 years. It is because of my elementary school teacher "back in the day." His classroom teachings in that one year have shown me the wealth I can see in a drop of pond water, soil, and microphotography to better understand my humanplace on earth. This community of living microorganisms have my vote as the best exemplary candidate for governing the best course of human life; and as quirky as it may come at times, the courage to put forth poetry and stay out of politics. I don't vote.

      In conclusion: If you drop more of this subject into the lives of your readers; candidacy could move beyond "a twinkling of an eye; an unstable sort of flash-fiction world-view. You could help to bring a pool of salivation by dropping more of these lines from time to time.

      Your name could soon be on the ballot?!

      ~ Christine

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Very powerful article, Chris. The last section sums up your argument perfectly. God entrusted the Earth and its care to us. It's quite apparent we're not doing our job. To chalk climate change up to the end of the Earth and the coming of Jesus is nothing but an excuse to do nothing. Our environment is part of what God created. If it's considered idolatry to care for the Earth, than the same can be said of human love. Are we not God's creations? Does He not want us to love one another, and give with nurturing hearts?

      It seems the Evangelical Christians are either hypocrites or their haven't thoroughly thought out their stance on the issue of climate change.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh my goodness, Chris! Why don't you take on a controversial topic next time. LOL This should get some interesting results.

      I'm in total agreement with you, by the way. I have very little trust in organized religions, and those who stop thinking for themselves and follow blindly are scary at the very least. Climate change? I know our climate here in Olympia does not even resemble what it did sixty years ago...not even close. Yes it is real!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      It is sad when any religion precludes individual action, participation and freedom of choice. I was brought up an Anglican (English Protestant) and taught that tolerance, kindness, love etc are the basis of what true Christians are. Therefore I find it difficult to understand why any religion should not want to care for, nurture and protect the environment whatever state it might be in. It stands to reason that caring for it benefits everyone and everything.

      This is a well-argued, balanced article with fair views and a healthy attitude to life. You obviously have a strong, well-educated base and experience to add to this subject.

      I totally agree with you and I see no reason why any religion should sway a political vote away from the individual.

      We have our election coming up on 7th May. We're away and so have left a proxy vote but I found it really difficult to back anyone this time. I see no one who is honest, genuine and who truly cares for anything but his or her own advancement, business assets and making money. Cynic? Maybe but it's what I see around me. Sad but true.

      Thanks for making us think, Chris. Great hub.

      Ann

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 2 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      This is an extremely interesting post and I like the way you presented your views. I think the primary reason so many turn away from organized religion is due, in large part, to how entrenched in unyeilding ideology many evangelical Christians are. These same people follow what their pastors tell them. I've felt for a long time that many parishioners relinquish their own opinions once they enter through the church doors and then become part of the whole church philosophy. As you mention, this is a strong voting bloc and they do carry a lot of power. Too bad we can't get the rest of America off their couches, off their electronic devices and away from television long enough to vote with the same enthusiasm as evangelical Christians.

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      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, I meant to add that when I do vote I do not vote along party lines. I try to seek out the best individual for the job, which is an arduous task these days it seems. The polar caps have melted so much that they are a fraction of what they once were. I don't know the figure but if you look at a photo from so many years ago and then now, there's no question. Peace and blessings

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Chris,

      I must say that I have always loved and praised God for His beautiful creation here, and as a child I actually came to know Him through His beautiful creation. I do love God above all things, and I am concerned about the environment and believe it is so important to not destroy what God has blessed us with here on this earth. Yes, I certainly vote as that is my right, and it is sad that others do not. My dad served this country and I respect all those who served and fought for our freedoms here, so that we may be free to vote as to whom we believe is the best candidate for all. I am not too fond of the Big Mega churches, especially the one you have pictured here.

      God bless you.

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