Pete Buttigieg has called climate change a religious crisis — but is he brave enough to do it in evangelical Texas?

(The Independent, 13 Sep 2019) This week's Democratic debate is being held in a state where both evangelical Christianity and climate change denial are popular. Buttigieg and his peers should seize the opportunity.

At the recent CNN town hall on climate disruption, the big-screen backdrop behind the hosts and the candidates did not read “Climate Change,” it read “Climate Crisis.” And at least three of those who spoke — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg — characterized this crisis as a moral crisis. Buttigieg, however, went a step further and turned the moral crisis into a religious crisis.

“Let’s talk in language,” he began, “that is understood across the heartland, about faith. You know, if you believe that God is watching as poison is being belched into the air of creation, and people are being harmed by it, countries put at risk in low-lying areas, what do you suppose God thinks of that?” His answer: God would call it “a sin.”

“You don’t have to be religious,” he added, “to see the moral dimension of this because, frankly, every religion and nonreligious moral tradition tells us that we have some responsibility to stewardship, some responsibility for taking care of what’s around us, not to mention taking care of our neighbor.”

Buttigieg has already been mentioned in Washington as a possible vice-presidential choice, in which case — as America’s first gay presidential candidate — he would face his fellow evangelical Christian Indianan, Mike Pence, in what might prove a historic debate, a debate that could force to the surface a neglected religious dimension to the climate crisis. Will Buttigieg strike the same note at the upcoming, more wide-open debate on Thursday in the very “heartland” he speaks of — in Texas, a state alive both with evangelical Christianity and with climate crisis denial?

Americans dream of the larger-than-life political leader who can inspire us to rise above ourselves and do what we must do to save our planet and ourselves. But before that inspiring leader can appear, inspiration must first reach the voters who will elect such a leader. And how can that happen?

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The Independent, 13 Sep 2019: Pete Buttigieg has called climate change a religious crisis — but is he brave enough to do it in evangelical Texas?