Richard Cizik is the former Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and one of the most prominent Evangelical lobbyists in the United States. In his position with the NAE, Cizik's primary responsibilities were setting the organization's policy on issues and lobbying the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. Cizik also served as NAE's national spokesman and edited a monthly magazine, NAE Washington Insight. Since 2003, Cizik has been active in a type of environmentalism he calls "creation care"; his stance on global warming has drawn both support and criticism from fellow Evangelicals.
In 2007, he and Nobel Prize winner Eric Chivian, as a team, were named one of the 100 most influential scientists and thinkers by Time. On December 11, 2008, Cizik gave his resignation from his position with NAE after a December 2 radio broadcast of NPR's Fresh Air in which he voiced support for same-sex civil unions. His comments and his resignation has generated both strong support and strong criticism within the evangelical Christian community.
Question: Who are you?
Richard Cizik: Well my name is Richard Cizik. And I am Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. Well they have an old expression that says, "You can take the boy off the farm, but you can never take the farm out of the boy." Well to a certain extent I'm a reflection of that in the sense that while I'm a creature of the Nation's Capital for the last 30 years or so, the farm boy still exists. And by that I mean to say that the values I learned about the earth and caring for it, protecting it — actually man, you know, was formed from the dust of the earth — have held true. And so I happen to consider those same farm values, the care for the earth to be essential for what is creation care, which is caring for God's creation. And so having learned a little bit about this on the farm … Actually also man's vulnerability to climate has, I think, given me an insight into this whole subject I wouldn't have otherwise. For example I would say this. We raised, among other things, cherries. We had a cherry orchard, and a summer rain can virtually destroy a cherry crop — splits this cherr … And so I learned about climate change early on in a cherry orchard.
Question: When did you find religion?
Richard Cizik: Well I did have a conversion as a senior in college – a conversion to Christian faith. Raised on a farm, born into mainline Protestantism, but I’d never been exposed to evangelicalism until my senior year in college. So that was my first conversion. But more recently I believe I’ve had a second conversion to care for creation. And so I happen to believe that many if not millions of Christians consider themselves right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, but they have literally, I think, forgotten God’s command to care and protect the earth. And so I believe they need to have a second conversion. I’ve had one. It’s a conversion to caring for creation. It’s a kind of a responsibility moment where you realize for the very first time that heretofore you never did that. It never even occurred to you that it was important. It went right by you like “this”, as if you had blinkers on your eyes. And I would suggest that tens of millions of Christians in America virtually have blinkers on their eyes that prevent them from seeing both God’s word, as well as the changes that are occurring to the earth around them that are going to make life very, very difficult for tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people around the globe as climate change impacts their lives.
Recorded on: 6/25/07