Religion and green ideology don’t mix

Published August 1, 2002

“Campaign ExxonMobil” persuaded a Catholic group to introduce a resolution, which garnered just 20 percent of shareholder votes, calling on the company to produce a plan to promote renewable energy sources. Using religious figures to advocate environmental causes in front of the national media is not a new tactic.

In the months prior to the meeting, “Campaign ExxonMobil” marched out numerous self-appointed spokesmen for various causes designed to appeal to shareholder interests. Politically active religious figures of various faiths proselytized against oil and claimed burning fossil fuels was an environmental sin against God. Gwich’in Indians railed against drilling for oil in Alaska, even though most Alaskans, native and non-native alike, support oil recovery and its economic benefits.

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank, took exception to this exploitation of religious figures to push its anti-corporate agenda. The Institute warned “disastrous effects” would be the result of “irresponsible social and environmental activism on the part of the religious environmental movement” if “Campaign ExxonMobil” were to succeed.

A statement by Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, follows.

Statement by Rev. Robert A. Sirico

“It is a fundamental belief of mine that this ongoing alliance between the radical environmental movement and the faith community has been a tragically unreflective one. My suspicion is that much of this religious environmentalism results from a woeful lack of understanding of business, specifically, and economics, broadly speaking.

“These activists, especially those deeply convinced of the radical environmental agenda, are often more concerned with the social and political aims of the environmental agenda, and disregard the facts presented by a proper understanding of economics and the workings of the free market.

“Most especially, these activists dismiss the notion that the business community has any moral potential at all. Such a negative view of economic reality reflects a grave misunderstanding of Christian anthropology, which understands humankind as imbued with creativity and dignity. The Christian view understands that man is a steward of creation’s resources and dismisses the notion that man is merely a consumer and polluter.

“Corporations like ExxonMobil have done humanity a great service by developing the energy resources necessary for heating homes, powering our global transportation infrastructure, and providing meaningful employment throughout the global economy. The assumption that because a corporation makes a profit it is somehow morally less significant or exploitative dismisses the real gains in living conditions and quality of life that such enterprises have made possible.”