Evangelical Environmentalists Chide Scott Pruitt for Failing to Live-Up to His Pro-Life Commitments

Pruitt

As we noted last week, Scott Pruitt, the recently resigned director of the Environmental Protection Agency, is an evangelical Christian.  But it is worth noting that not all evangelicals agree with Pruitt on the best way to deal with environmental issues or climate change.

Last week, Reverend Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network issued this statement:

Yesterday, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned because of numerous scandals.  Sadly, we in the evangelical church are all too familiar with disgraces. Over the years, many Christians have lost their way and fallen, even some of our most visible leaders.

As evangelicals we will pray for Mr. Pruitt and hope for the forgiveness and restoration that only God can provide.  However, we sincerely hope Mr. Pruitt will atone for more than his omissions of secret calendars, sweet-heart accommodations, and lavish spending. For us Mr. Pruitt’s most sincere lapse was his failure to defend the forgotten, especially our unborn and newly born children. While claiming to be pro-life, he did little to fulfill EPA’s mission: “To protect human health and the environment.”

Mr. Pruitt moved our nation backward, and our children continue to suffer as a result. According to the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air Report, over 41% of Americans live in counties with unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution 2016, placing them at risk for premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm.

In 2018, 48 years after the EPA was established, 1 in 3 children in the US still suffer from asthma, ADHD, autism, and severe allergies with links to fossil fuels and petrochemicals. Enough is enough. We are calling on President Trump to direct his new acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to put our children first and defend the most vulnerable, keep his promise to be pro-life, and do what the Bible commands:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)

Scott Pruitt on “Providence” and “Blessings”

Pruitt

Scott Pruitt has resigned as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Trump announced the resignation via Twitter.

Here is his letter of resignation:

Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.

That is why is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

                          Your Faithful Friend,

                           Scott Pruitt

As this letter makes clear, Pruitt is an evangelical Christian.  He is a former deacon of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and served on the Board of Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.  If you just change a few words in this letter it could pass for his resignation letter as a church deacon.

His appeal to God’s providence should not surprise us.  This is pretty common evangelical language and Pruitt sees little difference between the church and the government.  I am assuming that Pruitt means that God specifically chose Donald Trump to deliver His “chosen nation” from the hands of the Obama-Clinton threat.  I assume he means that God brought him to the EPA to prevent climate-change advocates from actually doing something about climate change.  He is sincere about all of this.  This is what he believes.  I have no doubt that he thinks that he was doing God’s will for a divinely-appointed POTUS.  These appeals to providence, coupled with regular Bible studies that no doubt use the Bible to endorse GOP politics, is what passes for evangelical political engagement today among Christian Right politicians.

The satirist Ambrose Bierce described “providence” as an idea that is “unexpectedly and consciously beneficial to the person so describing it.”

The use of the phrase “bless” or “blessing” (used four times in the short letter) is also pretty common in evangelical circles.  When evangelicals do something to encourage another Christian they are “being a blessing” to that person.  It is a pretty common way of talking about showing Christian love to a neighbor or friend.   When I was a teenager, I often listened to “Walk with the King,” the radio of show of The Kings College president and National Association of Evangelical president Robert A. Cook.  He used to end every broadcast by saying “Until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today, and be a blessing.”

Pruitt no doubt believes that he was a “blessing” to Donald Trump.  He was serving God’s anointed.

He also apparently  received his own “blessings” by working for the EPA.  I don’t think the prosperity gospel is popular in Southern Baptist circles, but in the context of this resignation letter it sure seems like Pruitt believed God was blessing him when he

  • rented a bedroom near Capitol Hill from a lobbyist for $50.00 a night.
  • tried to use his role at the EPA to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise.
  • spent over $3.5 million on his security detail.
  • asked an aide to get him a used mattress from a Trump hotel.
  • paid $1560 for 12 fountain pens.
  • lied about asking for a 24/7 security detail
  • flew first class to avoid “lashing out from passengers.”
  • spent $5700 for biometric locks.
  • installed a $43,000 phone booth in his office.
  • told his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens in order to get to brunch on time.
  • went $60,000 over budget on an EPA trip to Morocco.
  • sent his security detail to buy him lotions and pick-up his dry cleaning.
  • takes a personal security detail on family trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl.
  • spent $120,000 for opposition research on the media.
  • hired a coal lobbyist to be his deputy EPA administrator.

I am glad Pruitt is gone for two reasons:

  1. The GOP will spin Pruitt’s resignation by saying that they agreed with his policies as EPA director, but disagreed with the ethics violations.  This position fails to take seriously the Christian responsibility to care for the creation.  Government must play a role in this work.  Having said that, I am guessing Trump will replace him with someone else who believes that climate change is a hoax.
  2. Pruitt’s ethical violations reveal that he is unfit for this cabinet position or any cabinet position.  The fact that he would make appeals to evangelical words like “providence” and “blessing” in his resignation letter is appalling.

And let’s not forget that many evangelicals have defended this guy.

Trump Evangelicals Line-Up Behind Scott Pruitt

Pruitt

Scott Pruitt’s ethical problems are abundant.  Here is how Aaron Weaver describes them in his recent piece at Sojourners:

A $50-a-night condo deal from a lobbyist pal. More than $100,000 for first class airfare and $40,000 on a soundproof phone booth. A twenty person 24-hour protective detail and emergency sirens en route to a French restaurant. Travel costs closing in on $3 million. Big raises for top aides and demotions for officials who dare question the spending habits of their boss and head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt.

Yet many evangelicals are standing by him, including Family Research Council president Tony Perkins.

Here is another taste of Weaver’s piece:

The evangelical leaders called Pruitt “well qualified” to head the EPA and said he deserved “the full support of the United States Senate in his confirmation.” These evangelicals aimed to counter the claims of climate change denialism leveled against their Southern Baptist brother, insisting that he had been “misrepresented as denying ‘settled science.’” Pruitt had just called for “a continuing debate” on the impact and extent of climate change, they said.

With this public defense of Pruitt, these evangelicals were continuing down a path started more than a decade ago as awareness about the urgent global challenge of climate change was increasing within evangelicalism. In 2006, a coalition of well known evangelical pastors and professors calling themselves the Evangelical Climate Initiative released a declaration urging environmental concern and imploring Congress to adopt legislation to curb carbon emissions. Shortly after, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement warning that climate change was “threatening to become a wedge issue to divide the evangelical community” and distract its members from “the priority of the Great Commission.”

Read the rest here.