An influential evangelical leader recently expressed his dissatisfaction with Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who he accused of “waffling” on issues.
“I thought John McCain was a principled person,” said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, to The Colorado Independent.
“But John McCain has backed off, not just on climate change but on torture and a sensible tax policy – in other words, he’s not the John McCain of 2000 … He seems to be waffling on issues after issue,” charged the chief lobbyist of the nation’s largest evangelical network that represents some 30 million members.
Interestingly, Cizik, who was named this year by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people for his climate change work, is a Republican who says he has known McCain for many years.
But the Republican nominee fell from Cizik’s favor when he began succumbing to his party and to the Christian right, said the outspoken evangelical.
“It’s not illogical for someone to conclude that John McCain is going to be more like George Bush than John McCain is going to be John McCain in 2000,” he said.
Cizik, whose comments may anger some people, is no stranger to controversy and tension, even within evangelical circles.
Just last year, he was the target of prominent Christian right leaders such as Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Gary Bauer for his very public advocacy for creation care.
The conservative leaders had faulted Cizik for distracting evangelicals from more important issues – abortion, traditional marriage, and abstinence – with his green evangelical campaign. They also charged Cizik for misrepresenting to the public the evangelical view on global warming, which they contend is so diverse that it would be hard to fairly represent.
Using a letter, dozens of Christian right leaders had pressed, unsuccessfully, for the NAE board to fire Cizik for leading the evangelical green movement.
But Cizik is undeterred by the opposition and has continued to speak at churches and Christian colleges about the biblical reasons behind creation care.
Just last week he was in Colorado, home state of Dobson’s Focus on the Family empire, and addressed hundreds of congregants and college students about the need for environmental protection.
While in Colorado, he also had a few words to say about McCain’s vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin.
“It is pretty obvious that the Palin nomination plays to identity politics and cultural war issues,” Cizik said to The Colorado Independent. “Her selection is more than an acknowledgment that evangelicals are an important part of the Republican base, and everyone knows that John McCain is not that exciting to religious conservatives.”
Palin and Cizik hold different views on the global warming issue. Palin does not believe climate change is mainly human-induced, supports oil drilling in Alaska’s National Wildlife Reserve, and wants to de-list polar bears as an endangered species.
“The irony of it is that John McCain can’t speak with an evangelical voice of faith - let’s face it, it’s just not his thing - so I guess the substitute is this other (Palin),” Cizik said. “I guess that’s pretty cynical, but maybe his actions are cynical.”
The sometimes polarizing evangelical leader said he has not yet decided who he will vote for in the November presidential election. Obama, he said, lacks experience, while McCain is too similar to incumbent President Bush.
“It’s a conundrum,” the evangelical leader said of the candidate choices.