05/01/2013 12:44 pm ET Updated Jul 01, 2013

Theocratic Smear Job

When Bruce Babbitt was Interior Secretary in the Clinton Administration, he voiced the belief that "all the plants and animals in the natural world are together a direct reflection of divinity, that creation is a plan of God."

His statement immediately drew a predictable response from conservative ranks that persists to this day (see columnist Robert Knight in the April 22 Washington Times). Babbitt and the mainstream environmental community with which he was identified were labeled pagan worshippers of nature.

Caring for God's work--the mission of environmentalism--is not worshipping that work. Many conservatives don't seem to get that distinction. All the world's major religions do.

Those who find some legitimacy in the nonsensical allegation of environmentalism's apostasy need look no further for correction than the starter kit for the Evangelical Church. In the material, it is proclaimed that "We care for creation because we know and worship God, and He has given us the responsibility to be stewards over His creation until He returns to make all things new."

If further affirmation is required, there is the book of Genesis 2:15 in which God orders caring for creation to be one of humanity's principle obligations.

Few would dispute that the biblical interpretation should prevail over former Senator Rick Santorum's articulation in behalf of ultra orthodox elements among Christian Fundamentalists. Santorum denounces environmental activism for subordinating people to nature in pagan rituals masquerading as environmental regulations.

This nature worshipping mythology derives its origin from a faction of religious conservatives who view human exceptionalism in isolation. In their scheme of things, no non-human organism or inanimate object has any intrinsic value. It only derives worth if and when put to use by human beings. Such a value system gives license to unrelenting, unsustainable exploitation of the earth's resources, with any abuse made right at the Second Coming.

Environmentalists are not beholden to objects of nature, but they recognize that everything on earth is ultimately interconnected in a miraculous, complex web of life. Interdependence doesn't translate into subservience, but it does require acting in harmony with nature as much as possible.
Let's be clear. Environmental policy based on pragmatic direction from science is not idolatry.

Yes, mainstream environmentalism is dedicated to preserving the natural world, but for the sake of society, not trees and rocks.