From the roaring applause of the room and the familiar voice of a past presidential candidate, one would have thought they were in a campaign rally.
As former Presidential candidate and the 42nd Vice President of the United States Al Gore stood on stage in front of thousands of people, it was clear that he was in his element.
Last week, 2,000 people gathered in Atlanta, Georgia to receive training from Gore through the Interfaith Climate Reality Project. This was the organization’s first Interfaith climate reality training.
Since 2006, Gore has been on a mission to train as many people as he can on what he calls “the number one danger that we are facing today,” climate crisis. Many in the evangelical community struggle with this assertion, putting Gore at odds with some mainline evangelicals.
A 2015 Pew Research Poll found that only 28 percent of white evangelicals believed that the Earth was getting warmer as a result of human activity. This was by far the lowest percentage of any religious demographic in the survey.
While this may be the case, during a round table event with reporters, Gore noted that he welcomes other point of views from the evangelical community and would welcome mainline evangelicals to come to the table.
Since the Interfaith Climate Reality Project’s inception, Gore has trained more than 19,000 people.
During the three-day interfaith conference, leaders from around the world came to hear Gore speak about what must be done to fix our environment in order to skirt severe consequences. Gore called the crisis of climate control the number one problem that we face as a society.
Gore's opening message was filled with slide shows of what he called the “damage that’s already been done to the environment.” The session featured a mix of pictures and data as Gore spoke for two hours on why change was needed. The last part of his opening session focused on what Gore calls climate racism. Gore believes that fossil fuels are threatening the health of low-income and minority families, an assertion that some black evangelicals agree with.
Bishop Barber is thankful for Gore's involvement in his “Poor People’s Campaign” and has enjoyed touring with the Former Vice President to disadvantaged communities. Barber even refers to Gore as a brother who is in the cause of helping disadvantaged poor communities. During the interfaith service that was held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, many in the audience welcomed the former Vice President with open arms. Ebenezer is the church home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The former vice-president, who has tried staying out of the media spotlight in recent years, sat down for a rare interview with a small group of reporters, including Christian Headlines. When asked by Christian Headlines why he thought other evangelicals were not in the room Gore said, "It’s a question that I've thought about before but I’ve never answered the question publicly. I think evangelicals are starting to come to the table and its beginning to change, maybe not fast enough, but there are evangelical scholars who do support the climate imbalance." Gore went on to say that he attributes the decades-old injection of political tribalism into the issue of climate change as another reason why evangelicals may be hesitant to embrace the issue of climate change.
Gore who is a former Southern Baptist, believes that the church needs to get involved in this issue no matter their denominational affiliation. During the round table event with reporters, Gore was clear that there is room at the table for the local church to address the needs that are affecting our climate. Although Gore admits the struggle has been an uphill battle, he believes that people of faith are the answer to addressing the issue of climate change. The environmental activist also noted that although many mainline evangelicals do not agree with his position, it is a relationship, at least for now, that he is eager to have.
Photo courtesy: Maina Mwaura/Jason Dennard Photography