More strange new respect for the faithful on display in Monday’s New York Times, which suddenly gets religion when it is helpful to the political left (gay marriage and abortion opponents still reliably receive the Darth Vader treatment).
The front of the National section featured reporter Fernanda Santos in Yuma, Arizona on a collection of Latino ministers “Preaching Gospel of Salvation for the Colorado River.” The text box: “Pastors pack sermons with tips to save a struggling waterway.” The new devil? Climate change.
The Rev. Victor Venalonzo opened his New Testament to the Book of Revelation on a recent Sunday and offered the men and women assembled at Iglesia Betania for a weekly Bible study a fresh look at its apocalyptic message.
“We’re failing as stewards of God’s creation, but these changes we’re seeing, that’s not God punishing us -- we’re destroying ourselves,” Mr. Venalonzo told them. He alternated between English and Spanish, as he does all day in his Pentecostal church, which sits across from a trailer park and a half-mile from the Mexican border, serving Latinos who have recently arrived in the country and those born in the United States.
Until recently, the environment was never a topic that Mr. Venalonzo included in sermons to his congregants, who are mostly concerned about how they will pay their bills, find work, and keep their children on course in school and away from drugs.
But that has changed as development, drought, overuse and a drier, warming climate threaten the Colorado River, the source of the water they drink and use to irrigate the fields where they work. “Our lifeblood,” Mr. Venalonzo calls it.
From the Rockies all the way to this arid corner of southwestern Arizona, he and other Hispanic evangelical pastors have begun to preach a gospel of salvation for the struggling Colorado, framing the 1,450-mile river as a gift from God that the Bible commands them to protect.
But is protecting the unborn also a command from God? Evidently not, considering the paper’s hostile and dismissive view of the prolife movement.
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Once a mighty waterway, the river has been reduced to a trickle in some parts, undermining the survival of a rapidly growing region that is home to a third of the Latinos in the United States. The pastors, who connected through word of mouth and informal networks organized around a shared Christian belief in being stewards of the earth, are packing their sermons with conservation tips: Take quick showers, use carwashes that recycle their water, and if you visit the river, do not leave any trash behind.
Santos tried to paint the preachers as outside the unpopular left-wing environmental movement:
These are not the tree-hugging types who are typically the face of the environmental movement. They are men and women in elegant Sunday wear, deployed in a divine mission that is as much about education as it is activism.
Then we got to the heart of the matter: Government budgets at risk.
The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, adding a tinge of politics to advocacy that the pastors insist is rooted in religion.
You don’t say? Just a “tinge”?
Mr. Venalonzo used to hold baptisms in the Colorado, but it was so shallow three years ago that church members had to sit on its bottom to be fully immersed. Since then, the baptisms have been held at the church.
“I have a granddaughter,” he said, “and I don’t want her to say, ‘There used to be a river there,’ when she grows up.”
Santos, a long-time activist reporter for illegals “in the shadows,” last month opined on the evil of the term "illegal immigrants" to refer to illegal immigrants.