Readings From the Gospel, According to Al

(Note: I also posted this on Unspun.)

Apparently being a former U.S. vice president, Nobel Peace Prize- and Oscar-winner does not necessarily make an individual a messaging maven. What a shame.

The context for this post is Al Gore's recent speech on environmental activism and his incorporation of (brace yourselves) religion into the topic.

Oh no he didn't. Yup, he went there.

On Jan. 31 in Atlanta, Gore stepped on stage before 2,500 Baptists at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration, green Bible in tote. That was not a metaphor - the Bible was literally green. He was also introduced to the crowd as a "Baptist prophet."

Gore then addressed the state of our environment and delved into how those of the Baptist faith can do their parts in combating global warming by supporting programs like scientific research, green technology, renewable energy, recycling, apocalypses, oracles and prophecies.

Well now you've got my attention, Al.

Using strong verbiage, dramatic pauses, stirring PowerPoint animations and other tools like doctrine, fire and brimstone, Gore then quoted Bible verses to support his save-the-earth message. He also warned of Old Testament-style famines and floods, should earth not clean up its act.

Following are some quotes from Gore's speech and my personal reactions to each.

Exhibit A: "'When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?' I think that there is a distinct possibility that one of the messages coming out of this gathering and this new covenant is creation care - that we who are Baptists of like mind and attempting in our lives to the best of our abilities to glorify God, are not going to countenance the continued heaping of contempt on God's creation."

Reaction: Whoa. What's with all the Scripture? And can't the fight against global warming be a non-denominational one? What the heck is this?

Exhibit B: "Come, let us reason together and tell one another the truth, inconvenient though it may be, about the crisis, including the opportunity that we now face. The ancient prophet laid the choice before the people. Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore choose life so both thou and thy seed may live."

Reaction: The "truth, inconvenient though it may be" reference flirts too closely with being a shameless plug for his own documentary (now available on DVD!). Ew, Al.

Exhibit C: "The evidence is there. The signal is on the mountain. The trumpet has blown. The scientists are screaming from the rooftops. The ice is melting. The land is parched. The seas are rising. The storms are getting stronger. Why do we not judge what is right?"

Reaction: Honey, grab the kids and cat and head for high ground! Eternal damnation is upon us! But seriously, I don't like scare tactics. You can just picture the PowerPoint frenzy going on with this one. Yawn.

To be honest, I found a lot of value in "An Inconvenient Truth." Regardless of your political, religious, economic or environmental beliefs, the 30,000-foot view of the documentary's message is a good one: being aware of our earth's health is imperative, and can greatly benefit us and our future generations. After all, they'll have to live here too (unless they ever revive that whole life-on-Mars thing). But messaging that's crafted in the above fashion is very likely to alienate (no pun intended) a majority of your audience - part of which probably agreed with you in the first place. They will then only feel embarrassed for listening to what you originally had to say. Not good.

From a professional standpoint, Al, if you absolutely must attend New Baptist Covenant Celebrations, by golly, spread your arms wide and be broad and all-encompassing! According to your film, we all need to do our parts, not just the Baptists. So why not invite us all to the party?

Sadly, this is not the end of my post.

Perhaps more startling than all of this put together (and then multiplied… by three) is the fact that Gore's presentation was officially closed to all media. "Why?!" you ask. Gore didn't want the PowerPoint slides with Biblical allegories to be leaked on the Internet. (Insert myriad jokes about Al Gore as the creator of Internet here.)

Well then. Where do we begin with this one? For starters, this approach never wins over journalists and other staunch supporters of a little ditty called the First Amendment. On top of that, banning the media creates the allusion that you're hiding behind a murky veil of dishonesty. If you are truthful and confident in all that you do, stand behind your messaging and facts, be transparent and let the knowledge flow.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Goreacle hath spoken.

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