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This Week in God, 2.24.18

Donald Trump's EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, believes he has a justification for his far-right approach to environmental policy: the Bible.
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at some provocative comments from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who turned to Scripture to help justify his regressive policy agenda.

Pruitt, to be sure, is no stranger to controversy. The far-right Oklahoma Republican, a longtime opponent of his agency's mission, has made headlines of late, for example, for his controversial, taxpayer-financed travel habits. But Pruitt's most serious misdeeds are his official acts on environmental policy, ignoring and neglecting safeguards, while prioritizing corporate interests.

As Vox explained yesterday, Pruitt believes the Bible justifies his approach to environmental protections.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, a media outlet that also seems to double as a propaganda arm of the Trump administration, Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said his Christian convictions led him to conclude that America should use gas and coal freely because natural resources exist purely for man's benefit."The biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind," Pruitt told CBN's David Brody.

This wasn't necessarily the first time we've heard Pruitt reference the Bible to advance his plans. As Mother Jones reported in the fall, the EPA chief cited the Book of Joshua to defend his conservative approach to reorganizing the agency's science boards.

But his comments this week to TV preacher Pat Robertson's cable network were qualitatively more serious, suggesting Donald Trump's EPA director isn't just hostile toward environmental protections, he's also driven by a philosophy that says humanity has been granted divine dominion over the planet's resources, so we should necessarily assume that there are no limits as to how we use (or abuse) those resources.

Tara Isabella Burton's Vox piece added that for many evangelicals, "this idea of 'dominion' is about mastery: Human beings have the right to take what they want from the earth, in terms of natural resources, without regards to how it might affect other species."

Such thinking is common among much of the religious right movement. Evidently, it's also now found in the top office of Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* He was the first evangelist with a global reach: "Billy Graham, the charismatic North Carolina pastor who took his evangelizing crusades around the country and the globe, died on Wednesday morning, according to officials of his organization. He was 99."

* Good idea: "A small group of evangelical Christian leaders is hoping to promote stricter gun legislation by injecting a key element of conservative Christian theology into the conversation ― the principle of protecting life at all stages. In the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last week that left 17 people dead, the group has put forward a petition that uses the language of the anti-abortion movement to encourage fellow Christians to fight for gun reform."

* This seems like a stretch: "Focus on the Family, the behemoth Religious Right organization founded by James Dobson, has declared itself to be a church, thereby avoiding a requirement that it file public tax documents, according to IRS records and a document available on the organization's website."

* An awkward moment for Cardinal Joseph Tobin: "A New Jersey archbishop raised a few eyebrows when he tweeted 'Nighty-night, baby. I love you,' but his spokesman says it was an errant message intended for his sister."