Scott Pruitt Thinks Limited Government Is Divine

Pruitt seems to think he’s walking in God’s light by restraining his agency from doing its job. Photo-Illustration: Daily Intelligencer; Photos: Pete Marovich (Pruitt); Acilo/Getty Images

Over the weekend, the highly controversial friend of fossil fuels who happens to be director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, granted an interview to CBN political reporter David Brody (author of a new book on the president’s, er, spiritual life). Pruitt is a serious conservative Evangelical (he’s on the board of trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), so his chitchatting with Brody is no surprise. But the interview has created some pretty lurid reactions from progressives:

I understand the sarcasm here, but other than acknowledging he prays a lot, Pruitt does not actually suggest direct divine guidance of his policy positions. Yglesias’s Vox colleague Tara Isabella Burton reads the same interview and concludes Pruitt’s big motive for thinking the way he does is the ever-popular “dominion over the Earth” notion from the Book of Genesis:

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.

This is certainly a doctrine with which Pruitt is familiar (it’s been promulgated among many others by the pastor of his church back in Oklahoma), and he may believe in it. But that’s not actually what he said in the Brody interview. His take on the significance of the Creation story sounds relatively balanced:

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.

What Pruitt said that really should raise eyebrows involves a different part of the Old Testament and a much broader notion of godly conservatism:

“It was actually Isaiah chapter one that I was reading through at that time that really spoke to my heart,” he continued. “Specifically, in the latter part of chapter one where God says to Israel, ‘I will restore your leaders as in the days of old, your judges as at the beginning.’ And there was just a desire that welled up in me to say, ‘I want to be like those leaders that we had at our founding, at the inception of our country.’”

For Pruitt, the need to pursue what the founding fathers intended is more important than ever. 

“There’s never been more of a threat to liberty, to what we know as the protections that are inherent in our Constitution than what we live today,” he said.

Pruitt is saying, basically, that God is a constitutional Conservative who wants America governed by the strict limited-government principles of the late 18th century, as expressed by “your leaders in the days of old.” This is pretty classic Christian right stuff, insofar as it divinizes reactionary policies (and the culture that created them) and treats the massive, sinister shifts in power and wealth from the weak to the strong — you know, the sort of things Jesus Christ might have objected to strenuously — as incidental to the restoration of a godly past.

So whether or not Scott Pruitt believes that the Almighty Creator wants us to despoil the creation with lusty abandon, he pretty clearly thinks deploying government to stop said despoiling defies the divine order. And Pruitt’s in a pretty key position to make sure EPA does not participate in that great sin.

Scott Pruitt Thinks Limited Government Is Divine