should environmentalism be an issue for Christians?

This is an excerpt from a Sojourner's article. Read the rest here. "When the same New York Times article, written in March 2005 by Laurie Goodstein, noted that 'A core group of influential evangelical leaders has put its considerable political power behind a cause that has barely registered on the evangelical agenda, fighting global warming,' the politics of global warming changed overnight in Washington, D.C. Previously, advocates around climate change and other environmental issues were simply not a part of George Bush's political base and their concerns were not on Washington's political agenda. But the NAE [National Association of Evangelicals] constituency is mostly part of the Republican base and the new environmental concern was not unnoticed by the White House - the very day the article came out the White House called the NAE to ask what policies they were most concerned about. The next year saw NAE participation at many major climate change and environmental meetings - both domestically and internationally - and a series of press stories about the new evangelical environmentalists, including a full page interview with Rich Cizik in The New York Times Magazine. In January, the Religious Right reared its head. In a letter addressed to the NAE - signed by 22 of the Right's prominent leaders, including James Dobson, Charles Colson, Richard Land, and Louis Sheldon - they said, 'We have appreciated the bold stance that the National Association of Evangelicals has taken on controversial issues like embracing a culture of life, protecting traditional marriage and family.' They then went on to say, 'We respectfully request, however, that the NAE not adopt any official position on the issue of global climate change. Global warming is not a consensus issue.' It was a clear effort to prevent the NAE from taking a stand on environmental issues and even to veto the whole effort. Stick to our core issues they implied - meaning abortion and gay marriage. Five years ago, so powerful a group of conservative Christian leaders probably could have tamped down this new evangelical effort that served to broaden the range of moral values and issues of biblical concern. But not this time."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to your question, YES. I think it is pretty darn clear that we are called to be stewards of "creation." Whether climate change is in fact due to human activity, there can be NO doubt that industrial society has had a profound and negative impact on the world environment. As Christians, then, one of our many callings is to work to minimize that impact.
I found the reaction of what the author deemed the "Religious Right" interesting and a little sad. One question that needs asked is whether the "lack of consensus" on the environmental issue within the Church is based on tenets of faith or tenets of conservative politics. When Rich Nathan wrote on Rod Parsley and the 31 pastors who wrote the IRS about his activities, he talked about the danger of the Church becoming overly engaged in partisan politics because political positions often have little to do with our faith (and reflect compromises to which the Church should not be a party). The hostility of the political right in this country to environmental regulation is (in my humble opinion) largely due to economic concerns that have little to do with faith. Has the close relationship between the "Religious Right" and conservative politics fueled this supposed lack of consensus within the Church? Has that politics bled over and clouded our vision?

And why is Christian involvement in addressing environmental concerns enough of a threat that some church leaders would affirmatively seek to head it off? Have they made a political decision to compromise our call to be stewards of creation in order not to endanger their work with conservative politicians towards overturning Roe v. Wade or heading off gay marriage? If so, this is exactly the sort of political compromising about which Rich wrote and to which the Church should not be a party. Yes, we should be working hard to end abortion. But we should ALSO be working to protect and care for creation. Ours is not a faith of compromises.


3/23/2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

Really amazing. The early 1970s Reformed theologian wrote a book called Pollution and the Death of Man (see http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0891076867/sr=8-1/qid=1143129543/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-3647171-9943300?%5Fencoding=UTF8) that systematically laid out a biblical approach to environmentalism, and that presented a very convincing case that Christians should very involved in protecting/preserving the environment. Schaeffer was viewed as one of the preeminent evangelical thinkers of his time, and the response from Dobson, Colson et. al. is a measure of just how much the evangelical church has abdicated its responsibilites in these areas and been co-opted by partisan political issues.

It's very sad, really. It seems to me that the only response of anyone who reads the Bible to the question, "As Christians are we called to be responsible stewards of the environment?" is an emphatic "Yes." Apparently that doesn't apply to global warmning.

3/23/2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

Oops. The words "Francis Schaeffer" should appear in that previous comment between "early 1970s' Reformed theologian" and "wrote a book."

3/23/2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger e said...

Brant, Andy--good comments. Now a follow-up:

Why has the environment, despite the impassioned pleas of those like Schaeffer, been such a low priority to Christians (at least until recently)?

3/24/2006 1:14 PM  

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