Evangelical environmentalism

Evangelical environmentalism

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Evangelical environmentalism is an environmental movement in the United States
Environmental movement in the United States
In the United States today, the organized environmental movement is represented by a wide range of organizations sometimes called non-governmental organizations or NGOs. These organizations exist on local, national, and international scales...

 in which some Evangelicals
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 have emphasized biblical mandates concerning humanity's role as steward
Stewardship (theology)
Stewardship is a theological belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it. It can have political implications, such as in Christian Democracy.-Implications:...

 and subsequent responsibility for the caretaking of Creation. While the movement has focused on different environmental issue
Environmental issue
Environmental issues are negative aspects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmentalism, a social and environmental movement that started in the 1960s, addresses environmental issues through advocacy, education and activism.-Types:...

s, it is best known for its focus of addressing climate action
Individual and political action on climate change
Individual and political action on climate change can take many forms, most of which have the ultimate goal of limiting and/or reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, toward avoiding dangerous climate change.-Political action:...

 from a biblically grounded theological perspective. The Evangelical Climate Initiative argues that human-induced climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

 will have severe consequences and impact the poor the hardest, and that God
God in Christianity
In Christianity, God is the eternal being that created and preserves the universe. God is believed by most Christians to be immanent , while others believe the plan of redemption show he will be immanent later...

's mandate to Adam
Adam is a figure in the Book of Genesis. According to the creation myth of Abrahamic religions, he is the first human. In the Genesis creation narratives, he was created by Yahweh-Elohim , and the first woman, Eve was formed from his rib...

 to care for the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

 also applies to evangelicals today, and that it is therefore a moral obligation
Moral obligation
The term moral obligation has a number of meanings in moral philosophy, in religion, and in layman's terms. Generally speaking, when someone says of an act that it is a "moral obligation," they refer to a belief that the act is one prescribed by their set of values.Moral philosophers differ as to...

 to work to mitigate climate impacts and support communities in adapting to change
Adaptation to global warming
Adaptation to global warming and climate change is a response to climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. Even if emissions are stabilized relatively soon, climate change and its effects will last many years, and adaptation will...



The Evangelical environmental movement
Environmental movement
The environmental movement, a term that includes the conservation and green politics, is a diverse scientific, social, and political movement for addressing environmental issues....

 is rooted in the idea that humanity is engaging in sinfulness and disobedience to God by ignoring the mandate to "tend and keep" the land in which they were originally placed (Garden of Eden). Evangelical Environmentalists are committed to the authority of the bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

. Drawing from the Genesis (Gen.) 2:15, humans are seen as caretakers (Stewards) of God's Creation. Genesis 2:15 states: "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Richard T. Ritenbaugh writes, "Tend (Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 'abad) means "to work or serve," and thus referring to the ground or a garden
A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has...

, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate." It possesses the nuance seen in the King James Version's choice in its translation: "dress," implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement. Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over." In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of," "guard," or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it."

From an Evangelical Environmentalist perspective, the response to the ecological crisis
Ecological crisis
An ecological crisis occurs when the environment of a species or a population changes in a way that destabilizes its continued survival. There are many possible causes of such crises:...

 involves the restoration of correct doctrine, the restoration of Christianity as guide, and a balancing of the bible and biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

. It is important to Evangelical Environmentalists that they are not seen as worshiping nature
Nature worship
Nature worship describes a variety of religious, spiritual and devotional practices that focus on natural phenomenon. A nature deity can be in charge of nature, the biosphere, the cosmos or the universe. Nature worship can be found in panentheism, pantheism, deism, polytheism, animism, totemism,...

; they feel obligated to the stewardship of creation because of their focus on the creator of nature. Many Evangelical environmentalists prefer terms such as creation care" or "stewardship of Creation" instead of environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...

. The main reason for this preference is to emphasize the biblical basis for their engagement.

1. The love of God and Jesus require Christians to love Creation. The world is the property of God and as his stewards we are called to a high standard to tend and care for it (Gen. 1; Ps.
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 24; Col.
Epistle to the Colossians
The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians, usually referred to simply as Colossians, is the 12th book of the New Testament. It was written, according to the text, by Paul the Apostle to the Church in Colossae, a small Phrygian city near Laodicea and approximately 100 miles from Ephesus in Asia...


2. Christians should engage in climate change out of a love of God and neighbor. A changing climate will bring suffering to many who are already struggling (Mt.
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).

3. God commanded humanity to be stewards of His Creation (Gen. 1:26-28).

Specific actions

In February 2006, a group of 86 notable U.S. evangelical Christian leaders launched the Evangelical Climate Initiative
Evangelical Climate Initiative
The Evangelical Climate Initiative is an initiative by some American evangelical leaders and organizations to mitigate global warming. ECI's first statement, calling for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, was initially signed by 86 evangelical leaders. Signatories included Rick Warren, the...

, a campaign for environmental reform, calling on all Christians to push for federal legislation
Politics of global warming (United States)
The politics of global warming is played out at a state and federal level in the United States.-Federal policy:-International law:The United States, although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the protocol...

 that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stem global warming.

The initiative's organizers intended to lobby federal legislators, hold creation care talks at churches and colleges, and air television and radio advertisements that link drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

, starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

, and hurricanes to global warming. The president of the National Association of Evangelicals
National Association of Evangelicals
The National Association of Evangelicals is a fellowship of member denominations, churches, organizations, and individuals. Its goal is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelicals in the United States. Today it works in four main areas: Church & Faith Partners, Government Relations,...

, Rev. Ted Haggard
Ted Haggard
Ted Arthur Haggard is an American evangelical pastor. Known as Pastor Ted to the congregation he served, he was the founder and former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado; a founder of the Association of Life-Giving Churches; and was leader of the National Association of...

, did not join the leaders in the statement on global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

. He declined because it would have been interpreted as an endorsement by the entire National Association of Evangelicals. Speaking just for himself, he said, "There is no doubt about it in my mind that climate change is happening, and there is no doubt about it that it would be wise for us to stop doing the foolish things we're doing that could potentially be causing this. In my mind there is no downside to being cautious."

Televangelism is the use of television to communicate the Christian faith. The word is a portmanteau of television and evangelism and was coined by Time magazine. A “televangelist” is a Christian minister who devotes a large portion of his ministry to television broadcasting...

 Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson
Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson is a media mogul, television evangelist, ex-Baptist minister and businessman who is politically aligned with the Christian Right in the United States....

 changed his stance on global warming. In October 2005, Robertson accused the Evangelical Climate Initiative of teaming up with "far-left environmentalists," but in the summer of 2006 on his 700 Club
The 700 Club
The 700 Club is the flagship news talk show of the Christian Broadcasting Network, airing in syndication throughout the United States and Canada. In production since 1966, it is currently hosted by Pat Robertson, Terry Meeuwsen, Kristi Watts, and Gordon P. Robertson, two of whom will host on any...

 television show, Robertson stated that "they're making a convert out of me." He also said "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it.

In March 2008, a group of Southern Baptist leaders issued a statement that their denomination
Religious denomination
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

 had been timid when it came to environmental issues and that they have a duty to stop global warming. This declaration was signed by the President of the congregation. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 in the United States with 16.3 million members.

The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) has received much attention for actions such as lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 and producing biblical educational materials which were sent out to Evangelical congregations
Local church
A local church is a Christian congregation of members and clergy.Local church may also refer to:* Local churches , a Christian group based on the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, and associated with the Living Stream Ministry publishing house.* Parish church, a local church united with...

 across the country. Also, in 1996 the EEN produced television advertisements warning Christians, "don't let the special interests sink the Endangered Species Act
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and...

." The EEN also mailed out 38,000 "Let the Earth Be Glad" packets and enlisted 1000 churches as "Noah Congregations".(Kearns, 1997)


A criticism of Creation Care, stemming from Jan Markell (who believes that evangelicals are "called by God to win souls for Jesus, not to exercise stewardship over creation"), is that Creation Care is primarily a push for a massive "Cap and Trade" tax increase under the veil of helping the environment.

In January 2006, a group of evangelicals opposed the Evangelical Climate Initiative's stance and issued a letter to the National Association of Evangelicals
National Association of Evangelicals
The National Association of Evangelicals is a fellowship of member denominations, churches, organizations, and individuals. Its goal is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelicals in the United States. Today it works in four main areas: Church & Faith Partners, Government Relations,...

 which stated that "global warming is not a consensus issue, and our love for the Creator
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and respect for His Creation does not require us to take a position [supporting a cap and trade tax increase]". In 2007, leaders of the conservative Christian wing of the Republican Party, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Paul Weyrich, told the policy director of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the Rev. Richard Cizik
Richard Cizik
Richard Cizik was the Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the most prominent Evangelical lobbyists in the United States. In his position with the NAE, Cizik's primary responsibilities were setting the organization's policy on issues and...

, to "shut up already about global warming". In 2008, the NAE clarified that it does not "have a specific position on global warming or emissions. [Cizik] has spoken as an individual on that."

Ann Coulter
Ann Coulter
Ann Hart Coulter is an American lawyer, conservative social and political commentator, author, and syndicated columnist. She frequently appears on television, radio, and as a speaker at public events and private events...

 focuses on Genesis 1:27-28 which gives dominion to Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

ity over nature. Ann Coulter claims: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" Lynn White (1967) implies that this is a common view among Christians, but the accuracy of this statement is debatable.

In 2008, a survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that 31% of white Evangelical Protestants did not believe that there is solid evidence showing that the earth is warming. 34% of white
White people
White people is a term which usually refers to human beings characterized, at least in part, by the light pigmentation of their skin...

 Evangelical Protestants did believe that there was evidence, but 17% didn't believe that warming was due to human impacts. 47% of the total U.S. population does believe that the earth is warming because of human influences and 58% of unaffiliated
Unaffiliated is a term used to refer to individuals who are not aligned with a particular religion.According to the Pew Research Center, this group includes atheists, agnostics, and people who describe their religion as "nothing in particular"....

 Americans believe that global warming due to human impacts is real.

See also

  • Bill Moyers
    Bill Moyers
    Bill Moyers is an American journalist and public commentator. He served as White House Press Secretary in the United States President Lyndon B. Johnson Administration from 1965 to 1967. He worked as a news commentator on television for ten years. Moyers has had an extensive involvement with public...

  • Dispensationalism
    Dispensationalism is a nineteenth-century evangelical development based on a futurist biblical hermeneutic that sees a series of chronologically successive "dispensations" or periods in history in which God relates to human beings in different ways under different Biblical covenants.As a system,...

  • Stewardship
    Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources. The concept of stewardship has been applied in diverse realms, including with respect to environment, economics, health, property, information, and religion, and is linked to the concept of sustainability...

  • Cornwall Alliance
    Cornwall Alliance
    The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation is a conservative Christian public policy group that promotes a free-market approach to care for the environment that is critical of much of the current environmental movement...

  • Dominion Theology
    Dominion Theology
    Dominion Theology is seen by some as a subset of Dominionism, a term used by some social scientists and journalists to describe a theological form of political ideology, which they claim has broadly influenced the Christian Right in the United States, Canada, and Europe, within Protestant...

  • Evangelical Climate Initiative
    Evangelical Climate Initiative
    The Evangelical Climate Initiative is an initiative by some American evangelical leaders and organizations to mitigate global warming. ECI's first statement, calling for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, was initially signed by 86 evangelical leaders. Signatories included Rick Warren, the...

  • The Green Bible
    The Green Bible
    The Green Bible is an English version of the New Revised Standard Version Bible with a focus on environmental issues and teachings. It was originally published by Harper Bibles on October 7, 2008. It is a study Bible featuring essays by N.T...

Further reading

  • Allen, R. S., E. Castano, and P. D. Allen. 2007. Conservatism and concern for the environment. Quarterly Journal of Ideology 30(3/4):1-25.
  • Brown, Edward R. 2008. Our Father's World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation (InterVarsity Press).
  • Guth, J. L., J. C. Green, L. A. Kellstedt, and C. E. Smidt. 1995. Faith and the environment: religious beliefs and attitudes on environmental policy. American Journal of Political Science
    American Journal of Political Science
    The American Journal of Political Science is published by the Midwest Political Science Association. It was formerly known as the Midwest Journal of Political Science. According to the 2008 edition of the Journal Citation Reports, its impact factor is 2.397...

  • Konisky, D. M., J. Milyo, and L. E. Richardson, Jr. 2008. Environmental policy attitudes: issues, geographic scale, and political trust. Social Science Quarterly 89:1066-1085.
  • McCright, A. M., and R. E. Dunlap. 2003. Defeating Kyoto: the conservative movement’s impact on U.S. climate change policy. Social Problems
    Social Problems (journal)
    Social Problems is the official publication of the The Society for the Study of Social Problems. It is a quarterly journal published by University of California Press, in Berkeley, California...

  • Merritt, Jonathan (2010) Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet ISBN 978-0446557252
  • Peterson, M. N., and J. Liu. 2008. Impacts of religion on environmental worldviews: the Teton Valley case. Society and Natural Resources 21:704-718.
  • Schultz, P. W., L. Zelezny, and N. J. Dalrymple. 2000. A multinational perspective on the relation between Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and attitudes of environmental concern. Environment and Behavior 32:576-591.
  • Sherkat, D. E., and C. G. Ellison. 2007. Structuring the religion-environment connection: identifying religious influences on environmental concern and activism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
    The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is a peer-reviewed journal, published by Wiley-Blackwell in the United States of America under the auspices of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, dedicated to publishing scholarly articles in the social sciences, including psychology,...

  • Snyder, Howard A. 2011. Salvation Means Creation Healed: The Ecology of Sin and Grace (Cascade Books).

External links