What is Evangelical Environmentalism?
Evangelical Environemtnalism is also known as Creation Care, it is seen as "an activist religion". Evangelical is a movement that has been growing and improving around the world. They believe that "they are to be agents of divine transformation as with Noah" (Bookless, 2008). Many believers who are members of creation care are not becoming more aware of the world around them such as global warming, feed-the-hungry, enivronmental concerns that are either harmful to humans and animals. However, there are some contradiction between the verses in the bible that may cause confusion among the members and conflicts about whether they are to do anything about the environment. Sometimes one may view the verse totally different compare to the other one. One main issue with this organization is the fact that should they only care for humans or consider every living thing?
Mission and Goals:
"The goal is not fundamentally to save the natural world, they claim, but to glorify God...God is glorified by caring for God's creation...by caring for the earth as God's creation, evangelicals are able to affirm God's sovereignty over both it and their efforts" (Simmons, 2009). By doing this evangelicals are setting up recycling bins in their churches, planting gardens behind their churches to help others with making a living; for examples, "a family took the lessons they learned from Meeker in the church garden and is now gardening on the property of a neighbor who is a single mother living on disablity; their labor allows the women to sell produce at a local farmer's market" (Rossi, 2008). They have many programs such as "bible study program and a garden plot on church property and summer camp where they teach children to learn garden using hand tools, cook using fresh produce, and can the tomato salsa, all whle they're learning to work together in teams" (Rossi, 2008). This not only benefits the environment, but the people as well on how to work together, how to help and support each other through thick and thin. Evangelical Environmentalism is another way of making people be aware of what is happening around the world with the enviornment, health issues and poverty.
Evangelical Environmentalism has been around since the 70's, but was not until 2005 that it started to expand and more people became aware of the movement. I will be listing some events as a time line here quoted from J.A. Simmons who did his study on this movement in 2009.
1970-Publication of Francis Schaeffer's Pollution and the Death of Man: The Christian View of Ecology. One of leading evangelical intellectuals of the twentieth century and is widely credited as helping to launch the environmental movement.
1979- Establishment of the Au Sable Institute in Michigan, designed to serve as a center of Christian environmental education.
August 1992- Meeting at the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship at the Au Sable Insititute in Michigan for the Au Sable Forum on Evangelical Christianity and the Environment.
1992- Establishment of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). A project under the umbrella of the Christians for Social Action organization in our homes and churches.
Summer 2002- Oxford Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the John Ray Initiative of Great Britian and the Au Sable Institute in the U.S. This was a meeting about the central claims made in the Declaration of Global Warming.
November 2002- What Would Jesus Drive Campaign sponsored by the Evangelical Environmental Network. This brought the issues of the fuel economy and poullution from cars, trucks and SUVs.
March 2005- More than 100 evangelical leaders meet in Washington D.C. to dicuss a possible statement on global warming.
October 2006- Bill Moyers, the same individual who criticized evangelicals for being complicit in the environmental crisis due to their eschatological vision, used his PBS television show to discuss evangelical environmentalism and consider the question: "Is God Green?". This brought national attention the evangelicals perspective and focused of the environment.
2006- J. Matthew Sleeth publishes Serve God and Save the Planet, the best practical account of why Christian faith entals environmental action.
Fall 2008- The public face of evanglicalism has begun to shift quite dramatically. A concern for the environment is causing many 'younger evangelicals' to break ranks with the traditional issues that have characterized the evangelicals voter over the past few elections cycles. (Simmons, 2009)
Therefore, evangelicalism has been around for many many years and until now people are starting to be aware of this movement and is willing to support it. However, there are still many issues that contradicts it such as the issue of only consider human and the earth or animals as well, along with local produce may be good for you, but is it nutritious?
Conflicts and Concerns:
There are many concerns and many arguments stating that quoting the bible may causes contradiction between the churches of what to believe in and what not to do or to do for the environment. Along with the fact that this is "often a world paralysed lethargy or fear"; therefore, it could almost not be possible to justify this movements by quoting the bible. Here is a list of concerns claimed by Calvin DeWitt in the Simmons studies:
1) This world is not my home.
2) Caring for creation gets us too close to the New Age movement.
3) Respecting creation gets us too close to pantheism.
4) We need to avoid anything that looks like political correctness.
5) There are too many worldly people out there doing environmental things.
6) Caring for creation will lead to world government.
7) Before you know it we will have to support abortion.
8) I don't want to be an extremist or alarmist.
9) Dominion means what it says--oppressive domination.
10) People are more important than the environment. (2000: 68-71)
These are rather ignorant concerns to even use to justify the fact not to support the environment, because human are not apart of it or has no responsibilty whatsoever with the environmental crisis. "Environmentalism is not primarily a matter of scientific realities, but of religious competition" (Simmons, 2009). This does show that people who are against this are afraid of distractions that may cause more issues among the evangelical environmentalism and it is the fear that makes people think twice about the movement. The fear of not being true to themselves since the traditions of Christianity was so very different and this movement may cause them to get involve in other issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
"Today, a growing number of evangelicals are rediscovering simpler lifestyles in obedience to Christ's teaching on money and possessions, and also as evidence grows of the negative impact over consumption of resources is having on the poor and the planet-and often on the mental and physical health of the rich themselves" (Bookless, 2008). Evangelical environmentalism may face some conflict for helping the environment, but it is a great movement to be able to be open to your own perspective of how you percieve the bible's quotes in the world. I say that if they are doing good deeds for the world, the people and the environment than I encourage and support the movement. If this is the only way to find justification for these issues than we must continue with this kind of movement. Whether it may get us too involve with the government or the political perspective we are apart of it if we don't do anything we are giving out a statement. So, I'd rather do something about it than nothing, because small changes goes a long way.
Simmons, J. Aaron. "Evangelical Environmentalism: Oxymoron or Opportunity?." Worldviews: Environment Culture Religion 13.1 (2009): 40-71. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 May 2010.
Bookless, Dave. "Christian Mission and Environmental Issues: An Evangelical Reflection." Mission Studies: Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies 25.1 (2008): 37-52. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 May 2010.
"Evangelical Covenant Church adds voice on care of environment." Christian Century 124.15 (2007): 14. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 May 2010.
Rossi, Holly Lebowitz. "God in the Garden: How conservative evangelical churches are finding feed-the-hungry, save-the-planet meaning in their own backyards." Science & Spirit 19.4 (2008): 40-45. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 May 2010.