MU Environmental Network News March 2005, Vol. 11, No. 3, Jan Weaver, Ed.; Heather Clenin, Asst. Ed.; 422 Tucker Hall, MU / Columbia MO 65211

Caring for Creation

by Jan Weaver

Which organization do you think is urging fellow believers to sign the pledge below?

* I will organize my life so that it is easier and more desirable to walk, bike, car pool, and use public transportation.
* If I need to purchase a vehicle, I will choose the most fuel efficient and least polluting vehicle available that truly fits my needs.
* I will discuss with others the moral concerns and solutions associated with transportation.
* I will encourage automobile manufacturers to produce the most fuel-efficient and least polluting vehicles possible that truly fit the needs of the American people.
* I will urge government leaders to support public transportation, a significant increase in fuel economy standards, and research and development for promising new transportation technologies that reduce pollution and increase fuel efficiency.

Greenpeace? Sierra Club? Audubon? Actually, it is the Evangelical Environmental Network. This organization is a partnership of World Vision, World Relief, Intervarsity, the International Bible Society, and other organizations, churches and individuals committed to an evangelical ministry on the environment. The pledge above is part of their WWJDrive - What Would Jesus Drive - campaign. Evangelicals are not the only Christians weighing in on environmental problems. Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and a host of other Christian denominations have issued a call to their faithful to "care for creation". Since 75% of Americans claim to be Christians, making the connection between the environment and a Christian world view could have a powerful impact on American society.

However, not only are most environmentalists not aware of these efforts, many may believe Christianity is actually responsible for our current environmental problems. This point of view goes back to a 1967 essay by historian Lynn White in Science Magazine. White's thesis was that the Judeo-Christian theology that gave man dominion over nature was unique in the ancient and medieval world, and it paved the way for the scientific and technological revolutions that ultimately led to the environmental crises of the 20th (and now 21st century).

This perception has been reinforced by recent news stories focusing on connections between the Christian right and conservative Republicans in congress. An article in Grist by Glen Scherer hi-lights the tight correlation between votes supporting the conservative Christian agenda on abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, and votes against environmental protection. Scherer argues that this makes sense if you consider how many Christians say they believe the prophecies in Revelation about the end times. If you accept a theology where the earth is going to be destroyed - and pretty soon at that, why would you care what happens to it now?

Evangelical apologist Francis Schaeffer responded to White's claims in the 1970's with his book - "Pollution and the Death of Man" pointing out that neither secularism (which held nothing sacred) or Pantheism (which led to nature being treated no better than man) offered real protection to nature. These days influential Christian leaders from Pope John Paul II to James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Reverend Billy Graham have argued forcefully that humans have a God given responsibility to the earth: Jesus's commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself is a call to environmental justice, and his commandment to love God (and therefore God's creation - the earth) with all one's heart is a call to environmental stewardship; yes, we have dominion over the earth, but our dominion over the earth should resemble God's dominion over us - we should love and care for creation, as God loves and cares for us; and, because God created nature, it has value in and of itself, not just because of its usefulness to man. Just this past October, an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" had over 1000 religious leaders signing on urging the faithful to take care of creation. This would be a good time for all environmentalists to seek out common ground and work together, whether the goal is the secular one of protecting resources, the Pantheistic one of healing mother earth, or the Christian one of caring for creation.

Evangelical Environmental Network -
Catholic Church -
Presbyterian Church (USA) -
United Methodist Church -
White Essay -
Schaerffer and Pollution and the Death of Man -
Christianity Today article -
Scherer article -