Environmentalists and their politically progressive allies have long dismissed conservative evangelical Christians as repressive moralists and industry apologists. The suspicion and hostility are mutual: evangelicals see environmentalists as godless, anti-human pagans and socialists.
Not exactly a match made in heaven.
But relations are slowly thawing — in part thanks to, well, thawing. As glaciers and ice shelves melt, the existential danger posed by global warming has become impossible to ignore. In February, 86 evangelical leaders signed a statement calling on believers to join the fight against climate change. More and more evangelical churches are preaching a gospel of “creation care” (don’t call it environmentalism, please), an ethic inspired by scriptures wherein God gives humanity dominion over the earth, and with it a sacred obligation to exercise conscious stewardship of the land, air, and water.
In practice, this aligns evangelical goals with the goals of countless grassroots environmental groups around the U.S. — cleaning up streams, planting trees, advocating for clean energy and against overconsumption and materialism. Haltingly and sporadically, the two communities are beginning to interact. Nothing better dissolves suspicion and hostility than sweating together in the dirt.
This wary courtship is a source of hope, but also a source of questions: Can two communities with so much to divide them work in concert? Will creation care move beyond the pews and into the halls of power? Are Christian ethics in tension with ecological ethics? How will this fledgling strain of evangelical conservation relate to other religious movements with longer traditions of environmental activism? Can environmentalists learn to speak the language of faith — and even feel its power in their own work and lives?
We’ll be exploring these questions and many more over the coming weeks, gathering insight from legendary journalist Bill Moyers, eminent biologist E.O. Wilson, environmental journalist Bill McKibben, noted evangelical writers and thinkers, and others. We’re also partnering with PBS to spread word about a new hour-long TV special hosted by Moyers: Is God Green?, airing Oct. 11, 2006, which examines the new strain of eco-friendly evangelicalism. (Watch an exclusive preview.) And we hope to engage you in the dialogue via our blog Gristmill, no matter what your faith tradition or environmental background.
On green evangelicals:
- Bill Moyers on his PBS special Is God Green?
- Bill McKibben on the spread of environmental concern among evangelicals
- J. Matthew Sleeth on his personal transformation to evangelical conservationist and author
- Rev. Richard Cizik on spreading the doctrine of “creation care”
- E.O. Wilson on his book aimed at persuading a Baptist preacher to protect biodiversity
- Calvin DeWitt on inspiring evangelicals to protect the planet
- Allen Johnson on rallying Christians to fight mountaintop-removal mining
- Joel Hunter on broadening the evangelical agenda
Beyond green evangelicals:
- Gary Gardner of Worldwatch on faith and environmentalism
- Rabbi Michael Lerner on helping environmentalists develop a spiritual vision
- David Quammen on evolution, science, and religion
- Kate Sheppard on The Great Warming, a climate-change documentary making a splash in churches